Glossary of Ecclesiastical Terms
Area of church separated by an arcade of columns or piers.
Semicircular or polygonal aisle which encloses an apse, often provided so that worshippers can walk round an altar or shrine.
Semicircular or polygonal end of a chancel or a chapel.
A row of arches on columns or piers; where attached to a wall instead of free-standing it is a blind arcade.
The horizontal block between columns or piers that spans the area between them.
Carefully dressed masonry.
A small column or pillar, often, but not necessarily, wider in the centre than at the extremities. Also called a baluster shaft.
A burial mound.
Term originally used to describe a Roman town hall, but later to describe a rectangular hall-like building, normally with a roof supported by two or more arcades (ie aisled).
A technique of producing a dome-like vault by oversailing courses of masonry. Frequently used for Celtic monastic cells.
A turret, usually at the W end of a church, to carry bells.
A stone projection or knob, often used to ornament the intersection of ribs in a vault.
A mass of brickwork built against a wall to carry the thrust and provide strength.
Moulding imitating twisted cord.
The head of a column.
A small chamber or room, often used of the small detached buildings that are found in Celtic monasteries.
Surface produced by cutting across a square angle of a block at 45ø to the other surfaces.
The area at the E end of the church in which the altar is usually located. Normally used to describe the area E of the crossing that continues the line of the nave. Often narrower than the nave. Chancel arch is the arch dividing the nave from the chancel.
Zig-zag pattern, normally on carved moulding.
Upper storey of the nave walls of the church, lit by windows.
Block of stone projecting from a wall, usually to support a beam, or some other feature.
Underground room, usually at E end of church.
A connecting wall between towers.
A capital cut from a square block with the low angles rounded off to the column below. Also called a block capital. Decorated Term used to describe a style of English Gothic architecture current c. 1300-50.
Built without mortar.
A bank, often used to describe a linear rampart. Early English Term used to describe a style of English Gothic architecture, roughly covering the period 1200-1300.
The metal (or wood) finger on a sun dial.
A tombstone intended for laying flat on a grave. Greek key Geometric pattern.
Sunken-floor hut popular in Britain and on the Continent in the pagan Saxon period, but continuing in use later.
Type of masonry in which the stones are set in a zig-zag pattern.
Type of tombstone in the form of the hipped roof of a shrine or church, which bears a superficial resemblance to a hog's back (the shingles looking like bristles).
Projecting moulding above an arch or lintel, normally intended to throw off water (sometimes called dripstone)
Bracket in a wall, often moulded, on which the end of an arch rests.
Type of ornament popular in Northumbria, in which birds and beasts are disposed in a panel of stylized vine ornament, often pecking or biting the fruit.
Bracket in a wall, often moulded, on which the end of an arch rests.
In its original position.
A pattern made by intertwining a ribbon in and out of itself. Zoomorphic interlace is created when the ribbon takes the form of an animal's body.
The straight side of a door, arch or window.
An animal with ribbon-like body used in zoomorphic interlace.
An outdoor altar made from a pile of stones, normally square, which may mark a special grave.
A window opening.
A horizontal beam or stone bridging an opening.
A building with dwelling area and byre under the same roof-alignment, usually separated by a cross-passage. The commonest type of Viking house.
Literally 'the hand of God'. Visual symbol in the form of a hand emanating from a cloud representing God.
A shaft dividing a window of two lights, which is placed exactly centrally in the wall.
The church in a monastery; a church of major importance in the region.
Made of one stone.
Enclosed vestibule or covered porch at the entrance to a church.
The main body of the church.
Central post in a circular staircase.
Used in England as a synonym for 'Romanesque', it covers the style of architecture current between 1066-1200.
A type of alphabet current in Ireland and in the Irish settlements in Britain in the Dark Ages, a variant of which was used by the Picts (see p. 44).
A chapel without an altar.
A low wall intended to protect a sudden drop, for example on a church or house top.
A curvilinear shape, derived from that of a Roman shield.
A style of English Gothic architecture current between c. 1350-1530.
A mass of stonework or brickwork, usually of square section, which serves as a support instead of a column.
A shallow pier attached to a wall.
The projecting base of a wall or column. Pointed In English Gothic architecture, First Pointed is a style current in the Early English period.
A side chapel or chapels. In the early Anglo-Saxon church it was not permitted for burials to be made in the body of the church, but they were allowed in the flanking chapels or porticus.
The corner of a building; also used of the individual stones (dressed) making up the corner.
A recess cut in wood or stone to take the edge of another member that is to be secured in it.
An arch constructed above a door or window to take the thrust of the masonry. Renaissance The first period of classical revival, usually taken to begin c. 1453. Architecture influenced by it.
Half-pier bonded into a wall and carrying one end of an arch.
The part of the jamb which lies between the door (or glass, in a window) and the outer wall surface.
