The Parts of a Church - Romanesque and Gothic architecture
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

The Parts of a Church

Notre Dame
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Medieval architects designed most Romanesque and Gothic churches starting with the design of a Roman basilica. But many churches added a part coming out crossways, so that the whole church was built in the shape of a cross, to give more room for people to see the mass, and to remind people how Jesus died on the cross. This sideways part was the transept.

Generally architects designed the church with the front (where people came in) to the west, and the choir (where the priest stood to say Mass) to the east, facing Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified.

The east part of the church, where the altar was and the choir sang, was called the choir. The rounded end of the choir was called the apse (pronounced APPS). The west end of the church, where people stood to watch the priest say Mass, was called the nave, and the side parts off the nave were called the aisles. In the Middle Ages, churches usually didn't have chairs in them, and people stood up, or they brought their own folding chairs.

Bibliography and further reading about medieval churches:

Romanesque architecture
Medieval architecture page
Main architecture page
Main medieval page


LIMITED TIME OFFER FOR TEACHERS: Using this article with your class? Show us your class page where you're using this article, and we'll send you a free subscription so all your students can use Quatr.us Study Guides with no distractions! (Not a teacher? Paid subscriptions are also available for just $16/year!)
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Proud of your class page, homework page, or resource page? Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 24 March, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT