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Good essay on development of Basilica plan - History of Modern Art - The Evolution of Christian Architecture Certain aspects of Christian architecture changed quickly and dramatically between the Early Christian and Gothic periods but the basic basilica plan remained throughout Christian worship being congregational requires a hall and the Roman basilica - a civic lawcourt - became the early model for both large and small churches The basilica processional in form had a long axis running from a centered doorway to the altar at the other end of the building They were generally shaped like a cross either in the form of a Greek cross with arms of equal length or a Latin cross with one longer arm the nave One of the earliest examples of Christian architecture and an excellent example of the basilica plan was Old St Peters in Rome It was built by Emperor Constantine shortly after he legalized Christianity around 333 CE Like many other pilgrimage churches it was built over the grave of a saint It was approached through a colonnaded atrium like that of a Roman house and was entered from one end through a porch or narthex Based on the shape of a Latin Cross Old St Peters had a long and wide nave or central aisle with a transept crossing the nave near the front of the church Including the nave Old St Peters had five large aisles for members of the congregation to stand in during the services
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