Cathedral floorplan

In Western ecclesiastical architecture, a cathedral diagram is a floor plan showing the sections of walls and piers, giving an idea of the profiles of their columns and ribbing. Light double lines in perimeter walls indicate glazed windows. Dashed lines show the ribs of the vaulting overhead. By convention, ecclesiastical floorplans are shown map-fashion, with north to the top and the liturgical east end to the right.

Many abbey churches have floorplans that are comparable to cathedrals, though sometimes with more emphasis on the sanctuary and choir spaces that are reserved for the religious community. Smaller churches are similarly planned, with simplifications.

Amiens cathedral floorplan
Amiens Cathedral floorplan: massive piers support the west end towers; transepts are abbreviated; seven radiating chapels form the chevet reached from the ambulatory


Cathedral floorplans are designed to provide for the liturgical rites of the church.[1] Before the legalization of Christianity by Emperor Constantine, Christians worshiped in private homes or in secretive locations.[2] Once legally able to publicly worship, the local churches adapted the available Roman designs to their needs. Unlike the Roman and Greek religions, where priests performed rituals without public participation, Christian worship involved the believers. Thus, the limited spaces used in pagan temples were not suitable to Christian worship.[2] Roman civic buildings were designed for the participation of the citizens of the city, and thus the Roman Basilica was adopted for Christian purposes. This included an entry on one end of a long narrow, covered space with a raised dais at the other end. Upon the dais, public officials would hear legal cases, or expound on some matter of public interest.[2] Christians adopted the long hall of the basilica for the public liturgy of the Mass.


  • Aisle: A pair of walkways that are parallel to the primary public spaces in the church, e.g. nave, choir and transept. The aisles are separated from the public areas by pillars supporting the upper walls, called an arcade.[3]
  • Ambulatory: A specific name for the curved aisle around the choir[2]
  • Apse: The end of the building opposite the main entry. Often circular, but it can be angular or flat. In medieval traditions, it was the east end of the building.[3]
  • Buttress: Large stone pier holding the roof vaults in place.[3] A buttress may be visible as in the Gothic flying buttress, or it may be hidden in the complex of aisles and galleries.[2]
  • Cathedral: The home church of a Bishop, which contains the cathedra or bishop's chair.[2] The church may be of any size.[3]
  • Choir: The part of the church usually beyond the transept and in line with the axis of the nave. The area may be higher than the level of the nave.[3] The name choir is used because traditionally the clergy of the Cathedral stood here as a chorus, chanting or singing during the responsive portion of Divine Offices or Mass.[4]
  • Quire: An alternative spelling of Choir.
  • Crypt: Usually the below ground foundation. Used for burial or as a chapel.[3]
  • Facade: The outside of the church, where the main doors are located. In traditional medieval design, this faced the west and is called the West End.[2]
  • Narthex: The entrance or lobby area, located at the west end of the nave.
  • Nave: The primary area of public observance of the Mass.[3] It is immediately inside the front doors.
  • Radiating Chapels: Located around the Apse of the church, accessible from the Ambulatory.[2]
  • Sanctuary: An elevated platform that contains the main altar and associated liturgical elements that is restricted for ceremonial use by the clergy, often fenced from adjoining spaces. It is centered on the main east–west axis within the east end and generally located within the choir or the apse.
  • Transept: Sometimes called the ‘Crossing’, the transept forms wings at right angles to the nave.[2] In early Romanesque churches, it was often at the east end, creating a Tau Cross. Later designs placed the transept about two-thirds of the way from the West End to the East End. This created the Latin cross plan. It usually separates the nave from the choir.[3]

See also


  1. ^ French Cathedrals, René Jacques; Translated by Dorothy Plummer; Wilhelm Andermann, Munich, 1959
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i The Cathedral, Course Guidebook; William R. Cook, State University of New York at Geneseo; The Great Courses, The Teaching Company; Chantilly, VA; 2010
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Cathedral, The Story of Its Construction; David Macaulay; The Trumpet Club; New York City, New York; 1973
  4. ^ Webster's New World Dictionary, Second Concise Edition; David B. Guralnik, General Editor; Simon and Schuster; New York City, New York; 1979

