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Muslim (Gulf States, esp. Saudi Arabia): A full-length, black outer garment worn by women, always with a scarf covering the head (shayla) and sometimes with a face covering (veil) and gloves.
Abhidharma Pitaka (Sanskrit)
Buddhist: Scholastic treatises on psychology and philosophy. Part of the Tripitaka.
Solid masonry placed to counteract the lateral thrust of a vault or arch.
A plant with thick, fleshy, scalloped leaves used on carved ornaments of Corinthian and Composite capitals, and on other moldings.
acroterium (pl. acroteria)
A block on the lower edge of a pediment to support statuary or decoration.
(see: Guru Granth Sahib)
ædicule (=ædicula, =aedicule)
Buddhist: A family, patron or secret deity enshrined in a special building; no one who is not an initiate can enter this shrine.
Hindu: Holy or sanctified fire at the altar in a temple.
Agnus Dei(Latin: "lamb of god")
Christian: A wax charm or other amulet stamped or imprinted with the emblem of Jesus.
Christian: An open space in a church, usually flanking the nave on each side and divided from it by columns or piers; it runs parallel to the main areas - nave, choir and transept - and is (typically in cathedrals) separated from them by an arcade. In Midwestern vernacular usage, an aisle is the linear empty passageway or path between rows of pews or chairs; typically, there are three: one in the center and two more at the left and right sides of the seating area(s). The word originally described sections of a church building added on as wings (from the French aile ) to the sides of the long, central area, or nave.
Muslim (Spanish/Moorish): Trelliswork brick design often decorating apses.
Muslim (Spanish/Moorish): Pairs of small windows divided by a column or pier.
Hindu: Scripture [incomplete].
Hindu: Sacred rice used during worship.
A building material; often used for columns.
Muslim (Shi'ite): A representation of the standard of Husayn, often topped with a panjatan.
Muslim (Spanish/Moorish): A projected tower joined to the main wall by a bridge.
Muslim: The name of a magazine published by the Muslim Students' Association of the United States and Canada during the 1970s and 1980s.
Al-Kitab (Arabic: "The Book")
Muslim: The Qur'an.
Christian: The room in a monastery in which alms are distributed.
A semicircular or polygonal aisle enclosing an apse or a straight-ended sanctuary, which provides passage around the sanctuary; originally used for processional purposes. In Gothic Christian church architecture, it usually is a continuation of the side aisles around a chancel or apse, providing space for processions around the sanctuary.
An elliptical or circular space surrounded by rising tiers of seats for an audience.
Analects of Confucius (=Lun Yu)
One of the Four Books, that, along with the Five Classics, comprise the Confucian Canon.
anse de panier (French: "basket arch")
An arch formed by a segment of a large circle continued left and right by two segments of much smaller circles.
antechurch (or, forechurch)
Christian: An appendix to the west end of a church, resembling a porch or a narthex, but several bays deep and usually consisting of nave and aisles.
A covering for the front of an altar, usually of metal or fabric.
Ornament based on honeysuckle flower and leaves, common in ancient Greek and Roman architectural styles.
apex stone (=saddle stone)
The top stone in a gable end.
A raised panel below a window-sill, sometimes shaped and decorated.
Structure, usually curved, spanning an opening and supporting the weight of upper parts of buildings, such as domes. An arch is designed so that it can be supported only from the sides. The style of the arch often provides a clue to the overall style of the church. In general, rounded arches indicate Romanesque and pointed arches indicate Gothic.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): In sacred depiction, arrows piercing the body of a man in agony indicate that St. Sebastian is portrayed.
Muslim (Spanish/Moorish): Elaborate wooden coffered ceiling.
Carefully cut stone.
Zoroastrian: Fire altar in a temple.
Christian: A cupboard or recess in a church chancel used to keep sacred vessels and books.
Zoroastrian: The scriptures of Zoroastrianism.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): In sacred depiction, an axe indicates the man depicted is St. Joseph.
Christian: Traditional churches are aligned on a west-to-east axis, with the main entrance at the west end and the chancel at the east end: a path of salvation leading to the altar, the symbol of communion with Christ, a journey from the base desires of humans to submission to the Godhead. The worshipper follows the path along the axis to the redemptive sacred place, where humans and God were joined by the celebration of the Eucharist, a threshold between earth and heaven. The axis, with its distinct beginning and end, demonstrates Christianity's linear timeline.
Muslim (Spanish/Moorish): Glazed tiles frequently forming star patterns.
Zoroastrian: Image shrine in a temple.
Buddhist: A two-story monastery enclosing a courtyard.
Buddhist: A monastery, smaller and simpler than a bahal.
A platform projecting from a wall, enclosed by a railing or balustrade, supported on brackets or columns or cantilevered out.
A short post or pillar in a series supporting a rail or coping and thus forming a balustrade.
A series of short posts or pillars supporting a rail or coping.
Christian: An often ornate, usually raised water basin alongside which a "sprinkling" baptism takes place.
Christian: A large water holder, usually recessed in the ground or floor, where immersion baptism takes place.
Christian: A separate building or the portion of a church used for baptism and containing a baptismal font or (less often) baptismal pool.
Projecting boards placed against the incline of the gable of a building and hiding the ends of the horizontal roof timbers; sometimes decorated (common in Gothic revival buildings).
Late Renaissance (17th and 18th century) European architectural style, typified by bold, highly elaborate decoration.
A small turret projecting from the angle on the top of a tower or parapet.
A small basilica.
Christian (Eastern Orthodox): An ornamented and often bejeweled metal cover for the frame of an icon.
An angular or curved projection of a building front filled by fenestration. If curved, also called a bow window; if on an upper floor only, called an
NOTE: Derived from the Old French berfrei (= tower), the word has no connection with "bell".
Bible (=Holy Bible, =The Scriptures)
Books of the
bird of blessing
Christian: A dove, or other bird, suspended above the altar symbolizing the Holy Spirit.
Buddhist: The specific tree under which Sakyamuni sat when he attained enlightenment and became the Buddha.
Christian: A person portrayed in a sacred depiction holding a book is considered to be an important member of the church hierarchy.
Book of Common Prayer
British. Liturgy of Protestant Church of England, writing of which was overseen by Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), Archbishop of Canterbury.
Book of Law
New Age: Written by Aleister Crowley, a key text in Ordo Templi Orientis.
An ornamental knob or projection covering the intersection of ribs in a vault or ceiling; often carved with foliage.
Buddhist (Theravada): A hall found in buildings dedicated to the purpose of teaching, preaching and meditation.
A composite structural device whereby the load-bearing capacity of the main beam is improved by a lower-tension chord and intermediate vertical or diagonal compression struts in the form of a horizontal bow.
A small supporting piece of stone or other material, often formed of scrolls or volutes, to carry a projecting weight.
A building is any enclosure of sufficient space for a person to move about it.
building, model of
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): A person portrayed in a sacred depiction holding a model of a building was the founder or builder of that building.
Muslim (Gulf States): A woman's face mask, made of leather or stiff fabric, that covers the entire face except for the eyes.
Buddhist: A household altar.
A mass of masonry or brickwork projecting from or built against a wall to give additional strength, often helping to support a vault or roof; a characteristic of the Gothic architectural style.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): A small chapel behind and above the high altar in Spanish-style churches.
A metal strip used to join pieces of glass such as for light fixtures or windows.
(see also belfry)
(see also choir screen)
Christian: A latticed screen or grille separating the choir from the main body of a church.
Christian: A Christmas symbol derived from the crozier carried by St. Nicholas, who was a bishop.
A standard or generally accepted or authorized collection of scripture.
A projection or hood over a door, window, tomb, altar, pulpit, niche, etc.
The head or crowning feature of a column; the decorative top portion of a column. The form, usually of stone, that supplies the visual transition between the top of a column and whatever the column supports. decorated section of an Order on top of the shaft and directly below and supporting the architrave.
An ornamental panel in the form of a scroll or sheet of paper with curling edges, usually bearing an inscription and sometimes ornately framed.
The hinged part of a window, attached to the upright side of the window frame; also, the wide concave molding in door and window jambs and between compound columns or piers in Late Gothic-style architecture.
A metal or timber window with the sash hung vertically and opening outwards or inwards.
catenary roof cable
A cable that hangs freely between two points of support.
