Church (Gr. consecrated to the Lord; Saxon, Tcyrch; Scandinavian, Mrha; Slavic, cerkiev; Scotch, kirk: the common root in these forms did not pass into the Romanic languages, but from the New Testament term a congregation, sprang the Lat. cclesia, the Span, iglesia, the Fr. eglise, &c), in its most general sense, the whole collective body of Christians. Its narrower senses are, a body of Christians adopting one creed, and organized under the same ecclesiastical government, as the Anglican church; the Christians of a particular province or city, as the church of Antioch; or a society organized for worship in the same edifice. In the Scriptures the name is also given to the body of Jewish believers, the Jewish church being composed of all those who followed the law of Moses. The Christian church is the society of those who profess the religion of Jesus Christ. The society of the faithful upon earth is usually called the church militant, and the society of the saints in heaven is called the church triumphant. In the New Testament the name is once applied to a single family of Christians. (See Christianity.) - Christians have always given the appellation church to the edifices designed for public worship.
The ancient churches had an atrium, or open space surrounded with walls, before the entrance; in the centre of this there was a fountain, in which all washed their hands or faces before entering the church, as an emblem of the purity of soul which they should possess. Before the door there was a covered court, the roof of which was supported by columns; in this were placed the first class of penitents, who were called flcntes. In the interior, the part of the church near the door was called the narthex; in this the catechumens and the penitents, who were called audientes, were placed. Then came the nave, the lower part of which was occupied by the penitents called the prostrati; while the laity were arranged, the men on one side and the females on the other, in the remainder of the nave. In the centre was the amlon, or pulpit, large enough to contain several persons who acted as chanters. The choir was separated from the nave by cancelli, or rails; in this were situated the altar, the throne of the bishop, and the seats of the priests. As it terminated in a semicircle, it was called the apsis.