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Norwich Historic Churches Trust - glossary of churches
Category: Architecture and Buildings > Churches
Date & country: 16/01/2008, UK
Words: 135


Aisle
An extension to the side of the nave or chancel separated off by an arcade. Sometime used for the passageways between the seating. See Alley.

Alley
The passageways between blocks of pews.

Altar
The ceremonial table at which the Eucharist (Mass, Holy Communion) is celebrated. May be made of wood or stone.

Altar frontal
A cloth or embroidery hanging for decorating the front of the altar.

Altar-piece
A piece of art placed on the wall behind the altar (see Reredos) In the 18th century, these took the form of large classical-style screens.

Apex
The apex of an arch is its highest point.

Arcade
A series of arches like a pierced wall, separating off an area. See Wall Arcade or Blind Arcade

Arch Braced Roof
Curved pair of roof braces forming an arch which connect the wall (or post) below with tie beam or collar beam above.

Ashlar
Thin slabs of freestone used as facing

Aumbry
A cupboard. In the Middle Ages used to store the communion vessels. Since 1900, in some churches, used for keeping the reserved sacrament. See Tabernacle.

Baldachino
A canopy over the altar, supported on columns, sometimes called a ciborium.

Barrel Vault
. Form of vault made up of continuous semicircular or pointed arch.

Battlemented Parapet
A parapet with crenellations or battlements i.e with alternate raised or lowered sections. May be called crenellated or castellated.

Bay
a division of a church or roof, usually marked by arcade arches or roof trusses.

Beam
Long thick piece of wood or metal or concrete, etc., used in construction .See Tie Beam & Collar Beam.

Belfry
A room or structure in which bells are hung, usually part of a church tower.

Blind or Wall Arcade
An arcade built flat against a wall, as a decorative feature.

Blind Tracery
Tracery applied to a solid wall.

Boss
An ornamental knob covering the intersection of ribs in a vault or on a ceiling.

Box- tomb
A chest-style monument. The interior is a hollow cavity, and the body is buried underground. May also be called a chest tomb.

Box-pew
The true pew. Surrounded by wooden panelling, and with a lockable door. Abbreviation for Horse Box Pew.

Brace
A supporting beam that steadies or holds something else erect.

Broken pediment
a pediment where the apex is missing.

Buttress
Masonry built against a wall to give extra strength, and to distribute the downward thrust. See Flying Buttress.

Candelabrum
Large branched candlestick. May be free-standing or hung from the roof.

Capitals
The head of a column, pillar, or pilaster. The form of the capital is often a good guide to its date

Castellated Parapet
A parapet with crenellations or battlements i.e with alternate raised or lowered sections. May be called battlemented or crenellated.

Chancel
The part of the church at the east end, where the altar stands and where the clergy sit.

Chancel Screen
A screen dividing the chancel from the nave – another term for Rood Screen.

Chantry chapel
A chapel in which masses were said for the soul of its founder.

Chapel
(side-chapel) An area of a church with its own altar, originally for the cult of a saint other than the patron saint. Maybe an extension, or simply screened off with parcloses.

Chest Tomb
Chest shaped tomb usually of stone. May also be called a box tomb

Choir Stalls
Seating running east-west in the chancel or crossing, where the choir sits.

Ciborium
(1) Another name for baldachino; (2) a chalice-like vessel with a lid, used for the bread at the Eucharist.

Clerestorey
Upper storey of the nave wall rising above the aisle roof. Pierced by windows to light the nave.May also be found in the chancel

Collar Beam
A structure component to prevent roof spreading by tying together opposing sets of roof rafters. See Beam.

Communion Rails
Rails in front of the altar at which the congregation kneels to receive communion. First introduced in the 16th century.

Corbel
Block of stone bonded into a wall either inside or out, supporting the end of a beam, or a statue.

Corbel Table
Series of corbels, just below the roof eaves. Used to carry a parapet, a wall plate or wall post.

Course
Continuous layer in a wall e.g. layer of stones. See String Course & Zigzag Course

Crenellated Parapet
A parapet with crenellations or battlements i.e with alternate raised or lowered sections. May be called battlemented or castellated.

Crossing
The area in the centre of a cruciform church, where the east-west and north-south arms cross.

Cruciform
Cross shaped, often of a church floor plan.

Cusps
pointed projections in window tracery or in arches.

Decalogue
The ten commandments

Decorated
When capitalised, Decorated refers to a style of architecture dating from the late 13th to the mid 14th Century, characterised by elaborate window tracery and tall columns. Represents the middle of the Gothic period

Dormer
(window) A form of window ‘pushed up` through the roof line to bring extra light into the top of a building.

Early English
An architectural style dating from the late 12th to the late 13th century, characterised by the earliest use of pointed arches and representing the beginning of the Gothic period

Fan Vault
Form of vault made up of halved concave masonry cones decorated with blind tracery.