Christian: The bishop's chair or throne in his cathedral, originally placed behind the high altar in the center of the curved wall of the apse.
Principal room of a temple.
A funerary monument to a person or persons buried elsewhere.
Christian: An elaborately decorated hand-held container for burning incense which priests swing from golden chains in sanctuaries to purify or sanctify the air.
Temporary framework, usually made of timber, used for support during the construction of arches, vaults and domes.
Muslim (Shi'ite, esp. in Iran and Lebanon): A square of fabric large enough to cover a woman from the top of the head to the ankles; usually held or pinned closed under the chin.
A molding around a room to prevent chairs, when pushed back against the walls, from damaging its surface. Generally placed at the height of the top of the back of the chair.
Buddhist: A small stupa, sometimes containing a relic, but usually holding mantras or holy scriptures.
Hindu: A round weapon, one of the four (sacred) objects held by Vishnu.
Jewish: Served at the Passover Seder, this dish (usually grated apples and ground walnuts flavored with wine and cinammon) symbolizes the mortar used by Israelite slaves in Egypt.
Christian: Thigh-length garment with wide sleeves, usually embroidered, worn by clergy over the longer alb.
Christian: The French term for the east end of a church, consisting of apse and ambulatory with or without radiating chapels.
Forked finials on the roof ridge of a building frame; used primarily on buildings of cultural significance or noble patronage.
Hindu/Buddhist: Offering hall.
Christian: Screen separating the choir area from the congregational area of a church, usually decoratively carved or ornamented.
Taoist: A deity often represented by a statue on an altars, whose sword and fierce expression protect the altar and scare away demons. (See also Chong Kui.)
Buddhist: A small shrine in high mountain regions (esp. Himalayas); multi-tiered stone monument that often contains sacred relics.
Hindu: A palace or public courtyard (usually including one or more temples).
Christian (Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox): Consecrated oil made of a mixture of olive and balsam, used as an accessory in rites of baptism, confirmation and ordination.
Christian: A holder for chrism.
Ch'un Ch'iu (=Spring and Autumn Annals)
Confucian: One of the Five Classics which are part of the Confucian Canon, it includes extracts from the history of the Chinese state of Lu from 722 to 484 BCE, said to have been compiled by Confucius.
Chung Yung (=Doctrine of the Mean)
Confucian: One of the Four Books which are part of the Confucian Canon.
church, model of
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): A person portrayed in a sacred depiction holding a model of a church was the founder of that church.
churchhouse (=church; American Appalachian dialect)
A canopy raised over a high altar. It is normally a dome supported on columns.
An external covering or skin applied to a structure for aesthetic or protective purposes.
A thin wooden board, thicker along one long edge than along the other, used in roofing or in covering the outer walls of a building; the thick edge of each board overlaps the thin edge of the board below it, thus to repel water.
Style of architecture (order) used in ancient Greece and Rome, and imitated in later periods.
Codex of Calixtus (=Liber
Christian (Roman Catholic: Spanish): A five-volume collection, written in the 12th Century, of the legends, stories and miracles connected with St. James.
Decoration of a ceiling, a vault or an arch soffit, consisting of sunken square or polygonal ornamental panels.
Interment place for cremated remains either within a church or on its grounds.
A vertical post-like support. Usually consists of three parts: a base, a shaft (usually circular or polygonal), and a capital at the top. A column in Classical style usually is described using the Greek order to which it conforms. They are (in ascending complexity) Doric (fluted column with no separate base, plain capital), Ionic (fluted column, separate base, twin-scrolled capital) and Corinthian (fluted column, separate base, capital with carved acanthus leaves). Other common styles are Tuscan (plain column, separate base, plain capital) and Composite (resemble Corinthian, but with spiral motifs at each of the corners of the capital).
Christian: The low fence or railing in a church before which congregants kneel to receive communion from clergy or assistants.
Supporting column comprising multiple attached or detailed shafts. Reduces the visual mass of the support and maintains a large load-bearing cross-sectional area.
A Greek architectural style that resembles Corinthian, but with spiral motifs at each of the corners of the columns.
A semicircular niche surmounted by a half-dome.
Christian (Roman Catholic): A separate place in a church, often in the form of a wooden cubicle or other booth, where the faithful enter individually to meet the priest seated behind a partition. To him they confess their sins and from him they receive remission and forgiveness in the name of God.
Confucian: The Confucian scriptures, which include the Four Books and Five Classics.
Decorative masonry support for a balcony.
A capping or covering to a wall, either flat or sloping, to throw off water.
Stone blocks, projecting from a wall, used to support a horizontal part of a building, such as a roof or floor beams. Often elaborately carved or molded.
One of the Classical orders of architecture, typified by the acanthus-leaf decoration on the capital and fluted columns.
Christian: A small table or shelf near the altar, on which the sacraments are placed.
Jewish: The stepped outer edges of a temple platform.
Motif or leaf design carved into the projecting ribs that decorate parapets and towers of Gothic buildings and their derivatives.
Christian: The area of intersection between the nave, transepts and chancel, usually topped by a dome or tower; symbolically, the point of decision on the journey to Christ.
The highest part of an arch, where the keystone is located.
crown and sphere
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): A man portrayed in a sacred depiction holding a crown and sphere was a king.
Crown of St. Stephen I
Christian (Hungarian): The importance of this symbol of royal power in Hungary derives from the belief that it was worn by St. Stephen, the founder of the Hungarian State. It remains the most important symbol of royal power in Hungary and has been for centuries the object of religious veneration.
Christian: The staff of a bishop or abbot carried as a symbol of pastoral authority. It is shaped like a shepherd's crook in reference to Christ as the Good Shepherd.
Christian: A cross in wood, metal, or other substance bearing a representation of the crucified Christ.
A small dome, usually springing from a circular or octagonal base, crowning a roof or turret.
A lightweight outside wall held off the main structural frame and serving no load-bearing purpose.
Zoroastrian: A round structure, open to the sky, in which the dead are placed for disposal by birds.
A clay/mud mixture used to fill (daub) the spaces between logs used in construction; lime is sometimes added for whitening.
dar-ul-ifta (=dar-al-ifta) (Arabic)
Muslim: The office of religious verdicts.
Hindu/Buddhist: Flagpole for prayer flags.
A small, square block projecting from a cornice of a Classical entablature, providing a rhythmical façade.
diaconikon (=diaconicon, Greek: "sacristy")
Christian (Greek Orthodox): That part of a church which lies to the right of the sanctuary, but behind the iconostasis, and in which the deacons are responsible for the sacramental vessels and liturgical books required for services.
Two panels joined together by hinges.
Doctrine of the Mean (or, Chung Yung)
Confucian: One of the Four Books which are part of the Confucian Canon.
door facing (=door frame)
One of the Classical orders of architecture, typified by plain capitals and fluted columns without bases.
Christian: In sacred depiction, denotes the Holy Spirit.
Hindu/Buddhist: An enclosed overhang forming a retreat area for meditation.
dragon (mythic animal)
Christian: In sacred depiction, a dragon indicates that the man portrayed is St. George; he is usually shown on horseback, piercing a dragon with his lance.
Vodou: Lavishly decorated ritual flags made of satin, velvet, or rayon, and adorned with sequins, beads, or appliqué. These flags are presented at the beginning of Vodou ceremonies to salute the spirits and to marshal the energies of their devotees.
Hindu/Buddhist: Assembly hall.
Hindu: The main gate of a building, esp. a temple.
Buddhist: a house enshrining protective Tantric deities used for common worship.
Lower edge or underpart of a sloping roof, projecting over and beyond face of the supporting walls.
Common usage: Symbol of new life.
Jewish: Roasted egg, served at a Passover Seder, symbolizes renewal, rebirth and life's eternal circle.
Taoist: Figures often found on altars symbolizing that men and women, young and old, rich and poor, healthy and disabled, can all achieve the Tao.
The external faces of a building; also a drawing made in projection on a vertical plane to show any one face of a building.
E-Meter (=Electropsychometer, =meter)
Scientologist: An instrument which helps the auditor and preclear locate areas of spiritual distress or travail.
A space surrounded by something else, such as a fence or a wall.
The arrangement of rooms leading from one to another.
Column with a shaft attached to or incorporated into the thickness of a wall or pier.