A facing of stone or timber in a rampart to stop it collapsing or eroding.
A type of ornament popular in Anglo-Danish times.
A type of circular earthwork consisting of rampart and external ditch broken by an entrance. Constructed mainly by the Normans in Britain. Romanesque In England called Norman, a style of architecture influenced by the Roman. Current in the eleventh to twelfth centuries. Some Anglo-Saxon architecture is called, misleadingly, pre-Conquest Romanesque.
Cross or Crucifix.
Alphabet of twig-like signs used by both the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings. Variant forms exist.
capital Type of capital in which the semi-circular surface is carved into a series of truncated cones.
A term used in art history to denote a group of artists working in a similar style or tradition.
A partition (of stone or wood). A rood screen was at the western end of the chancel, below a rood. A 'parclose screen' separated the rest of the church from a chapel.
A place where manuscripts were copied.
A structure of stone or metal in which a relic of a saint was placed.
A chamfer, usually on the jamb of a window.
A round weight, used to make the spindle revolve more readily and smoothly in spinning with a hand distaflf.
A hole cut in a wall or pier to allow the main altar to be viewed from where it otherwise could not be seen.
A projecting band or moulding set horizontally in a wall.
Transverse portion of a cruciform church.
The flat part of a step.
The space between the lintel of a doorway and the arch above it. Often sculptured.
Single-roomed or -celled.
A bank. Used to describe the enclosure bank of an early Christian church or monastery.
Wedge-shaped stone used in an arch.
Rooms set aside for use by the abbot.
A section of the church parallel to the choir or nave, and divided from it by an arcade.
A semicircular termination to the chancel, chapel or aisle.
A row of arches.
A recess in a wall which could serve as a cupboard.
Section of a building between columns or buttresses.
A projection from a wall to help support particular loads especially side thrusts from roofs.
A small room or hut for one person.
Eastern part of the church in which the altar stands.
A small section of the church, or a small building having its own altar.
A building attached to the monastery in which the monks met to discuss the affairs of the monastery.
Structurally that part of the church in which singers have their place often inaccurately used for eastern arm.
Pertaining to the cloister.
Part of the church wall above the triforium or arcade usually containing windows.
A covered passage around a quadrangle at the side of the church.
Part of a church where the transepts cross the nave.
Area underneath a church.
Term applied to style of English Gothic architecture c. 1275-1340, in which there was an increasing use of decoration.
Term applied to the first part of the Gothic style of architecture which flourished c. 1180-1275.
Monastic refectory or dining hall.
Individual lavatory or privy.
A building at the entrance to the monastic grounds.
Buildings set aside for visitors to the monastery.
A style of architecture which flourished in Western Europe between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries. In England it included Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular styles.
Kitchen attached to the hospital.
The room in which the cooking was done. There could be three in a monastery. One attached to the monks frater, one in the abbot's lodging and one attached to the Infirmary.
Single, slender, tall, pointed window in twelfth and thirteenth century Gothic architecture.
Lavatory / Lavatorium
Trough where monks washed hands before meals.
Dormitory for lay-brothers.
Dining room for lay-brothers.
A sub division of a multiple window.
Horizontal wood or stone over a fireplace, door, etc.
Decorated shelf placed on the under side of hinged seat in choir stall, to provide support against which to lean while standing.
Additional monastic refectory in which special food was permitted.
Western compartment of church.
Vestibule across the west end of the church .
Main body of church, normally west of sanctuary, transept and choir.
Style of architecture developed by the Normans which flourished in England after the Norman conquest to about 1200.
Style of English Gothic architecture which flourished in England c. 1350-1550.
Mass of upright masonry supporting arches, a pillar.
A small turret at the upward termination of a buttress, wall or roof, etc.
Part of the church around the high altar to the east of the choir.
Rooms set aside for use of the prior.
Block of buildings.
Annex to monastic dormitory containing garderobes or latrines.
Style of architecture which was prevalant in Western Europe c. 950 - 1150. In England it was known as Norman .
Circular window with radiating tracery resembling spokes in a wheel.
Room close to an altar where sacred vessels and vestments were kept.
Room in which scribes did their writing and copying of manuscripts.
Upper living room in a medieval building.
A hole through a pier or wall so that the high altar could be seen from a place where otherwise the view would be blocked.
Projecting horizontal length of masonry.
A tall structure generally set above the crossing of the church or the west front.
Decorative open patterns in the stonework at the heads of Gothic windows, etc.
Cross arm of a cruciform church, normally running N-S.
A period of architecture which marked the period between the Norman and Gothic styles when both were inter mingling. Late twelfth to early thirteenth centuries.
A cusped decoration of three lobes.
A gallery between the-arcade and the clerestory.
Basement of a building.
An arched, stone roof.
A communal room in the monastery where a fire was allowed.
Click here to return to Archaeology UK's Home Page.
Click here to go back to the top of the page