The Symbolism of The Christian Church

Translated from Armenian.

The Middle Ages – the period when the world was perceived in symbolic conceptions, and in art was dominated the symbolic idea …


According to the Christian conceptions, the church is the likeness of the universe on earth. The temple is considered to be the symbolic reflection of the universe. In the structure of the temple lies the main idea of Christianity – the relation between man and God, and the symbolic contact the heaven and the earth.



In earlier Christian churches, and the first of all in organization of the space structures in the basilica, it is obvious   the direction west to east , where are one by another follows  the atriume (open yard), narteks (entrance hall), naos (chapel), amvon (stage) and abside (tabernacle). This  arrangement of spaces by itself  hints  the way of  soul salvation for  the newly-converted and  the believers, showing its the symbolical stages.

This structure corresponds to the three main partitions of the Christian community – the  penitents, the  faithful and the  pastors.

In Basilica, the main thing is the horizontal direction and the altar. While

Հայրավանք, գմբեթ photo by Hayk Barkhudaryan

Hayravanq, dome
photo by Hayk Barkhudaryan

approaching to the altar increases the value of the holy parts of the temple.

The altar is the most sacred part of

the Christian church,  to which side  are directed the looks of those who entered into the church .

The Altar is an integral and a canonical part of the construction design of the church. The altar – an embodiment of heavenly sphere, The Heaven of heavens, the Universe. In its form (semicircular) the altar resembles the cave, where Christ was born. Here is  the throne of  God.

Then, when was spread out and dominated central domed churches, the   inherent symbolism of basil went to them. Basilica did not meet the new requirements, because they were deprived of such a bright symbol of the universe, like a dome. The Dome with its  circular form, completes the ideal image of Christian church, emphasizing the key idea of the Christian worldview: The  Church-Universe symbolism.


Вагнер Г. К.,  Византийский храм как образ мира //Византийский временник, т. 47, М., 1986

Тафт Р. Ф., Византийский церковный обряд, С-Пб., 2005

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