New Age: Written by John Dee, key texts in Ordo Templi Orientis.
Used in Greek architectural styles, it comprises the architrave, frieze and cornice (from lowest to highest, one above the other), supported by a colonnade. More specifically, the entablature is a horizontal lintel above columns and below the roof, the gable of which might be closed by a triangular pediment.
equilateral arch (=pointed arch)
An arch produced by two curves, each with a radius equal to the span and meeting in a point at the top.
entrance (as architectural concept)
Entrances are not just gates or doors, but can also include the passage by which a place may be entered as well as the area beyond the threshold. Entrances link together different spaces.
A frame positioned outside the building envelope.
The public, exterior, front or front elevation of a building. Derived from the same root as "face": the doors and windows of many buildings are arranged in patterns that recall the eyes, nose, and mouth of the human face.
The finishing applied to the outer surface of a building.
fascia (plural: fasciae)
A plain horizontal band, usually in the architrave, which may consist of two or three fasciae oversailing each other and sometimes separated by narrow moldings.
The style or manner in which windows are distributed on a building. [defenestration, a euphemism for throwing someone out a window with intent to humiliate while causing grievous bodily harm, often has religious motivation in historical narrative or fiction]
Christian: A shrine for relics designed to be carried in processions that is kept behind the high altar.
A carved ornament in the form of a garland of fruits and flowers, tied with ribbons and suspended at both ends in a loop; commonly used on a frieze or panel.
A formal ornament at the top of a canopy, gable, pinnacle, etc.; often a detached foliated fleur-de-lis form.
(See also agni.)
Muslim: The tax paid on 'Id Day.
Sikh: The five objects carried by members of the Khalsa: kaccha, kanga, kara, kesh and kirpan.
A slender spire, usually of wood, rising from the ridge of a roof.
fleur-de-lis (French: "lily-flower")
A series of stairs unbroken by a landing.
Concave vertical grooves carved into the shaft of a column, characteristic of Classical oOrders. Produces an emphasis on vertical form and volume by creating distinctive shadow lines.
An arch or half-arch transmitting the thrust of a vault or roof from the upper part of a wall to an outer support or buttress; characteristic of Gothic churches and cathedrals.
Christian: An open-topped stone receptacle for holy water, used in baptismal rites.
foundation (or, foundations)
The underground section of a building, which supports the weight above ground.
A geometric ornament of horizontal and vertical straight lines repeated to form a band; often used as a decorative band of surface ornamentation or molding.
The triangular upper part of a wall between the sides of a pitched roof.
Buddhist: An often-ornate, bell-shaped finial crowning a bahal.
Christian: An upper story over an aisle, opening onto the nave.
The range of columns along the open side of a gallery.
Gan Ying Pian (Chinese)
Taoist: One of the Taoist scriptures.
gargoyle (Latin gurgulio: "throat", Old French gargouille: "throat", "gurgling sound"
A grotesque or humorous carving of a figure, human or animal; sticking out from a building, it often disguises a waterspout, especially on a Gothic-style Christian church.
A gargoyle is a grotesquely carved human or animal figure found on an architectural structure, originally designed (believe it or not) to serve as a spout to throw rainwater clear of a building. Gutters ran along the spine of the gargoyles, and the water ran out through the mouth of the gargoyles and fell to the streets below. Gargoyles later became strictly ornamental and assumed many forms. gurgulio, and the Old French gargouille, not only meaning "throat" but also describing the "gurgling" sound made by water as it ran through the figure. Superstition held that gargoyles frightened away evil spirits while serving their practical function. After the lead drainpipe was introduced in the sixteenth century, gargoyles primarly served a decorative function. In addition to the practical use of removing water away from the building, gargoyles were also used to incorporate pagan imagery into church teaching. During the middle ages, the church was heavily involved in converting people from pagan religions to Catholicism. Seeing some recognizable images from their customs and traditions helped in the transition of these illiterate people to Catholicism.
gate (as architectural concept)
A gate frames its invitation by using precise components: an approach, twin pillars, crossbeam, door, latch, key, king and threshold. The twin pillars guard the opening to new awareness. The crossbeam spans the gulf between the pillars, uniting the space between them. The cross created by the meeting of beam and pillar is said to symbolize the passage into the transcendent, the mysterious boundary between inner and outer worlds. Hindering the passage through the gate are the door and latch, representing the veil and challenge posed by rigid patterns of thinking. The door blocks and opens, intimidates and welcomes. Its lock is the first barrier to overcome. The key symbolizes new insights and techniques for unlocking the mind's abilities. When the catalyst for transformation has done its work, the threshold of the gate is crossed, marking the transfer of a spiritual center of gravity from the known to the unknown. The threshold is perpendicular to the path that crosses it, creating a sort of compass that points to the four corners of the world. (adapted from The Temple in the House)
Jewish: A commentary on the Mishnah forming the second half of the Talmud.
Christian (Roman Catholic): One of a pair of basins used for the ritual washing of the priest's hands before the Mass.
genizah (Hebrew: "storing")
Jewish: A place, often beneath the bema of a synagogue, for storing books or ritual objects that have become unusable; often used as the synagogue's treasury.
Rocker beam, cast by spinning molten stainless steel into mechanical joints for steel-frame buildings.
Hindu/Buddhist: A type of club, one of the weapons of Vishnu and a Tantric symbol.
Hindu/Buddhist: A symbolic Tantric bell, the female counterpart of the dorje or vajra (ritual scepter or thunderbolt that is symbol of the Absolute).
Hindu: A riverside platform or set of stairs for ritual bathing and cremation.
Muslim (Shi'ite): The area in an imambargah where corpses are prepared for burial.
Buddhist (Tibetan): A monastery.
Buddhist: Gongs are used in temples and homes to announce the time of a meeting, to mark different phases of a service, and as a symbol aiding in meditation.
Hindu: An elaborate high gateway of a temple that is typical of South Indian architectural style.
Hindu/Buddhist: A tall, pointed brick and plaster shrine supported by a one-story stone base.
Muslim (Libya): The philosophy of Colonel Qaddafi.
The sharp edge formed by the intersection of vaulting surfaces.
Taoist: One of the statues found on Taoist altars representing Guan Yin, the mother goddess of China, symbolizing the healing power of love and compassion. (See also Guan Yin in second section of glossary).
A 19th century architectural design formed of two or more interlaced bands with openings containing round devices.
gurdwara (=gurudwara; Punjabi: "door of the guru")
(see also church)
Sikh: A place of worship where the Guru Granth Sahib scripture is installed. In addition to the area for worship in which regular rituals, festivals and life cycle rites are performed, there is a langar ( a communal kitchen in which food is prepared and shared).
Guru Granth Sahib (=Adi Granth) (Punjabi)
Sikh: The principal scripture; contains devotional compositions written by the Sikh gurus and recorded during their lifetimes. It also contains hymns by Hindu and Muslims. Written in Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi and Punjabi, the compositions are set in rhymed couplets. It is printed in Gurmukhi script, an alphabet adapted by the second guru, Guru Angad, for the Punjabi language. It has standardized pagination, all copies having 1,430 pages. When closed it is wrapped in an elegant cloth (rumal). It is opened only under a canopy and is then protected with a flywhisk.
Sikh: A book comprised of passages from scripture.
Jewish: The part of the Hebrew Bible consisting of the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1-2 Chronicles.
Christian: An obliquely cut opening in a wall or through a pier to allow a view of the main altar of a church from places whence it could not otherwise be seen.
Shinto: Hall of worship standing in front of a shrine. Usually the largest building at a shrine, before which or in which prayers and ceremonies are held.
Muslim (Shi'ite): Special kind of food served during Muharram.
Christian: A longitudinal plan for a church, in which the nave and aisles are of approximately equal height.
hametz (Hebrew: “leavened food”)
Jewish: Breads made with yeast (leavening). During Passover, consuming leavened food is forbidden. Hametz applies to more foods than just bread that rises because of yeast. It also applies to various kinds of grain that expand when they are in contact with water, creating a kind of process of rising: oats, barley, wheat, spelt and rye. There is disagreement between the Ashkenazi and Sephardim traditions in regard to legumes and rice. Sephardim permit them on Passover while Ashkenazi forbid them.
