The portion of a cruciform church that is at right angles to the main axis is known as the transept. The nave of a cruciform church typically extends west from the crossing, while the choir and sanctuary extend east. The word "nave" comes from the Latin word for "way," which describes its orientation with respect to other parts of the church.
The nave is usually where we go to worship God. It is here where we receive our Lord's body and where we pray over those who need it. The word "nave" also means "course" or "way." This is because early Christians met in homes for prayer and fellowship. When they wanted to share their faith, they would meet together in public for worship and preaching. As you can see, the nave was very important then as now!
Nowadays, not all churches are designed like this. But even in some modern churches, you will still find evidence that they used to be cruciform churches too. For example, many medieval churches have three aisles instead of two. And even today, some churches have been converted into mosques or synagogues rather than abandoned or destroyed.
The crossing is the bay where the transept crosses the main body of the church. The transept is also referred to simply as the cross. The word "transept" comes from the Latin trans (across) and sempiternus (eternal). Thus, it means something that crosses over or goes across from one end to the other.
The transept usually contains less architectural interest than the nave or choir but it does provide an opportunity to insert wider piers for carrying larger roof beams or to allow for side-aisles if desired. The transept also serves as a convenient place to deposit items being carried into or out of the church. Transepts are common to all types of churches, but they are particularly abundant in Gothic churches.
In Roman Catholic churches, the transept usually ends in a small chapel called a transenna which contains relics of the saints. These relics are often placed inside large metal cabinets called tabernacles. The faithful can pray before the altar of the transenna during the waiting time before Mass begins.
In Anglican churches with a north-south orientation, the transept usually extends further south than west. This is because there is no requirement for Anglican churches to be crossed diagonally like Roman Catholics.
Transept A rectangular region that extends beyond the main axis of a basilica-style construction. The transept shapes a basilica into a Latin cross and generally serves to separate the main part of the structure from an apse at the end. The word comes from through, or across, which indicates that the line of sight from one side of the church to the other does not pass directly through the middle but instead goes via the transept.
In Roman Catholic churches, the transept usually extends further than the nave and crossing, so that it forms a semi-circle. This was not always the case, as illustrated by the early medieval English cathedrals of Rochester and Winchester, which had transepts but no naves beyond the crossings. They were built before the advent of structural steel made long spans over large areas possible. The only other pre-modern churches that extend their transepts this far are Saint Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London.
The transept usually contains more space than the nave and crossing combined, since it houses the sanctuary, which is reserved for religious rites and ceremonies. It also often has more elaborate architecture, such as stained glass windows and decorative sculptures.
The transept functions as a kind of "third arm" of the church, extending the presence of the deity beyond that of the nave and crossing.
Transept—a distinct area parallel to the nave and aisles. The word comes from Latin transeptus, meaning "crossed beam." It was originally used to describe the feature in a medieval cathedral that crossed the nave from east to west. Today, it also refers to one of four similar areas in a traditional Protestant church building.
In a Catholic church, the transept usually crosses only the nave but may also connect the nave with an aisle or another nave. If it connects two aisles, they are called broad transepts. A wide transept is one that is much longer than it is high. In addition, there are long transepts which do not reach the aisles but stop short of the sanctuary. Finally, if the transept reaches the sanctuary, it is called a narrow transept. Narrow transepts are less common than other types of transepts because they require space that could be used for other purposes. For example, there might not be enough room between the nave and altar to build one without blocking access to either structure.
Church components The nave is the central area of the church where the congregation (those who come to worship) sits. The aisles are the church's sides, which may extend along the sides of the nave. If there is a transept, it is a section that crosses the nave at the top of the church. It may be single or double, but always extends beyond the nave walls. The chancel is the name given to the area in the center of the cross-shaped building where the priest stands during services. This is also where the altar would be if there were one. There usually is an altar, either a raised platform with steps down on each side, or simply a flat surface used for ceremonial purposes. Behind the altar is a space called the sanctuary, which is protected by a curtain called the tabernacle. This is where the sacraments (the rites by which God grants us eternal life through Jesus Christ) are kept. At the west end of the church is another room called the baptistry where people can be baptized into the church. This might be outside on a patio or in a large tank built into the wall of the building.
The organization of a church includes its pastor, its staff, and its members. A church council may have some authority over matters such as hiring and firing staff members. In larger churches, there may be committees that represent different groups within the church, such as youth and music committees.