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Term Definition
CathedralFrom the Latin micro-phrase Domus Dei (House of God) or Domus Ecclesiae. It is a city’s main church. It is not the main church (cattedrale in Italian), in so far as it is not the only official headquarters of the bishop of the dioceses.

From cathedra (pulpit) a Latin term of Greek origin, indicating the bishop’s seat, during medieval times the semantic field was extended to indicate the church where the bishop officiated.  The basilical layout may be a Latin or Greek cross. In general the church is larger and is always the most important and only one in the dioceses.

A small area dedicated to worship, which is isolated from or part of an architectural complex. Also understood to be an altar in a church or oratory. The more wealthy members of the congregation often offered money to have a votive chapel built in their memory.


The part of the church reserved for the singers, positioned behind the altar, in the apse, generally consisting of wooden stalls, which are often engraved or inlaid, and with a lectern in the middle for holding the choir books. In the cathedrals of protestant countries it would be replaced by the organ.

Church, Church

(Chiesa in Italian) The Italian evolution of the Greek linguistic form 'ekklesìa', followed through in the Latin “ecclèsia”, the word originally indicated a normal “assembly” of people. More and more often over the centuries, it began to mean everything associated with the religion and management of the faithful or believers.


A load bearing architectural element generally consisting of a base, a shaft and a capital. About one third of the way up from the base it has a swelling and it contracts slightly towards the top (it is tapered).


An area situated under the presbytery of the church, where the remains of the holy martyr to whom the church is dedicated are kept. High-ranking prelates or other important religious or political figures were buried there. On occasion it extends and becomes a veritable underground church.


A triangular shaped architectural element generally used to crown a façade, a doorway or a painted panel, also used in tabernacles and ciboria.  A typical Gothic ornamental element.


Originally the Latin term devotio indicates an inner state of individual intense adhesion and dedication to God and to his bride, the Church. From the XVIII onwards it assumes the negative meaning of a popular, superficial way of behaving, exposed to the danger of declining into superstition.

Diaconicum eng.

From the Greek diakonìon, it originally indicated the place where the faithful were welcomed by the bishop. During the classic Byzantine era, it lost its original meaning and only indicates the area near the prothesis, to the right of the Sancta Sanctorum.


An architectural roof structure with a hemispherical, ogival or truncated conical shape, often set upon a ring-like base made of brick (tambour), which connects it to the underlying building. At the top there may be a small aedicule called a lantern.

DrumA cylindrical or polygonal body which connects the supports of the underlying building to the dome.
Emmanuel or Emmanuele

A word originating from the Jewish: Imma-nu-El, which when translated means “God-among-us'. In the Byzantine iconic tradition, the Emmanuel was depicted with the beardless face of a young man or boy. The reason for this choice lies in the use of this name in stories about the birth and childhood of the Messiah. A second iconic motif leads us to consider the eternal youth of Christ, projected into the eschatological dimension.

Etimasia. eng

Literally “preparation of the throne” of Jesus, the Judge of all and of history, at the end of time. The judge’s cloak is positioned on a cushion along with the closed book of the Law and Life, the Cross and the tools of the glorious Passion, by means of which divine Life has been given to men.


The most important front section of a building in which the main entrance is opened. In churches, a façade consisting of two slopes that follows the shape of the main nave is called a “gable facade”; a “salient façade” is one that follows the different heights of the naves. The façade assumes a symbolic significance as the most representative and immediately visible part.

Fondo oro eng.

A base consisting of gold foil which was stuck to the plaster covering the wooden panel by means of a reddish substance: bole clay. It was used to give a particular brightness to painted panels.


A mural painting technique. A coarse plaster was spread over the wall and over this a thinner layer was then painted, on top of which an outline of the work of art was drawn in a single colour. Over this, a light layer was then painted, consisting of very fine sand and lime. The painter would then paint over this wet plaster using colours blended with water. Given the need to paint on fresh plaster, the portion of wall to be frescoed was prepared day by day. This technique required quick painting without any errors. Touch-ups were carried out when the paint had dried, using tempera colours.  This fresco painting obviously became very resistant.

FriezeThe intermediate section between the architrave and frame in classic trabeation. In general it indicates the ornamental element used to decorate frames and linear surfaces.

A triangular shaped architectural structure used to crown the classic temple positioned between the trabeation and the roof slopes (it encloses the tympanum in the middle). Often decorated by statues and reliefs. In general however it indicates the summit of a façade covered by a double-pitch roof and the crowning of doors, windows, niches, aedicules.


In early-Christian basilicas it indicated the space on the lesser naves, that overlooked the main nave by means of arcades (called matroneo). Beginning from the Romanesque period galleries also become frequent on the façade and on the external walls of the church, with a decorative function.

Hiereion eng.

From the Greek word “hieros”, meaning sacred, in eastern Byzantine use it indicates the most sacred and reserved part of the church or basilica. Here the Divine Eucharist is celebrated, with preparation and consecration rites as well as participation in the Lamb’s Supper.


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