Muslim: Public bath, an important social institution in Muslim society.
hammer and anvil
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): In sacred depiction, a goldsmith's hammer and anvil indicates the man portrayed is St. Éloi.
Jewish: Name for the candelabra or menorah used to celebrate Hanukkah.
Buddhist: The eyes on a stupa, which are placed to face the four cardinal directions.
Jewish: A mixture (usually) of chopped walnuts, apples, cinnamon and kosher wine served at a Passover seder as a reminder of the mortar used by the Israelite slaves in Egypt.
Sacred stone statue or amulet.
A spiral design motif.
Jewish: Bitter herbs (typically horseradish) served at a Passover Seder symbolizes the bitter suffering of the Jewish slaves in Egypt.
A Classical portico with six supporting columns.
Muslim: Headcovering (typically a scarf) used by Muslim women as a sign of modesty.
The external angle formed by the meeting of two sloping roof surfaces.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): Water that has been blessed, placed in a small basin near a church entrance so that worshipers may dip their fingers into this water as they enter the sanctuary, often marking themselves with the sign of the cross in remembrance of their baptism.
Shinto: Inner sanctuary of a shrine, standing behind the haiden. Behind the haiden and not entered by the public is the smaller and higher honden, in which the kami is presumed to reside.
Buddhist (Zen): A formal hall for rituals and ceremonies with an altar against a wall.
Shinto: A building at a shrine dedicated to the principal kami of the shrine.
Buddhist (Zen): A whisk used to flick mosquitoes away, carried ceremonially by Zen masters.
Christian: The bread (or wafers) consecrated as the body of Christ during communion. As such, whether it is consumed by those present or kept as a "reserved sacrament," it is regarded in Roman Catholic and some other Christian denominations as an object of veneration.
Taoist: One of the statues found on altars representing Hua To, the patron of healing and Chinese medicine.
Jewish: A wedding canopy, traditionally suspended from four poles, each of which is held by someone supporting it. It is also a symbolic term for marriage itself.
husayniyya (=husseiniya, =ziyarat khanah)
A hall in which the roof is supported by a multitude of columns spaced at regular, close intervals.
I Ching (=Yi
Jing) (Chinese: "book of changes")
Confucian: One of the Five Classics, it is a collection of texts on divination based on a set of 64 hexagrams made by various combinations of broken and unbroken lines reflecting the relationship between the two basic forces in nature and human society (yin, yang). Each hexagram is determined by casting 49 yarrow stalks, and each has a short, cryptic interpretation. These have subsequently been expanded in the appendices, which are attributed to Confucius, but which date from the Former Han dynasty.
Christian (Eastern Orthodox): A sacred image (usually of Jesus, Mary or one of the Saints) painted on wood, which, because it is regarded as partaking of the reality which it represents, is considered worthy of veneration in itself. Icons are mounted on the iconostasis of an Orthodox church, on a separate stand in the nave of the church where believers on entry can kiss it in veneration, or in the icon corner of an Orthodox home.
Christian (Eastern Orthodox): The dividing wall between nave and sanctuary in Orthodox churches, usually with a central and two side entrances and panels for icons. The main icons depict Christ as Savior, Mary as Mother of God, the Last Supper, the four Evangelists, archangels and saints.
iglesia (Spanish: "church")
Muslim (Shi'ite): Building used for the performance of religious activities.
A shape chiselled out in a stone slab (usually) to hold an effigy, often of brass.
Decoration which crosses under and over corresponding architectural elements.
The inner curve or underside of an arch.
One of the Classical orders of architecture, typified by capitals decorated with a spiral motif.
A vaulted hall or room usually enclosed on three sides with the fourth opening into a courtyard.
A large vessel holding drinking water at public places, including sanctuary complexes, in India.
The straight sides of a doorway, archway or window; the sides of an opening upon which the lintel rests.
Muslim: The major mosque in a city, the one used for Friday midday prayers.
jazira (=Al Jazira, =jazeerah; Arabic: "island", "peninsula")
A type of roofline popular in medieval architecture where the end of a roof is formed into a shape intermediate between a gable and a hip. The gable rises about halfway to the ridge, resulting in a truncated shape, the roof being inclined backward from this level. (for more, click here)
In Indian subcontinent architecture: carved window.
Shinto: A shrine. Taisha jingu-ji are used to describe especially important shrines. The typical shrine consists of several buildings. The largest is usually the haiden. Behind it, and not entered by the public, is the smaller and higher honden, in which the kami resides.
The beam supporting a floor; horizontal timbers in a building, laid parallel to each other with their upper edges rebated to receive the boards of a floor. The underside either forms the ceiling of the room below or has ceiling lathe nailed to it.
Christian: The French name for rood screen.
jingu-ji (=jungu, =gingan-ji, =jingo-ji, =jinko-ji, =jingu-in; Japanese, "divine palace")
Shinto/Buddhist: An especially important shrine (see also jinja).
Muslim: Legend says the Ka'ba was built by Abraham.
Muslim: Name of the sacred cube-shaped building in Mecca containing a sacred black meteorite. Muslims pray toward the Ka'ba, which serves as a unifying force.
Sikh: Short pants, one of the five "k's" which are required of the Khalsa.
Muslim (Arab, esp. Palestinian): A checked headdress (either black/white or red/white) commonly worn by men nd considered a nationalist symbol by Palestinians.
Shinto: A building for the performance of kagura.
kalam (Arabic: "debate")
Muslim: Discussion of scholastic theology.
Shinto: Deity, spirit of nature.
kamidana (=kami-dana; Japanese:"god-shelf")
Shinto: Household altar. The kamidana usually houses an o-fuda, brought from a major shrine in the region, and prayers and food are offered each morning and evening.
Sikh: A comb; one of the five "k's" which are required of the Khalsa.
Buddhist (Tibetan): The canonical collection of the teachings of Buddha, numbering 108 volumes and arranged and edited by the historian Buton (1290-1364).
Sikh: A steel bracelet; one of the five "k's" which are required of the Khalsa.
karah prasad (Punjabi)
Sikh: The sacramental food distributed in gurdwaras and at the conclusion of important rituals. The food (prasad) which should be prepared in a large iron pan (karah), comprises equal parts of coarsely refined wheat flour (semolina), sugar and ghee. When distributed, it must be offered to all, regardless of caste, creed or status.
Muslim (Shi'ite): sacred site [incomplete]
Jewish: Vegetables (usually celery tops, parsley or onion) dipped in salt water during a Passover Seder symbolize the tears of slavery.
Buddhist (Tibetan): A ceremonial scarf presented to important people.
Ridge billets which restrain the ridge boards of a roof and help anchor the traditional roof thatch of miscanthus grass.
Sikh: Uncut hair, including body hair; one of the five "k's" which are required of the Khalsa.
Christian: In sacred depictions, keys indicate that the man portrayed is St. Peter.
Hindu: An enclosed wooden shrine, similar in appearance to the portable shrines carried during processions.
khata Hindu/Buddhist: Offering scarf.
Vertical roof beam joining the tie beam to the ridge above.
Sikh: A dagger, one of the five "k's" which are required of the Khalsa.
Jewish: A white gown worn by the rabbi, cantor, and other people who help conduct the service in the synagogue for Yom Kippur.
Kojiki (Japanese: "Chronicles of Ancient Events")
Shinto: The first of the two major scriptures (the second is the Nihonskoki).
kora Hindu/Buddhist: Ritual circuit (clockwise for Buddhists and counter-clockwise for Bonpos
Koran (= Qur'an) (Arabic)
Muslim: Old-style English transliteration of the Arabic word denoting the book of Muslim holy scriptures; see Qur'an.
Zorastrian: The sacred belt worn by male believers.
kuttab (pl. katatib; Arabic)
Muslim: An Islamic primary school where Qur'an recitation and the Arabic alphabet are taught.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): In sacred depiction, a lamb indicates the female depicted is St. Agnes.
Jewish: Roasted lamb shank, served at a Passover Seder, symbolizes the sacrificial Passover lamb.
Narrow, sharp-pointed arch or window common in early Gothic-style buildings with radii much larger than the span.
Sikh: A communal kitchen in or adjacent to a gurdwara.
A structure consisting of three walls and a pitched roof built against the side of an existing building to create additional room or storage.
