Features of churches

Churches and chapels have many different internal features, which are designed to help people worship. The features and layout of different denominations can differ somewhat.

Catholic churches

Catholic churches are traditionally built in the shape of a cross with the top of the cross facing Jerusalem.

The east end of the church is called the sanctuary and contains:

  • the altar – a table where the bread and wine are blessed during the Eucharist
  • the lectern – a stand where the Bible is read from
  • the pulpit – where the priest delivers sermons
  • a crucifix – a cross with Jesus on

There is a rail which acts to separate the sanctuary from the place where the congregations sits, known as the nave. In the nave there are often rows of pews where the congregation sit in rows on benches.

Around the church there are 14 framed pictures, known as the Stations of the Cross, which show the events of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Other features that can be found in the Catholic Church include:

  • a font – a large stone bowl containing holy water used to baptise babies
  • a stoup – usually a small basin containing holy water, which Catholics dip their hand in to make the sign of the cross to renew their baptism promises
  • statues of religious figures, eg Christ, Mary or saints
  • stained glass windows – often depicting biblical stories or religious teachings
  • candles – often lit by Catholics when they are praying
  • an organ to be played during hymn singing
  • a confessional – a small enclosed cupboard or cabinet, where Catholics can confess their sins to the priest
Diagram of the inside of a Roman Catholic Church.

Anglican churches

The inside of Anglican churches can be similar in appearance to Catholic churches. Anglican churches are also often in the shape of a cross, with a sanctuary at the east end.

Anglican churches are often a lot plainer than Catholic churches, and have fewer statues and candles.

An Anglican church will usually have a simple cross displayed rather than a crucifix. Although there may be a font, there won't be a stoup containing holy water.

Clergy, choir and congregation under the large concrete arch in the nave of Llandaff Cathedral during a service
The nave at Llandaff Cathedral in south Wales is, unusually, dominated by a large concrete arch, which supports the organ case