Illustrated Dictionary of British Churches

History and Architecture

Chancel

The east end of a church, traditionally the place where the high altar is located. In early Christian churches there was little or no division between the nave, at the western end, and the chancel, at the eastern end. In the medieval period the nave and chancel were often divided by a screen, usually of wood, which could become quite elaborately carved.

Chancels may have seating for a choir, and there may be small chambers off the chancel, such as a vestry, an 'office space' for the priest. Chancels were often dominated by a large east window above and behind the altar.

Related: Altar   Choir   Nave  

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