Li Ching (=Classic of Rites; Chinese)
Confucian: One of the Five Classics included in the canon, it is a collection of three books on the Li (rights of propriety): Chou Li (Rites of Chou), I Li (Ceremonies and Rites), and Li Chi (Record of Rites).
Openings between the mullions of a window.
Christian: A saint portrayed in a sacred depiction holding a lily is considered to be a virgin.
Hindu: An upright, narrow stone, symbolizing the male sexual aspect; usually placed with a yoni.
Muslim (African): A mouth veil worn by some Saharan people.
Architectural design motif based on lotus flower (a water lily).
Buddhist (Mayayana): An important sutra, compiled in phases up to about 100 CE. It teaches that the forms taken by Buddhist doctrine are provisional only and are provided in accordance with the abilities of its recipients.
Slat that can be angled to admit air, while preventing rain or direct sunlight from entering the building.
low side window
Christian: A window usually on the south side of the chancel, lower than the others, possibly intended for communication between persons outside the chancel and the priest within; perhaps also for the sanctus bell to be heard outside the church.
A diamond shape.
A small opening in a spire.
Lu Dong Bin
Taoist: One of the Eight Immortals found on A HREF="#altar">altars: the patron of martial artists and a major spirit worshiped by Long-Men sect Taoists.
Jewish: Plant used in the celebration of Sukkot. It is the tall, skinny branch (actually large leaf) of a palm tree. It is generally green with a point at one end. The circumference is basically triangular. It has a spine that runs up the back and a yellowish base.
Lun Yu (=Analects)
Confucian: One of the Four Books which are part of the Confucian Canon.
A semicircular opening; or, any flat, semicircular surface.
Christian (especially English, Anglican or Episcopal): A covered wooden gateway with open sides at the entrance of a churchyard, providing a resting place for a coffin (the word lych is Saxon for corpse). Part of the burial service is sometimes read there.
Muslim (esp. Iran): A cowl-like headcovering worn by women.
Hindu: The "Great Epic of the Bharatas," containing 90,000 stanzas, is a compilation of ancient Indian epic material made probably between the 2nd Century BCE and the end of the 1st Century CE. It includes the Bhagavadgita.
Hindu/Buddhist: Large monastery.
makarantan allo (Hausa)
Muslim(African): Equivalent to kuttab.
makarantan ilmi (Hausa)
Muslim (African): Equivalent to madrasa.
Muslim: A school for the teaching of the Qur'an at the primary level of education, often part of or adjacent to a mosque.
(see also rosary)
Hindu: A prayer string with 108 beads.
A rough concrete made of rubble.
Hindu/Buddhist: A roofless Tantric shrine made of brick or wood.
Hindu: A hallway in a temple.
mandir ("abiding place", "dwelling")
Hindu: The word commonly used to denote a temple.
Buddhist (Tibetan): A prayer inscribed in rock in high mountain areas.
A stylistic trend of 16th-century Italian architecture, that departed from Classical conventions of orders and proportion to produce an exaggerated effect by subverting and manipulating architectural forms.
maqsurah (=maqsura, Arabic)
masjid (plural: masajid) (Arabic; often transliterated as mosque)
Muslim: Literally, a place of prostration or prayer, hence the place where Muslims perform the five daily prayers and the congregational prayer on Fridays.
masjid al-jami (Arabic: "congregational mosque")
Muslim: The place where congregational prayer is held on Fridays, in which the solidarity of believers is expressed in communal prayer; sometimes called a Friday Mosque.
Usually, building work in stone; sometimes the term includes work in brick or concrete.
Hindu: A priest’s house.
Muslim: The horizon, where the sun or moon rises.
Jewish: Served during a Passover Seder, symbolizes the bread of affliction of the Israelite slaves in Egypt. Usually served in a special three-tiered holder.
A magnificent and stately tomb. The term derives from the tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus (located near the Mediterranean coast of contemporary Turkey), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Medina (=Madina, Arabic: "city")
Place name: The western Arabian oasis community (known as Yathrib in pre-Islamic times) to which Muhammad moved his new politico-religious community in 622 CE.
Medina al-Rasul (Arabic: "city of the prophet")
Full name of Medina, a city on the Arabian peninsula.
meditation beads (Vietnamese: trang hat)
(see also rosary)
Buddhist: A symbol of unity and harmony among all beings. The strand is composed of beads on a string, each representing an individual. However, each bead is not isolated and independent, but connected with all the others.
mehean (Armenian; "temple")
Meng Tzu (=Mencius)
Confucian: One of the Four Books that are included in the Confucian Canon.
menorah (plural: menorot; Hebrew: "candelabrum")
The section of a Classical entablature between triglyphs that is left plain or with carved decoration.
Muslim (Spanish/Moorish): A mosque, but especially La Mezquita de Còrdoba, Spain.
mezuzah (Hebrew: "doorpost")
Jewish: Inside is a parchment roll on which the first two paragraphs of the shema are handwritten. A mezuzah is attached to every doorpost in the traditional Jewish home, usually inside a decorated case. It is customary for Orthodox Jews to kiss the mezuzah on entering or leaving a house.
Muslim: The tall, usually slender, tower of a mosque from which Muslims hear the call to prayer five times a day either from a mu'adhdhin or (increasingly) a recording of a mu'adhdhin's call played over a loudspeaker. Traditional Arabian-style minarets have one or more projecting balconies on which the mu'adhdhin stands to call the people to prayer.
miqvah (=miqveh, =mikveh) (Hebrew:
"collection of water")
Jewish: A pool or "gathering" of natural or clear water in or near a synagogue used for ritutal purification, immersion in which renders an individual ritually clean. A miqvah is used by women to prepare to resume sexual relations with their husbands following the completion of their menstrual cycles, and by men to prepare for Sabbaths and holy days.
misericord (or, miserere)
Christian: A bracket on the underside of the seat of a hinged choir stall which, when turned up, serves as a support for the occupant while standing during a long service.
Christian (Roman Catholic): A liturgical book used since the Middle Ages, containing the texts and instructions necessary for the celebration of the Mass.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): A ceremonial hat; usually refers to hat worn by a bishop.
miter and stick
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): A man portrayed in a sacred depiction with a miter and stick was a bishop.
Shinto: One of several terms for a shrine.
An ornamental bracket under the corona of a cornice.
Buddhist (East Asian): A wooden fish-shaped drum used in temples.
Decorative profile or contours given to a projecting part, such as a ceiling cornice.
A massive wall projecting as a breakwater.
A single stone, usually in the form of a monument or column.
Christian (especially Roman Catholic): A holder for the Host in which the latter can be seen and venerated.
Material made usually from cement, sand and lime. It is used as a bond between bricks and stone.
Decorative design made up of small squares of colored glass, stone, marble or tile. NOTE: if capitalized, can also be an adjective referring to Moses of the Old Testament.
mosque (from the Arabic: masjid, "a place of prostration or prayer")
Muslim: The building in which the five daily prayers and the congregational prayer on Fridays take place; in this latter sense, the edifice is also called a masjid al-jami, congregational mosque, in which the solidarity of believers is expressed in communal prayer.
Christian: A church or other religious edifice built by Christians living under Muslim rule.
Muslim/Christian (Spanish/Moorish): The architectural style develped by Muslims working for Christians.
Hindu: The sacred thread worn by brahman and chhetri males from the time of puberty.
Jewish: Plant used in the celebration of Sukkot.
Hindu: Food offered to a deity.
Buddhist: A type of bahal containing a large courtyard surrounded by residences, also including a shrine.
naos (= cella)
Christian: The main or central area of a church where the congregation usually stands (or sits). Generally, the longitudinal western arm of a Christian church, but more specifically the middle section of the western arm, with aisles on either side. Derived from the Latin navis, meaning ship, symbolizing a contained vessel ferrying souls from damnation to redemption.
Muslim (Shi'ite): Religious offering.
necropolis (Greek: "city of the dead")
A cemetery in which provision is made for the continued welfare of the dead interred therein on the assumption of their continued existence.
Ner Tamid (Hebrew: "perpetual light")
Jewish: A light (now more often electric than an oil lamp) that burns perpetually in synagogues as a symbolic reminder of the temple menorah.
