Church Terms to Describe Persons, Functions and Cathedral Architecture - N to W
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Church Terms to Describe Persons, Functions and Cathedral Architecture - N to W

A cathedral is the residence church of a bishop. The word "Cathedral" is a functional rather than an architectural term and derives from the bishop's cathedra, or seat, that is located inside. The list of cathedrals includes Catholic, Orthodox and Episcopalian cathedrals that are true cathedrals (the seats of bishops).


A cathedral is the residence church of a bishop. The word "Cathedral" is a functional rather than an architectural term and derives from the bishop's cathedra, or seat, that is located inside. The list of cathedrals includes Catholic, Orthodox and Episcopalian cathedrals that are true cathedrals (the seats of bishops).

Here is the last part glossary (N to W) of definitions of terms used to describe persons and their functions, activities and cathedral architecture.

Narthex - The vestibule or entryway of a church.

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Nave - The place where the congregation gathers from worship, as distinct from the place from which the service is led. It usually contains pews and one or more aisles.

Niche - A shallow recess in a wall designed to contain a statue, carvings or some other ornament.

Night stair - A staircase used by the monks to enter a church directly from their dormitory in order to attend late night and early morning services.

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Norman – It is the term used for Romanesque architecture in Britain.

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Perpendicular - The final phase of Gothic in England characterized by large windows with vertical decoration and flattened arches.

Pew - A long, backed bench on which congregants sit during church services.

Porch - A covered entrance to a doorway in places of worships. In some great churches these are large and complicate structures.

Prior - A leading member of a monastery, second in rank to the abbot/abbess, elected by the monks to serve for life.

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Coldingham Priory

Priory - A monastery or convent led by a prior. Originally, a priory was an offshoot from a larger abbey, to the abbot of which it continued to be subordinate. Nowadays there is of little distinction between an abbey and a priory.

Pulpit - The speaker stand in the front of a church used by clergy for sermons and Gospel readings. It is usually on the left (as viewed from the congregation).

Quoin – The term describe a decorated stone at the corner of a building.

Rector - In Anglican order, a rector is the elected pastor of a financially self-supported congregation. If there are several clergy in the congregation, the rector has primary responsibility for directing worship.

Refectory - A monastic dining room.

Reredorter - A monastic comfort room.

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Reredos - A decorative screen behind the altar, usually decoratively carved.

Retable - A carving or painting standing immediately above and behind an altar.

Ribbed vaulting - Stone or brick vaulting typically used for roofing and comprising a thin, light layer supported by a framework of arched ribs.

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H.H. Richardson introduces Romanesque architecture in Boston's Trinity Church.

Romanesque - A unique style of architecture that dominated in Western Europe between 1050 and 1200, deriving its name from the fact that it drew much of its influence from Roman architecture. In England, it is also called the Norman style. Some of the characteristic features of this school of architecture are: Rounded arches; squat, massive pillars; small windows; and simple, carved decoration.

Sacristy - The room or closet in which communion supplies and equipment are kept.

Sanctuary - Literally, sanctuary means a "the sacred place." Historically, it is the part of the church containing the altar and from which the service is conducted, as distinct from the nave. (In modern lecture-hall plans, the two are not architecturally distinct and therefore "sanctuary" refers to both parts together.)

Scriptorium - A room set apart for reading and writing in a monastery.

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Sedilia - A set of stone seats close to an altar for use by the ordained priests.

Shrine - A building or place (from an entire church to a small plaque) dedicated to a particular type of devotion commemorating a special event or important person.

Slype - A covered walkway from the transept or cloisters of a cathedral to the chapter house.

Spandrel - The walling above and around the curve of an arch.

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Spire - An elongated, pointed structure that rises from a tower, turret, or roof.

Stalls – Stalls are divisions within the choir, where clergy sat (or stood) during services. They are often made of decorative carved wood.

Stoup - A container for holy water near the door of entrance.

Tester - A cover or canopy suspended over a tomb or a pulpit. The tester may have a purely ornamental purpose or - where positioned over a pulpit - may be used as a sounding board to magnify and direct the preacher's voice.

Thurible – It is a receptacle in which incense is burned.

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Tracery – Tracery is decorative carved stonework of interlaced and branching ribs, particularly the lace-like stonework in the upper part of a Gothic window.

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Transept of Lincoln Cathedral

Transept - In churches and cathedrals with a cross-shaped floor plan, the transverse, usually shorter, arm of the church. The transept is usually located between the nave and the chancel and usually lies north to south.

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Trifoil or trefoil - Ornamental tracery in the form of a flower with three symmetrical petals

Tympanum - An area above a door between the lintel and the arch. This area often contains a carving decor.

Undercroft - Also called a crypt is a vaulted underground room beneath a church which may be commonly used either as a burial place or for storage.

Vestry – It is the room where the clergy and choir dress and the vestments are kept.

Westwork – It is a wide entrance area at the west end of a church, usually with an upper chamber and at least one tower. It is especially common in Northern European architecture.


Image Source - Google Image


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Comments (12)

This is the last series of glossary used to define the person/s, functions and church architecture. I hope these can give the readers a glimpse of terms used about cathedrals, iconic churches and architecture as well.

This is a great resource for people who are interested in architecture and church buildings.

Many thanks Brenda.

good references and great photos

loved the pictures and the information along with it

Thanks Carol. Thanks Nitesh.

I waited to award you a vote up before reading this earlier. I am now glad to have taken the time to thoroughly enjoy your description of each of these terms. Well done composition. Thank you.

Many thanks dear friend, appreciated.

Thanks for sharing this great article.

Thanks Martin.

Nice work, Ron. Very useful.

Thanks Michael.