Church architecture

Church architecture
From Eden to the Church
1st ‘Church’ = Eden (no sanctuary, altar...)
2nd ‘Church’ = The Altar (Gen 22:9..)
3rd ‘Church’ = Bethel (House of God .. Jacob)
4th ‘Church’ = The tabernacle (Lev)
5th ‘Church’ = The temple
6th ‘Church’ = Church of the New Testament
(The Incarnate Lord is transfigured in front of
our eyes)
Shapes of the Church
• The Church can be built in one of three shapes:
1. A Cross
2. A Circle
3. An Ark
A Cross
• Common in Byzantine style, but never
introduced in the Coptic Church
• A Circle is a line which has no beginning or
• It is infinite - Like God
Ship (Ark)
• The most common shape in our Coptic
• They indicated that death was a happy voyage
from this world to a better life
• Death with the Lord Christ brings us to a
better life - Eternal Life
• A person who journeys from one place to
another, travels in a ship
• Christianity takes us from this world and
transports us to a better life - Heaven
• The dimensions of the ark are very
comparable to those of the human body.
• The length of the body = 6 X his width, and 10
X his girth
• The dimensions of the ark were (300 X 50 X
• The Lord Christ (the symbol of Ark) became
man to save us.
Ship symbolisms
God the Father is the owner of the ship
The Lord Christ is the captain
The Bishop is the watchman
The priests are the seamen
The deacons are the rowers
The sea is the world, in which the church has
entered, but it is not destroyed because its
captain is clever.
• The ship carries the cross in it (The flag of victory
over death)
• The ropes that tie the ship together is the love of the
Lord Christ
• The net of the ship is the baptismal font where the
believers are drawn and are born anew
• It has iron cables, which are the commandments of
the Lord Christ, strong as iron
• It has sailors on the left and right sides, which are
the angels who keep and direct the church
• The ladder that leads up the ship is the
commemoration of the passion of Christ the Lord,
which lifts us up to heaven.
• The sails that are raised above the ship are the saints
and martyrs who have entered into His rest.
The structure of the Church
• The Church is Shaped like the Tabernacle, with
three sections
• The First Section is the Sanctuary (the Holy of
Holies) and represents Heaven.
• It contains the altar, the dome, the steps, and
the Eastern wall
• The Second Section is called the “Nave”.
• The Third Section is the baptismal font, at the
western area of the Church
The altar
Where the sacrifice is offered
It is square in shape
Made out of either wood or marble
It has three coverings on top
It Must have a "holy board" on top, which is the
board consecrated by the Holy Oil of Myron.
• The holy board is only necessary for an altar that
has yet to be consecrated. After consecration, the
holy board is no longer required.
• It is called the Altar, because upon it is presented
the True Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Dome
• Above the altar, we see the
• Positioned on four columns
• Painted in blue to represent
heaven, with angels drawn
on it
• Curtains are sometimes
suspended from between
the columns
The Steps
• Seven semi-circular steps that lead up to the
Bishop's throne, underneath the Eastern wall
• The Bishop would be sitting under the feet of the
Lord Christ
• In order for the Bishop to take his place, he would
climb seven (complete) steps (which represent the
fullness of virtues)
• He teaches the people from behind the Altar,
because his words and service are not due to his
own righteousness, but to the righteousness of
Christ the Lord.
The Eastern Wall
• Is a semi-circular wall also called the "Father's bosom"
• It has an Icon of the Lord Christ sitting, surrounded by
cherubim and seraphim
• He carries in one hand the earth (because He is the
controller of everything – the Pantocrator)
• He carries a scepter in the other hand to shepherd His
people (Jn 10:11)
• He is looking directly at the people and lovingly opening
His bosom to them longing to accept each and every soul
to Himself.
• Only the Icon of the Lord Christ should be in the
Sanctuary as He alone is in Heaven until the final
judgment after which the souls of the righteous in
Paradise will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The work of the Holy Spirit and
structure of the Church
•The Church is composed of the Lord Christ (the
Head) and the believers (the Body), and so, they
carry His thoughts in their minds.