New American Testament
Civil Religion: The American scripture: Declaration of Independence, Constitution (esp. the Preamble) and the Gettysburg Address.
Nihonskoki (or, Nihongi) (Japanese: "Chronicles of
Shinto: The second of two major scriptures, this classical work was compiled in Chinese at the Imperial Japanese court in 720 C.E.. (The first is the Kojiki.)
Muslim: A veil worn by women that completely covers the face.
nisan sahib (or, nishan) (Punjabi)
Sikh: A saffron or blue flag, depicting the Sikh emblem (a two-edged sword encircled by two curved swords), commonly kept in a gurdwara.
Muslim (Shi'ite): An artifact symbolic of the ahl al-bayt.
Muslim: The religious texts.
Shinto/Buddhist: A wooden or paper amulet on which is written the name of a deity. The o-fuda is taken home from the shrine or temple, placed on the kamidana) and worshipped to obtain divine aid.
A double-curved line made up of a convex and a concave part.
Christian (Eastern): An ornamented and often bejeweled metal cover originally made to protect especially treasured icons, later made together with the icon, revealing only the face and hands of the sacred figures. The oklad is an extension of the riaa, which leaves the whole body visible and which was itself an extension of the basma, an ornamental metal covering for the frame only.
Christian: The term used to describe the Hebrew Bible from a Christian standpoint.
Shinto/Buddhist: A small amulet obtained from Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples and worn on the body for protection.
A convex roof with a circular or polygonal base and an ogee-shaped section. Used in both Christian (especially Eastern Orthodox) and Islamic architecture.
The styles of Classical architecture, defined by the designs of their columns and entablatures. The three Greek orders are >Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The Romans added Tuscan and Composite.
British. 1550. Book providing a standard form of the church service.
A window projecting from the flat face of a wall, on an upper story, and usually curved.
padma (“lotus flower”)
Buddhist: A temple in the form of a tower, usually polygonal, with elaborately ornamented roofs projecting from each of its many stories.
Common usage (usually, Christian): A parchment book that has been overwritten with a second text (a method of medieval recycling).
An architectural style favored in England during the 18th Century, derived from the architecture and publications of Andrea Palladio (1508-80). It spread to America in the mid-18th Century and beame an accepted style for grand rasidences and civic buildings.
palm (frond or leaf of a palm tree)
Christian: A saint depicted in a sacred representation holding a palm is considered to be a martyr to the faith.
A fan-shaped ornament composed of narrow divisions like a palm leaf.
Muslim (Shi'ite): A replica of the cradle of the slain infant 'Ali Asghar.
Panagia (Greek: "all-holy")
Common usage: Scraped and dried animal skins used as a writing surface.
Christian: A screen enclosing a chapel or shrine and separating it from the main body of the church so as to exclude non-worshippers.
Christian (Eastern) A chapel, either free-standing or attached.
parvis (or, parvise)
Christian (Eastern): A room serving as a diaconikon; as a rule, flanking the apse of the church.
Christian: A slightly concave plate used to hold the Host for the Eucharist.
A small, flat, circular or oval ornament in Classical> architecture, often decorated with acanthus leaves or rose petals.
path (as an architectural concept)
Representing the initiation, journey, and time of transformation, the path symbolizes psychological, not physical, triumph. Along the way, obscure resistances are overcome and long-lost powers are revived. The three basic shapes of paths are linear (leading step by step to the resolution of a conflict), radial (traveling inward to a centered spot or outward to enrich the world) and spiral (a stream of consciousness that expands to new dimensions while referring to the source of its existence). The path points the way to the goal, to the luminous shore of truth, consciousness, and bliss. (adapted from The Temple in the House)
Hindu: Traditional Newari painting, usually religious in motif.
In Classical architecture, the base supporting a column or colonnade; also, more loosely, the base for a statue or any superstructure.
In Classical architecture, a triangular section of wall above the entablature and below the gabled roof, that can be, instead, semicircular in shape.
Carved triangular surface formed to support a circular dome over a square structure. More specifically, a concave spandrel leading from the angle of two walls to the base of a circular dome. It is one of the means by which a circular dome is supported over a square or polygonal compartment.
Jewish/Christian: The first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Also called the "Law".
A temple with a single range of columns around it.
A continuous range of columns surrounding the main body of a building, or the colonnade around the inside of a court or room; the term is rarely used for an external colonnade.
A shallow pier or rectangular column projecting only slightly from a wall; an adaptation of any Classical order, rectangular in section and applied to or emerging from a wall, usually by one sixth of its breadth.
A free-standing upright member, which, unlike a column, need not be cylindrical or conform with any of the architectural orders.
A shaft of wood or concrete, which is driven into the ground as part of the foundations of the building.
Slender post or stilt raising a building off the ground, thereby leaving the ground floor open.
A small turret-like termination crowning spires, buttresses, the angles of parapets, etc., usually of steep pyramidal or conical shape and ornamented.
Christian: A stone vessel or basin containing water, usually set in or against a wall to the south of the altar for cleaning communion utensils; usually provided with a drain.
Hindu/Buddhist: An open shrine dedicated to a Tantric Goddess.
The projecting base of a wall; or, the lowest part of a column base.
pointed arch (or, equilateral arch)
An arch produced by two curves, each with a radius equal to the span and meeting in a point at the top.
A convex roof on a polygonal base whose sides meet at the top of the dome.
pondok pesantren (Indonesian)
Muslim (Indonesian): An Islamic boarding school with a traditional curriculum based on the Qur'an.
The covered entrance to a building; called a portico if columned and pedimented like a temple front.
Christian: A small gateway, sometimes concealed, at the back of a monastery.
Christian: The part of the church which lies east of the choir and where the high altar is placed. generally the area to the east of the crossing of a church, reserved for the clergy, and containing the main altar and sanctuary.
Jewish: Part of the Hebrew Bible consisting of the books of: Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeemiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion
In Christian architecture: Stone screen in a major church to shut off the choir from the nave. It could also be used as a backing for the return choir stalls.
A heavy slab of timber, roughly dressed, used as a floorboard.
The gateway structure to an Egyptian-style temple, comprising massive rectilinear towers with inclining walls.
Four-sided enclosure or courtyard surrounded by buildings on all sides.
The dressed stones at the corners of buildings, usually laid so that their faces are alternately large and small; often the largest stones in a wall.
Qur'an (=Koran; Arabic: "recitation")
Muslim: Islamic scripture; the sacred book, the uncreated word of God, hence pre-existent to the world and to man, whose archetype is laid up in heaven. The scripture is the corpus of revelations granted by Allah to His Messenger Muhammad through the archangel Gabriel, but the message is God's alone without any human interference. (Qur'an is preferred to the alternate transliteration, Koran.)
Hindu: The epic story of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, and his devout and noble wife, Sita; a Sanskrit composition in 24,000 stanzas attributed to the ancient Indian sage and poet Valmiki.
Hindu/Buddhist: "self manifesting" -- refers to sacred objects (such as handprints, footprints, statues, stones etc.) that originated miraculously.
Architectural movement in Europe seeking to adopt rationalized and reasoned solutions to design problems, in opposition to historicist and formulaic design traditions. Usually realized throug a conscious expression of structural system and constructional materials. The movement emerged through the 18th century architecture of the French Enlightenment. Developed throught the 20th century in the teaching of the TGerman Bauhaus; it became a central principle of Modernism.
A continuous rectangular notch or groove cut on an edge, so that a plank, door, etc., may be fitted into it.
relieving arch (=discharging arch)
An arch of rough construction placed in a wall, above an opening, to relieve it of much of the superincumbent weight.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): A container for the preservation or display of a relic.
The period during which the Classical style of architecture was reintroduced in Europe, the 15th and 16th centuries in most places.
Christian: A wall or screen, usually of carved wood or stone, set behind an altar.
That part of a jamb which lies between the glass or door and the outer wall surface.
Christian (Eastern Orthodox): An ornamented and often bejeweled metal cover for an icon, which leaves the whole body visible. (see also oklad)
A groin vault reinforced by ribs, one in which the intersections of the surfaces are marked by projecting bands of stone that form arches.
Hindu: A golden thread which Shiva devotees tie around their wrists to ward off evil and disease.