External links

  • "Romanesque and Gothic Architecture Plans",, Rice University, Humanities Electronic Studio Project, HART, archived from the original on 24 June 2009
  • Salisbury Cathedral floor plan
  • Canterbury Cathedral: several floor plans
  • Plan of Canterbury Cathedral
  • Durham Cathedral Layout
  • The Plans of Saint-Sernin, Toulouse and Amiens Cathedral
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral Floorplan (Armagh)
  • Exeter Cathedral Floorplan Archived July 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
Choir (architecture)

A choir, also sometimes called quire, is the area of a church or cathedral that provides seating for the clergy and church choir. It is in the western part of the chancel, between the nave and the sanctuary, which houses the altar and Church tabernacle. In larger medieval churches it contained choir-stalls, seating aligned with the side of the church, so at right-angles to the seating for the congregation in the nave (of which there would have been little if any in the Middle Ages). Smaller medieval churches may not have a choir in the architectural sense at all, and they are often lacking in churches built by all denominations after the Protestant Reformation, though the Gothic Revival revived them as a distinct feature.

As an architectural term "choir" remains distinct from the actual location of any singing choir – these may located in various places, and often sing from a choir-loft, often over the door at the liturgical western end. In modern churches, the choir may be located centrally behind the altar, or the pulpit.The back-choir or retroquire is a space behind the high altar in the choir of a church, in which there may be a small altar standing back to back with the other.

Church (building)

A church building or church house, often simply called a church, is a building used for Christian religious activities, particularly for Christian worship services. The term is often used by Christians to refer to the physical buildings where they worship, but it is sometimes used (by analogy) to refer to buildings of other religions. In traditional Christian architecture, a church interior is often structured in the shape of a Christian cross. When viewed from plan view the vertical beam of the cross is represented by the center aisle and seating while the horizontal beam and junction of the cross is formed by the bema and altar.

Towers or domes are often added with the intention of directing the eye of the viewer towards the heavens and inspiring a range of thoughts and emotions in visitors and worshippers. Modern church buildings have a variety of architectural styles and layouts; many buildings that were designed for other purposes have now been converted for church use, and, conversely, many original church buildings have been put to other uses.

The earliest identified Christian church building was a house church founded between 233 and 256. From the 11th through the 14th centuries, a wave of building of cathedrals and smaller parish churches were erected across Western Europe. A cathedral is a church building, usually Roman Catholic, Protestant (including Anglican), Eastern Orthodox, or Oriental Orthodox, housing a cathedra, the formal name for the seat or throne of a presiding bishop.

Martvili Monastery

Martvili Monastery (Georgian: მარტვილის მონასტერი) is a Georgian monastic complex located in the village of Martvili in the Martvili District of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Province (Mkhare) of Georgia. It sits upon the highest hill in the vicinity and was of strategic importance.

St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica (Toronto)

St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada, and one of the oldest churches in Toronto. It is located at 65 Bond Street in Toronto's Garden District. St. Michael's was designed by William Thomas, designer of eight other churches in the city, and was primarily financed by Irish immigrants who resided in the area. The cathedral has a capacity of 1600.On September 29, 2016, the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel, the cathedral was elevated to a minor basilica.

Toul Cathedral

Toul Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Toul) is a Roman Catholic church in Toul, Lorraine, France. It is a classic example of late Gothic architecture in the Flamboyant style.

The cathedral was formerly the seat of the Diocese of Toul. Established in 365, it was annexed in 1824 to the Diocese of Nancy, which in 1777 had been formed from the Diocese of Toul. Since 1824, the diocese has been known as the Diocese of Nancy-Toul, with one of the biggest cloisters in France.

Worcester Cathedral

Worcester Cathedral, is an Anglican cathedral in Worcester, England, situated on a bank overlooking the River Severn. It is the seat of the Bishop of Worcester. Its official name is the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester. The present cathedral church was built between 1084 and 1504, and represents every style of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic. It is famous for its Norman crypt and unique chapter house, its unusual Transitional Gothic bays, its fine woodwork and its "exquisite" central tower, which is of particularly fine proportions.The cathedral's west facade appeared, with a portrait of Sir Edward Elgar, on the reverse of £20 note issued by the Bank of England between 1999 and 2007, remaining in circulation as legal tender until 30 June 2010.


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