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The Evolution of Christian Architechture Certain aspects of Christian architecture changed quickly anddramatically between the Early Christian and Gothic periods but the basicbasilica plan remained throughout Christian worship being congregationalrequires a hall and the Roman basilica - a civic lawcourt - became the earlymodel for both large and small churches The basilica processional in form hada long axis running from a centered doorway to the altar at the other end of thebuilding They were generally shaped like a cross either in the form of a Greekcross with arms of equal length or a Latin cross with one longer arm thenave One of the earliest examples of Christian architecture and an excellentexample of the basilica plan was Old St Peters in Rome It was built byEmperor Constantine shortly after he legalized Christianity around 333 CELike many other pilgrimage churches it was built over the grave of a saint Itwas approached through a colonnaded atrium like that of a Roman house andwas entered from one end through a porch or narthex Based on the shape of aLatin Cross Old St Peters had a long and wide nave or central aisle with atransept crossing the nave near the front of the church Including the nave OldSt Peters had five large aisles for members of the congregation to stand induring the services The great church was capable of holding three to fourthousand worshippers at one time At the far end was the raised bema whichheld the altar leading to the semicircle half-domed apse Like all Christianchurches of this time and times to follow the entrance was always in the eastleading down the nave to the apse in the west This east-west axis was verysymbolic to the Christian faith it signified the coming to God Outside St Peters had a simple brick exterior but inside were wallsdecorated with frescoes and mosaics huge marble columns and lavish altarcloths This symbolized the ideal Christian person plain on the outside but fullof riches
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