The architectural style that developed between the end of the Roman Empire and around 1000 CE is characterized by round arches, simple vaults, and, sometimes, Corinthian capitals; churches were often build to the Romans' basilica design with the addition of facades with rows of arches and frontages with twin towers. (This style preceded Gothic.) In Midwestern vernacular church architecture, look for square floor plan, round arch and vault, and windows with round tops.
rood (Saxon: "cross" or "crucifix")
Christian: In Saxon churches the cross or crucifix was set up at the east end of the nave, flanked by figures of the Virgin and St. John. It was usually wooden and fixed to a special beam in the chancel arch above the rood loft. Sometimes the rood is painted on the wall above the chancel arch.
Christian: A gallery built above the rood screen, often to carry the rood or other images and candles; approached by stairs either of wood or built in the wall.
Christian: A screen below the rood, set across the east end of the nave and shutting off the chancel.
see also shayla
Muslim (Shi'ite, esp. Iran): A woman's headscarf.
A set of pebbles, a string of knots in a cord or a string of beads used for counting prayers.
A circular building or round room, often domed and surrounded by a colonnade.
Muslim (Shi'ite): Replicas of the tombs of the ahl al-bayt displayed in ziyarat khannahs.
Sikh: The elegant cloth wrapped around the Guru Granth Sahib when it is closed.
Muslim (Shi'ite): Stands set up for the distribution of water as a pious action during Muharram.
Christian: The consecrated elements of the Eucharist.
(see also Sacraments in part two of this glossary)
Christian: A room near the altar in which liturgical vessels and vestments are kept and prepared. The sacristy may also function as a vestry, where the vestments are donned, but sometimes there is an additional vestry, especially for servers and choir members It is an area outside public area of the chancel, usually with countertops and running water for preparation of communion items before the service begins; an area where clergy wait or prepare for the worship service. (=diaconikon in Greek Orthodox churches)
Common usage: Evil spirits detest salt.
Common usage (subsidiary): Salt protects against the evil eye.
Jewish: A symbol of the eternal nature of God's covenant with the Jews.
Jewish (ritual): Dipping the Sabbath bread (food) in salt (which preserves it) symbolizes the keeping of the covenant between God and the Jews.
Jewish: Traditional to bring gift of bread and salt to a new house.
Jewish: Karpas dipped in salt water, a symbol of tears [incomplete].
Muslim: Salt used to seal a bargain. Christian (Roman Catholic): Sal Sapientia, Salt of Wisdom.
Voodoo: Can bring a zombie back to life with salt.
Christian: X-shaped cross. St. Andrew was martyred on a saltire.
salwar kameez (=shalwar kameez)
Muslim (esp. south Asia): A calf-length tunic worn over pants by both men and women.
Hindu: The conch shell, one of the four (sacred) symbols held by Vishnu; it is widely used in temples and shrines during prayer.
A small, four-stringed viola shaped from a single piece of wood and played with a horsehair bow.
A window formed with sashes, i.e., sliding glazed frames running in vertical grooves.
Hindu: A house for pilgrims.
A convex roof, which has a circular base and a segmental (less than a semicircle) section.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): In sacred depiction, a saw indicates that the man portrayed is St. Joseph.
A partition or enclosure of iron, stone, or wood, often carved. (See, for example, iconostasis, rood screen.)
Holy writing; holy book, holy script; sacred written words.
Examples: Bible, Qur'an, xxxx.
An ornament in the form of a scroll of paper partly rolled, or a molding in such a form.
Christian: A trio of wooden seats in a sanctuary for the priest and his helpers.
Part of a circle smaller than a semicircle.
An arch that is a segment of a circle drawn from a center below the springing line.
Christian (Greek Orthodox): A long bar of wood struck with a mallet to summon worshippers to the church.
seo (Spanish: "cathedral")
Jewish/Christian: The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, begun at Alexandria, Egpyt, in the 3rd Century BCE for the benefit of the Greek-speaking Jewish community in that area. Since the 1st Century CE, the Septuagint has been the standard version of the Hebrew Bible for Greek-speaking Christians.
Hindu: A black ammonite fossil regarded as sacred by Vishnu devotees.
shammash (=shammes) (Hebrew, or Yiddish)
Jewish: The ninth candle which is used to light the other candles on a Hanukkah menorah.
Muslim (Shi'ite): A long coat worn on formal occasions.
Shinto: Zigzag strips of paper hung from a shimenawa.
Shih Ching (or, Classic of Odes)
Confucian: One of the Five Classics included in the Confucian Canon, it is a collection of 300 poems and songs dating mainly from the early Chou dynasty (1027-402 BCE).
Hindu: A brick or stone temple of geometrical shape with a tall central spire.
Hindu (Gujarati): Scripture: the Lord Swaminarayan’s written word; a code of conduct in 212 verses in Sanskrit. See Shikshapatri
Shinto: A sacred rope marking the presence of a God or the border of a sacred area. Zigzag strips of paper (shide), are hung from the rope, which is made of twisted new straw.
shinden (Japanese) Shinto: A place where an ancestral deity is enshrined.
Wooden tiles for covering roofs and spires.
Taoist: One of the statues found on altars representing Shou Lao, the god of longevity, easily recognized by his large cranium, medicinal gourd and “peach of immortality”. (See also Shou Lao in second section of glossary.)
Shu Ching (or, Classic of History)
Confucian: One of the Five Classics included in the Confucian Canon, it is a collection of documents, speeches, and counsels made by Chinese rulers and ministers purporting to date from the legendary rulers Yao and Shun to the early Chou dynasty (1000 BCE). Many of the supposedly older documents actually date from the Later Han dynasty (23-220 CE).
Jewish: Literally, the "order" of Hebrew prayers, the Siddur is the book with daily prayers for morning, afternoon and evening services, as well as additional prayers for sabbaths and Holy Days.
The lower horizontal part of a window frame.
Hindu: A votive mixture made of red dust combined with mustard oil.
Christian: A covered way or passage, especially in a cathedral or monastic church, leading east from the cloisters between transept and chapterhouse.
Buddhist (Zen): A formal hall for meditation, meals, and sleeping with an altar in the center.
The underside of any architectural element.
Christian: A raised pathway projecting from the bema to the ambo, especially in Early Christian and Byzantine-style churches.
Muslim (Shi'ite): A mascara-like eye decoration worn by men.
Buddhist: Long wooded memorial tablets in cemeteries, notched in five sections at the top and bearing appropriate inscriptions.
The triangular space between the side of an arch, the horizontal drawn from the level of its apex, and the vertical of its springing; also used to describe the surface between two arches in an arcade, and the surface of a vault between adjacent ribs.
A tall pyramidal, polygonal, or conical structure rising from a tower, turret or roof (usually, of a church) and terminating in a point. Two common types are broach (octagonal rising directly from a tower) and needle (thin spire rising from the center of tower roof).
Materials reused from a ruined building.
Spring and Autumn Annals (=Ch'un Ch'iu)
Confucian: One of the Five Elements which are part of the Confucian Canon, it includes extracts from the history of the Chinese state of Lu from 722 to 484 BCE, said to have been compiled by Confucius.
The level at which an arch springs from its supports.
Christian: An obliquely cut opening in a wall or through a pier to allow a view of the main altar of a church from places whence it could not otherwise be seen.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): In sacred depiction, a stag indicates the man portrayed is St. Hubert.
Muslim: Ceiling ornament often found in a mosque formed by corbelled squinches made of several layers of brick scalloped out to resemble natural stalactites.
Star of David (Hebrew: Magen David =" Shield of David")
Jewish: Six-pointed star; a decorative motif typical of synagogues. This symbol was first associated with the Jewish people only in the 17th and 18th centuries. Only in modern times has it become a symbol of Judaism and of modern Israel.
A carved seat of wood or stone in a row of similar seats; if hinged, often carved on the underside. (See misericord)
Stations of the Cross
Christian: The tower and spire of a church taken together.
A stone slab, usually inscribed, and used as a gravestone or, with a historical or religious inscription, placed in a temple.
A detached colonnade found in Classical Greek architecture.
Christian (Roman Catholic): A vessel to contain Holy Water, placed near the entrance of a church; usually in the form of a shallow dish set against a wall or pier or in a niche.
A continuous projecting horizontal band set inthe surface of an exterior wall and usually molded.
In architecture: The “bones” of a building, its skeleton, its framework.