•With this idea, the early church was able to
build a church structure in any place, in order to
build the Kingdom of God in the hearts of the
•The structure of the church is a visual message
about the goal of the church: salvation. It
portrays who the Lord Christ is, what is this
Salvation, and how to obtain it.
The church faces the East
1. The Garden of Eden was in the East (Gen 2:8)
2. The East is the direction in which the Sun rises,
and the Lord is called “Sun of Righteousness”
(Mal 4:2)
3. The Lord Christ was born in the East. The wise
men saw His star in the East (Matt 2:2)
4. St Mary was described as the gate facing
toward East (Ez 44:1-2)
5. God’s glory is in the East
6. The Lord Christ will come from the East
Coptic Iconostasis
The doors
The windows
Positioning and order of icons
The candles
The Ostrich eggs
The doors
• The Coptic Iconostasis contains three doors; the
Royal door as the entrance to the sanctuary, and
the two other doors for the side sanctuaries.
• The oblations are offered and the “Lamb” is
selected at the Royal door.
• Entering these doors means you enter heaven
itself, while outside is the Earth.
• The three doors refer to the function of the Holy
Trinity in reconciling God and man through the
unity of heaven and earth.
• Upon entering the sanctuary, the priest must
face the altar and step through the right hand
side of the door using his right leg and bowing
his head, as if stepping into the kingdom of
• When stepping out of the sanctuary he leaves
by the left side of the door, in reverence,
keeping his eyes fixed on the altar.
The Windows
• On each side of the Coptic sanctuary doors
there existed a small window, cut about one
and half meters above the floor.
• These were originally used during the
persecution periods, where two deacons
watched the church through them.
• In case of an attack, they notified the priest,
who in turn hid the sacrifice, quenched the
candles and tore away the altar clothing.
• Also can be used for holy communion
Positioning and order of icons
• Positioning of the various icons upon the
Iconostasis is traditionally governed by a
number of guidelines.
• 14 guidelines are listed here
1. The royal door
2. Icon of Christ
• He appears holding a sheet of the gospel
showing the verse “I am the Good Shepherd”
3. Window
• No picture
4. St John the Baptist
• Next to the icon of Christ is St John the Baptist,
who prepared the way for the Lord’s coming.
5. Icon of the Patron Saint or the icon of
the church
• For it potrays the saint in whose honor the Church was
built. It is usually followed by a number of selected
icons of saints and martyrs or incidents from both the
New and Old Testaments.
6. Icon of Martyr, Saint or any incident
from the bible
• No picture
7. St Mary
• On the opposite side of the Royal Door appears the icon
of St Mary, the mother of God. She represents the
whole church and the Queen who sits on the right hand
of the King, Jesus Christ.
8. The anunciation
9. Archangel Michael
10. St Mark the Apostle
• Should be on the opposite side
11. The Last Supper
- Directly above the Royal Door the icon of the last supper is
- It shows Christ giving communion to His disciples, which
illustrates and signifies the authoritive office of Christ as the
High Priest.
12. The disciples
• The disciples assure us of the apostolic nature of
our church. It is established on the apostolic
13. St Mary + 14. St John the disciple
• On top of the Iconastis a cross is mounted and a
view of the Golgotha is displayed.
• The Virgin mary stands on one side and St. John
the disciple stands on the other side.
The candles
• Before every icon a candle is hung, and this
represents the light of Christ who shines through His
saints. (There is no candle for the icon of Jesus
Ostrich Eggs
• They are suspended before the Iconostasis
between the icons.
• Eggs held a symbolic meaning of hope and
• It was said that when Pontius Pilate asked Mary
Magdalene of how Jesus rose from the dead, she
brought an egg and asked him “Tell me how a
small chick emerges from this egg when it is
• Perhaps this practice corresponds to the tradition
of exchanging (coloured)eggs on Easter.
• After an Ostrich lays her eggs she must remain active to
speed up their hatching. She concentrates on the egg.
Likewise when a person walks into Church, he should
concentrate all his thoughts and attention to the divine
worship, leaving behind all earthy worries lest his prayers
should be spoilt and lost.