Flushwork
Decorative patterns in flint flat against limestone, brick or carrstone, used to decorate the outside of some churches

Flying Buttress
A buttress which stands away from its building, and is attached to it by a ‘bridge`.

Font
Container used for the consecrated water used in baptism

Freestone
Stone which can be easily worked, usually oolitic limestone, or sandstone. It has a fine grain, and may be 'freely worked' with metal tools. Thin slabs of freestone used as facing are called Ashlar.

Gallery
Balcony overlooking the main interior space of a building. Usually at the west end of a church, but some occur in the side-aisles. Generally put up in the 16th to 18th centuries, and removed in the late 19th.

Galletting
Small pieces of flint inserted into the mortar between the large flints.

Gargoyle
A projecting stone, ususally carved in a grotesque manner, which throws rainwater away from the walls and footings of a church

Gothic
Art, architecture or decoration styles dating from after the Norman period but before the renaissance.

Gothic Revival
A 19th century revival version of the medieval Gothic style. Sometimes called Victorian Gothic. Dates from approximately 1840 to WW1.

Gothick
An 18th century revival version of the medieval gothic style,sometimes called Strawberry Hill Gothic. It predates the 19th century Gothic Revival style.

Gradine
A shelf behind the altar, usually part of the reredos, on which the cross and candlesticks stand.

Hagioscope
In a wall usually to allow sight of the altar. Also called Squint

Hammerbeam
An abbreviated tie-beam

Hatchment
A diamond shaped panel showing the coat of arms of a deceased person. Often displayed high on the church wall

Headstop
A carving at the end of a hood mould, often taking the form of a head.

High Altar
The main altar in a church at which the Eucharist (Mass, Holy Communion) is celebrated. May be made of wood or stone.

Hood mould
Projecting moulding above an arch or lintel used to throw off water.

Horse Box-pew
The true pew. Surrounded by wooden panelling, and with a lockable door. May be abbreviated to Box Pew.

Incumbent
The cleric in charge of a church. May be called Rector, Vicar, or Priest-in-Charge.

Knapped Flints
Flints which have been broken open to expose the dark interior, and then cut to shape e.g they may be squared.

Lectern
A desk from which readings are given. Often take the form of a brass eagle.

Lierne Vault
A form of tierceron vault with subsidiary ribs (liernes) running between the tiercerons and main ribs, making patterns

Light
A vertical division of a window.

Long-and-short work
A method of forming quoins by placing long narrow blocks of stone alternately with thin wide ones. Characteristic of Anglo-Saxon style masonry.

Misericord
Shelf on a carved bracket placed on the underside of a hinged choir stall seat. Supports an occupant when standing. Often bears interesting carvings.

Mullion
The upright in a window; divides the window into a number of lights.

Narthex
An area at the west end of the nave.

Nave
The main body of the church, where the congregation sits.

Ogee or Ogive
A double S-shaped curve. Used as an arch form in the 14th century. See Reticulated.

Orientation
A church is assumed to have its altar at the east end. Most deviate from true east to some degree north or south.

Parapet
A raised rim around the edge of a roof. See Castellated Parapet, Battlemented Parapet or Crenellated Parapet.

Parclose screen
A screen that encloses a side chapel within the church.

Parvise
The room over a porch.

Patron
(1) The patron saint of a church; (2) the person or corporation with the right to appoint the incumbent.

Pediment
A triangular or sometime curved head to panelling – used in 18th century altar-pieces. See Broken Pediment.

Perpendicular
An architectural style dating from the mid 14th to the late 16th century, characterised by mullions reaching to the top of windows, and by the development of fan vaulting. Represents the last part of the Gothic period.

Pews
Seating for the laity outside the chancel. What are usually called ‘pews` are in fact benches. See Box Pew and Reading Pew.

Piers
Another name for pillar.

Pilaster
Very shallow buttress, which has no structural use; it articulates the building on the outside.

Pinnacles
Projecting points at the corners of a tower, or along a parapet, or topping off a buttress.

Piscina
Recess in the wall near an altar, with a drain, for washing the communion vessels.

Plinth
A solid base on which something stands.

Porch
Covered approach to entrance of building; in the Middle Ages used for weddings.

Pulpit
A structure for the Priest to speak from, raised above the congregation.See Three-Decker-Pulpit.

Pyx
A vessel for the consecrated bread. In mediaeval English churches, a pyx hanging over the altar was used for the reserved sacrament.

Quatrefoil
A four lobed shape.

Quoins
Stones forming the external angles of a wall.

Rafters
The main structural timbers in a roof. are called principal rafters. The ones which fill gaps between are the common rafters.

Reading Pew or Desk
A seat with a desk from which the service is read, usually in the nave.

Reredos
A screen or decoration behind the altar in a church, usually containing religious images. Often painted wood, but may be carved, gilded, etc. Sometimes a tapestry, or other fabric is used.

Reserved sacrament
The bread consecrated at the Eucharist, and kept for use with the sick.