The Roman basilica served as the dominant model for medieval ecclesiastical construction, with the Latin cross design being the most frequent. Justinian also commissioned cathedrals. They included Byzantine influences into the design of domes as well as the Greek cross. Medieval churches were built with thick walls because there were no modern building materials available and wars were common as well.
During the 11th century, new buildings were constructed across Europe that had a distinct look all their own. Rather than copying past examples, architects began to take inspiration from nature. As a result, we get the first signs of Gothic architecture. Pointed arches, vaults, and windows began to appear in churches throughout France, Germany, and Italy. England avoided this style completely until the 13th century when it became popular again. By the late 15th century, Renaissance styles came back into fashion and remains popular today.
In the 16th century, the Dutch island province of Holanda became famous for its large church projects. The country was ruled by various monarchs who wanted their cities to have impressive temples. The largest and most famous project was the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Amsterdam. It is a stunning structure with an enormous dome that is still used today for public events such as opera performances.
France and Spain also built many churches during this time period.
The Latin cross form adds two lateral expansions (known as "transepts") to the original basilica layout, whereas the central plan design compresses the basilica into a square (or other shape with rotational symmetry, e.g., octagon, circle, Greek cross). This creates more space within the walls of the church building for seating and other internal structures.
In addition to having more room inside, centrally planned churches offer greater freedom in planning the exterior appearance. They can be much taller than traditional churches with similar plans, because they have no restricted height above which windows cannot be placed. Also, they do not need an aisle between each row of seats like traditional churches; instead, an open area is usually left near the center of the nave where people can walk about during services or other events. Finally, they do not need a tower since they have even distribution of weight across their roofs due to their central design.
Centrally planned churches are found throughout Europe but are particularly common in Poland where some estimate that approximately 70% of all churches constructed since 1350 are centrally planned.
They are also found in North America. There are several examples in Canada including one built in 1770 in York, Upper Canada, now part of Toronto. Another example can be seen in Germantown Cemetery in Philadelphia. This cemetery was established in 1723 and remains today one of the largest in the United States.
The basilica layout, with its nave, aisles, and apse, remained the foundation for Western Church church construction. However, it was progressively phased out of usage in the Eastern Church, having been superseded by the radial plan on which Emperor Justinian I built the domed cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
In the West, the basilica design was retained or even expanded upon during the early medieval period. The transepts of many large churches from this time have a structure similar to the transept of a basilica (with an arm containing a chapel) but without a crossing building function. These may have been planned as such, but could also have been constructed as simple halls with aisles later divided into three equal sections (like a basilica). Examples include St Mary's Church, Broughton, Chesterford, England, and St Andrew's Church, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland. In some cases, there are traces of painted decoration inside these 'basilica' transepts.
During the 11th century, the Latin Church began to adopt the more spacious eastern style of architecture that was being developed at this time in Constantinople and Baghdad. As part of this movement, the role of the basilica in Western church planning started to diminish, with the emphasis shifting towards larger churches with multiple aisles and chapels. By the 13th century, the term had been entirely dropped from use in Europe.
Vatican City's architecture, which is dominated by ecclesiastical buildings, is distinguished by numerous architectural styles, including Roman, Baroque, and Gothic. The most representative structures are focused in the medieval period and the 16th–18th centuries.
The city-state of the Catholic Church, Vatican City was established as a sovereign state in 1 August 1929 by an act of Pope Paul VI. The city-state has an area of just 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) and a population of about 460 people. It is located on a peninsula between the Tiber River and the Vatican Lake.
The word "vaticano" comes from the Latin term for Babylon, referring to the secular power that at one time surrounded the Holy See.
Babylonian influences can be seen in the design of many churches built within the Vatican walls during the early years of Christianity. These include the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which was originally built in the 4th century but has been extensively remodeled over time, and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, which was first constructed in the 6th century but has also undergone significant renovation work over time.
However, more recent renovations have brought these two important churches into line with modern building standards.
Churches from the first to third century were predominantly influenced by the most flourishing forms of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The Greeks and Romans had developed a large number of different styles over many centuries, so it is not surprising that early Christians preferred to follow the examples they saw around them.
However, even though they may have wanted to copy existing buildings, Christians did so with important differences. They usually restricted themselves to the exterior of the building (the "exterior decoration" of the church), which meant that the actual structure of the building remained unchanged. Inside the churches, Christians created new decorations - such as pictures or sculptures - that reflect their faith.
For example, Christians removed all traces of animal sacrifice from temples. This was probably done to demonstrate that Jesus is the only acceptable sacrifice for our sins. So, in place of sacrifices, Christians made donations to charity instead (this is called "tithe paying").
Also, some Christians believed that saints would be born again after their deaths. So, they built churches with special rooms where bodies could be kept until they could be buried or sent home to be with God and his people.
These are just some examples of how Christians altered existing buildings to reflect their beliefs.