Early Christian Architecture

The architecture of Christian churches has evolved drastically over time, yet there are a few distinct styles which have remained prominent throughout the years. In the Middle Ages, a common design was the Latin Cross Plan. As the name would suggest, a Latin Cross Church has a long nave and intersecting transepts which give it the shape of the cross on which Jesus Christ wa s crucified. Some well known Latin Cross Churches are Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and Chartres Cathedral. During the Gothic Period, Cathedrals such as Chartes were constructed to be tall and narrow as to impress and honor God with their sheer size. Another common style of Christian churches follow the centralized-plan. These churches have a large, open, interior space. Santa Costanza, a centrally-planned church in Rome, served as both the place of Baptisms and as a Mausoleum for the family of the Roman Emperor Constantine, and its circular form references this concept of continuity between life and death.

Latin Cross Plan:                    Centralized Plan:                      Chartres Cathedral:

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St. Peter’s Basilica:


Santa Costanza:



Rice, David Talbot. “Western Architecture: Roman and Early Christian.” In

Encyclopedia Brittanica. 2014. http://www.britannica.com.sfuhs.idm.oclc.org/EBchecked/topic/32952/Western-architecture/47295/Roman-and-early-Christian


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