Illustrated Architecture Dictionary


Florence Cathedral, Italy
In St. Joseph University Church, the side aisle  is separated from the nave by pillars

The central part of a church building, intended to accommodate most of the congregation. In traditional Western churches it is rectangular, separated from the chancel by a step or rail, and from adjacent aisles by pillars or columns.

This is the area where the congregation sits in pews.

Latin: "navis" = ship (an early symbol of the church).  In a Gothic style church, the ceiling is pointed - like an upside down ship shape.

See Vocabulary - Churches

Nave, central and principal part of a Christian church, extending from the entrance (the narthex) to the transepts (transverse aisle crossing the nave in front of the sanctuary in a cruciform church) or, in the absence of transepts, to the chancel (area around the altar).

In a basilican church, which has side aisles, nave refers only to the central aisle. The nave is that part of a church set apart for the laity, as distinguished from the chancel, choir, and presbytery, which are reserved for the choir and clergy. The separation of the two areas may be effected by screens or parapets, called cancelli.

The term nave derives from the Latin navis, meaning “ship,” and it has been suggested that it may have been chosen to designate the main body of the building because the ship had been adopted as a symbol of the church.

The form of the nave was adapted by the early Christian builders from the Roman hall of justice, the basilica. The nave of the early Christian basilica was generally lighted by a row of windows near the ceiling, called the clerestory; the main, central space was usually flanked on either side by one or two aisles, ...   A flat timber roof characteristically covered the nave until the Romanesque and Gothic eras, when stone vaulting became almost universal in the major churches of northern Europe.

Medieval naves were generally divided into many bays, or compartments, producing the effect of great length by the repetition of forms. The standard medieval division of the nave wall into ground-floor arcade, tribune (a vaulted gallery space over the side aisles), optional triforium arcade (a blind or open arcade between the tribune and clerestory), and
clerestory became more flexible during the Renaissance, so that frequently ... the tribune and triforium are eliminated, and the nave wall is divided only into arcade and clerestory.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: Nave   (online Jan. 2029)

The clerestory windows are the nave windows.
The arcade windows are in the aisle

Examples from Buffalo architecture:
Other examples:

Photos and their arrangement 2011 Chuck LaChiusa
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