Church architecture

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:''This article is on church architecture.  For a general description and the theology of the Church, see [[Orthodox Church]] and [[Ecclesiology]].''
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The word '''church''' is derived through Middle and Old English cirice, circe from the Greek {{lang-el|κυριακον}} ({{lang-el|δωμα}}) Lord's (house). However, most English versions of the New Testament use the word ''church'' to translate ecclesia (Greek {{lang-el|εκκλησία}}) "congregation, assembly", a word originally used without specific reference to religious gatherings.
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==Dictionary==
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Dictionaries give numerous meanings for the word ''church'' depending upon the context in which the word is used. These include:
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* a building for public Christian worship.
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* collectively, the whole body of Christ's followers.
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* a congregation.
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* public worship - a religious service.
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* a body of Christian believers of the same [[creed]], rites, and ecclesiastical authority.
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* ecclesiastical power as distinguished from secular.
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* the [[clergy]]; the clerical profession.
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* of or pertaining to the church.
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* performance a church service or ceremony for or with a person - as for a woman after giving birth.
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* having to do with organized Christian worship.
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[[Image:Ss Peter and Paul Church.jpg|right|thumb|Church Building]]
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==Buildings==
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In everyday use ''church'' refers, most often, to the building in which the local Christian congregation meets for worship. The building can be large or small. In the immediate years after [[Pentecost]] the new Christians met at the Temple and synagogues. After the destruction of the Temple and dispersion of the Christians, the followers of Christ met in private homes for their assemblies for divine services. After [[Constantine the Great|Constantine]] issued the [[Edict of Milan]], larger buildings began to be built specifically for worship as the need to avoid attention disappeared.
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Churches have been built in a variety of shapes. The usual local Orthodox [[parish]] church is a rectangular building. At one end, by tradition facing east, is the [[bema]] with the [[altar]] located on it. This area is usually separated from the nave by an altar screen ([[iconostasis]]) and/or chancel rail. Behind this separation is the altar table. By ancient tradition the nave may have benches lining the walls, but otherwise the church is without seats or chairs. At the west end there may be a room running the width of the church called the [[narthex]]. The narthex is separated from the nave by a wall with doors through which the congregations can enter the nave.
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Other common styles of architecture for churches including [[basilica]]s (buildings with side aisles to the nave), octagonal shapes, square buildings, circular buildings, and buildings in the form of a cross. To create a high vaulted ceiling many churches have domed ceilings and may have bell towers either as part of the main building or separate free standing structures.
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In time, churches that were the [[bishop]]'s church came to be called [[cathedral]]s, named after the bishop's seat, called the [[cathedra]].
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Also, a class of building, or a room or space in a larger building or church, came to be called [[chapel]]s.
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Often the main or largest church, especially in monasteries, is called a '''katholikon'''.
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==Church building as an icon of the Church.==
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Orthodox Church buildings are full of icons, but the very architecture and layout of the buildings are themselves icons of the Church.  In the ornamentation of the church, the various iconographical scenes and figures are not arranged by chance, but according to a definite theological scheme, so that the whole edifice forms one great image of the Kingdom of God.
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The Orthodox faithful can feel the building open up to a time without end. They are surrounded by the images of [[Christ]], the [[angels]], and the [[saint]]s, and are reminded of the invisible presence of the whole community of heaven at the [[Liturgy]].  Each local congregation, in their church building, can see that their Liturgy on earth is one and the same with the great Liturgy of heaven.
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The building should help the faithful lay aside their earthly cares, as the Liturgy is celebrated, so that they, like the [[cherubim]], may welcome the king of all (see [[Cherubic Hymn]]). 
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===Temple of the living God===
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The building should also reveal a basic understanding of Orthodox Christianity that God is with us.  The design shows that God is with men, dwelling in us and living in us through Christ and the Spirit. By having a dome or the vaulted ceiling, many Orthodox churches have the impression that in the Kingdom of God, Christ "unites all things in himself, things in heaven and things on earth," ([[Ephesians]] 1:10) and that in him we are all "filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19)  This dome [[symbolism]] is in contrast to pointed arches which point to God far up in the heavens.
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===[[Book of Revelation]]===
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A church is not constructed to simply be a meeting hall for men whose life exists solely within the bounds of this earth. The church building is patterned after the image of God's Kingdom in the Book of Revelation.
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The [[Narthex|vestibule]] symbolizes this world. Services such as those for [[baptism]] or [[marriage|wedding services]] start in the vestibule.
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The [[nave]] is the place of the assembled people of God. The faithful Christians on earth who already belong to the holy assembly enter into the eternal worship of God's Kingdom in the Church.
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The [[altar]] area stands for the Kingdom of God. The altar table is where Christ is enthroned, both as the Word of God in the Gospels and as the Lamb of God in the [[Eucharist]]ic sacrifice. Around the table are the angels and saints in the perpetual adoration inspired by the [[Holy Spirit]].
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==External links==
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* [[Wikipedia:Church]]
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* [[Wikipedia:Chapel]]
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* [http://www.ortodoksi.net/virtuaalikirkko/ Virtual Church]
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[[Category:Churches|*]]
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[[Category:Church architecture]]
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[[ro:Biserică]]
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Revision as of 03:05, June 10, 2008

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