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Encyclopedia > Chancel

This article is about an architectural feature; for the astronomical term see apsis.

The exterior of an apse.

In Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral and church architecture, the apse (Latin absis "arch, vault"; sometimes written apsis; plural apses) is the semi-circular or polygonal section of the sanctuary at the liturgical east end beyond the altar (plan, right). The semicircular projection (which may be polygonal on the exterior, or reveal the radiating projections of chapels) may be roofed with a half-dome or with radiating vaulting. A simple apse may be merely embedded within the wall of the east end. Eastern orthodox churches may have a triple apse, which is usually a mark of Byzantine influence when it is seen in Western churches. Smaller subsidiary apses may be found around the choir or even at the ends of transepts.

Compare the exedra of Classical architecture, which may be considered apsidal, a feature of the secular Roman basilica, which provided some prototypes for Early Christian churches. The apse in the Roman basilica was often raised (as the sanctuary generally still is) as a hieratic feature that set apart the magistrates who deliberated within it.

A simple apse set into the east end of an English parish church, at Poulton_le_Fylde, Lancashire

An exedra or apse may be reduced in scale to form a niche within the thickness of walling; a niche does not reveal its presence by projecting on the exterior.

The interior of the apse is traditionally a focus of iconography, bearing the richest concentration of mosaics, or painting and sculpture, towards which all other decoration may tend.

Various architectural features that may form part of the apse are drawn together here:



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In the presbytery or sanctuary directly to the east beyond the choir is the High Altar, where there is one (Compare communion table. This area is reserved for the clergy.

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Abbey church of Saint-Ouen, (chevet), Rouen, Seine_Maritime

In the beginning of the 13th century in France, the apses were built as radiating chapels outside the choir aisle, henceforth known as the chevet (French, "headpiece"), when the resulting structure was too complicated to be merely an "apse." Famous northern French examples of chevets are in the Gothic cathedrals of Amiens, Beauvais and Reims. Such radiating chapels are found in England in Norwich and Canterbury cathedrals, but the fully_developed feature is essentially French, though the Francophil connoisseur Henry III introduced it into Westminster Abbey.


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See also:

Look up Apse in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

  Results from FactBites:
Chancel - LoveToKnow 1911 (587 words)
In churches of the type that grew to its perfection in the middle ages the chancels are clearly differentiated from the nave by structural features: by the raising of the floor level, by the presence of a "chancel arch," and by a chancel or rood screen (see Rood).
In parish churches the screen was set, partly to differentiate the space occupied by the clergy from that reserved for the laity, partly to support the representation of the crucifixion known as the Rood.
In the Church of England, the duty of repairing the chancel falls upon the parson by custom, while the repair of the body of the church falls on the parishioners.
The Chancel (670 words)
Before restoration, the chancel was constructed of rough knapped flint work similar to that on the nave, with North and South external corner buttresses as well as intermediate buttresses between the lancet windows.
Interior photographs show that the chancel was originally divided from the nave by a segmental arch lower than the present one, which would indicate that it had been rebuilt at some point after the chancel was constructed.
To complete the rebuilding of the chancel, a new floor was constructed of plain and decorative acoustic tiles and during this work it was said a bottle was found containing documents relating to the church’s restoration after the storm in 1639.
  More results at FactBites »



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