Plaster work used in imitation of stone, often decorately incised or elaborately molded.
stupa (Sanskrit: "cairn", "monument")
Buddhist: A dome-shaped or bell-shaped mound, a stylized tumulus, commemorating the death of a Buddha or other enlightened person and usually containing relics. The dome of the stupa symbolizes the universe; the four gates at the four corners of a surrounding wall symbolize the winds. In a typical Buddhist stupa, five geometric forms are stacked to represent the universe: the square at the base symbolizes the earth; the circle equals water; the triangle, fire; the crescent, air, and the diamond represents the ethereal qualities of space.
Continuous base supporting a row or rows of columns.
sukkah (Hebrew: "tabernacle")
Jewish: A temporary structure built especially for the festival of Sukkot. Most are set up in backyards, on porches or balconies. A sukkah has no solid roof. Rather it is covered with branches, leaves or other natural growth. The covering is supposed to be thick enough to provide shade, but light enough that one can still see the stars at night shining through it.
Sunday clothes (=Sunday best)
Christian (American): Vernacular term, especially in Appalachia, for a man's best suit of clothes or a woman's best dress, worn only to Sunday morning church services, weddings, funerals or other special events.
sutra (Sanskrit: "thread"; =Pali: sutta)
Sutra Pitaka (Sanskrit)
Buddhist: The discourses of the Buddha. Part of the Tripitaka.
Hindu (Gujarati): "The Guru’s Word"; excerpts from the spiritual talks of Akshar Brahman Gunatitanand Swami. See also: Swamini Vato.
sword and lance
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): A man portrayed in a sacred depiction holding a sword and lance was a soldier.
(see also church)
Sikh/Hindu: A traditional hand drum, often used in religious ritual on the Indian subcontinent.
Muslim (Shi'ite): Replicas of coffins carried in julus.
Shinto: Grand shrine.
tallit (=tallis; Hebrew or Yiddish)
Jewish: A ritual prayer shawl worn by men, with braided fringes attached to each of its four corners.
Talmud (plural: Talmudim; Hebrew)
Shinto/Buddhist: A fence or wall surrounding shrine buildings or defining the boundaries of shrine precincts. The tamagaki may be made of wood or stone and is sometimes found in multiple layers.
Shinto: A small branch of green leaves presented to a deity.
Tao Te Ching (Chinese: "Book of Truth and Virtue")
Taoist: Scriptures written/compiled by Lao-Tzu.
A type of mud brick.
(See also rosary)
Muslim (Shi'ite): Prayer beads.
Jewish: A dais or rostrum for the reader in a synagogue. Adjoining it to the east is the Chief Rabbi's seat.
tefillin (Hebrew: "phylacteries")
Jewish: The two black leather boxes worn on the left arm and head by adult males during weekday morning services These are not so much phylacteries or amulets as a literal application of a biblical commandment. The black leather box-shaped instruments contain excerpts from Scripture: Exodus 13:1-10, 11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21.
temenos (Greek: "sanctuary")
A level promenade in front of a building.
Fired but unglazed clay, used mainly for wall covering and ornamentation as it can be fired in molds.
A flooring finish of marble chips mixed with cement mortar and laid in situ; the surface is then ground and polished.
The small cubes of glass, stone, marble or tile used in mosaic.
An adjective describing a cement floor or wall covering in which tesserae are embedded.
Buddhist: A scroll painting with a religious meaning or theme.
Muslim (Gulf States, esp. Saudi Arabia): A long shirt-like dress worn by men; usually made of white cooton, but can be heavier and darker-colored for he winter months.
Horizontal beam forming part of the structure of a roof. It connects two walls, preventing them from moving apart.
Hindu: A colorful vermillion powder applied to the forehead, between the eyes, as a symbol of the presence of the divine.
Sacred statue or amulet.
Hindu: Formal, traditional Nepali cap worn by adult males.
Torah (Hebrew: "teaching", "instruction", "revelation")
Jewish: The place in a synagogue where the Torah scrolls are kept between readings.
Hindu/Buddhist: a decorative carved crest suspended over the door of a sanctum, with the figure of the enshrined deity at its center.
Structural systems comprosing posts and beams and used for simple support.
The ornamental work in the upper part of a window, screen, or panel, or used decoratively in blank arches and vaults. Most commonly used to describe the decorative carved stonework of Gothic church windows.
trang hat (Vietnamese: meditation beads)
(see also rosary)
Buddhist: A symbol of unity and harmony among all beings. The strand is composed of beads on a string, each representing an individual. However, each bead is not isolated and independent, but connected with all the others.
The arcaded story between the nave arcade and the clerestory.
A projecting block incised with two vertical grooves, producing a rhythmic decoration on the frieze of Classical buildings.
The framing or edging of openings and other features on a façade or indoors. It is usually of a color and material different from that of the adjacent wall surface.
Tripitaka (=tipitaka) (Sanskrit: "three baskets")
Three panels joined together by hinges.
Hindu: The trident, chief symbol of Shiva.
Tu Di Gong
Taoist : One of the statues found on altars representing the lord of the soil, guardian of the realm of the ancestors and bestower of wealth. (See also Tu Di Gong in second second of glossary.)
Hindu: The sacred basil plant.
Hindu: The carved strut of a temple.
A very small and slender tower.
Hindu (Gujarati): Scripture, the Lord Swaminarayan’s spoken word; word for word compilation of 262 day to day discourses in Gujarati. See Vachanamrut
vajra (also, dorje)
Buddhist: In Tantric Buddhism, a ritual thunderbolt or curved scepter symbolizing the Absolute. It also representes power and male energy.
Arched masonry covering over a building, based on the shape of the arch; used for the most part as a ceiling or roof. Common types of vaults are barrel (also known as tunnel or wagon), groin (or cross), rib and fan.
Veda (adjective: Vedic) (Sanskrit: "knowledge")
Hindu: The corpus of Hindu scriptures.
Hindu: A sacrificial altar.
vihara (Sanskrit, Pali)
Buddhist: A monastery or nunnery, usually encompassing a bahal and a bahil.
Vinaya Pitaka (Sanskrit)
Buddhist: Accounts on the origin of the sangha and the rules of monastic discipline. Part of the Tripitaka.
One of the wedge-shaped blocks, usually of stone, making up an arch or vault.
Vulgate (from Latin, editio vulgata: "common edition")
Christian (Roman Catholic): The Latin version of the Bible completed by St. Jerome in approximately 404 CE, which came into common use in western Christendom, specifically Roman Catholic Christianity.
Christian: The wooden panelling of pews.
Buddhist (Theravada): A complex of buildings used for worship and teaching.
Christian: The tower-like structure on the west end of Carolingian or Romanesque-style churches. It comprises an entrance and vestibule with a chapel above. The central structure often is flanked by stair turrets.
Jewish: Plant used in the celebration of Sukkot.
In general, the style of window is indicative of the style of the building. Romanesque churches have rounded (semicircular) heads . Oeil de boeuf ("ox eye") windows (round windows set into walls) are used in the Baroque style.
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): In sacred portrayal, a wolf indicates the man depicted is St. Wolf.
wood saw (tool)
Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): In sacred depiction, a wood saw indicates the man depicted is St. Joseph.
Buddhist: A Tantric erotical, symbolic of unity and oneness.
Jewish: Skullcap worn by (some) adult males at times of worship (and by some at all times).
Shinto: One of several terms for shrine.
yeshiva (Yiddish: place of sitting)
Hindu: A stone with a hole in the center, symbolizing the female sexual aspect; usually placed with a lingam.
Taoist: A repository of sacred scriptures in 122 sections compiled by Zhang Junfang during the years CE 1004-1007.
Buddhist (Zen): A small round cushion used as a seat during zazen.
Buddhist (Zen): A large rectangular flat pad placed under the zafu which cushions the knees.
Muslim (Shi'ite): Decorative grave covering.
zendo (Japanese; =Korean: sonbang)
Buddhist (Zen): A meditation hall.
Buddhist (Zen): An informal hall for meditation, which may combine the function and layout of a sodo and hondo.
A tower structure rising in consecutive and diminishing levels reached by stairs or a ramp.
Muslim (Shi'ite): A place for displaying religious artifacts evocative of the ahl al-bayt.