Saturday, August 29, 2009

An illustration of the Traditional Interior of an Orthodox Church

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Orthodox church buildings have the following basic shapes, each with its own symbolism:
Elongated: rectangle, rounded rectangle (oval), symbolizing the ship as a means of salvation (Noah's Ark)
Cruciform (cross shaped)
Star shaped

The cupola instead of a flat ceiling symbolizes the sky.

The altar (sanctuary) is situated in the eastern part of the church, regardless of its shape. A bell tower is attached to (or built separately by) the western part of the church.

The church building has many symbolic meanings; perhaps the oldest and most prominent is the concept that the Church is the Ark of Salvation (as in Noah's Ark) in which the world is saved from the flood of temptations. Because of this, most Orthodox Churches are rectangular in design. Another popular shape, especially for churches with large choirs is cruciform or cross-shaped. Architectural patterns may vary in shape and complexity, with chapels sometimes added around the main church, or triple altars (Liturgy may only be performed once a day on any particular altar), but in general, the symbolic layout of the church remains the same.
The Church building is divided into three main parts: the narthex (vestibule), the nave (the temple proper) and the sanctuary (also called the altar or holy place).

Source: Eastern Orthodox church architecture

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