Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on May 15, 2020 in TellMeWhy |

How Will You Describe Cathedrals and Abbeys?

How Will You Describe Cathedrals and Abbeys?

Cathedrals and Abbeys were the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages, if not of all European architecture. Although cathedrals are, of course, still built today, the great age of cathedral building lasted from the 11th to the 14th century, when people were inspired to put as much money and energy as they could afford into works to the glory of God.

A cathedral is simply a church which contains the throne of a bishop. They are usually grander than ordinary parish churches. The cathedrals of Europe display the development of European architecture from the Romanesque style (called Norman in England) through the changing forms of the grand Gothic style, with its huge windows, soaring arches and flying buttresses.

The finest, or purest, examples of Gothic cathedrals are in northern France – Amiens, Chartres, Paris, Reims and other cities. Some of the largest are in Spain; some of the most interesting in England and Germany. But in Italy, for example, the Gothic style was never widely adopted.

Distinguishing an abbey from a cathedral is not that difficult. Simply said, an abbey is like a monastery but a more mature version of such. Under the direct supervision of its abbess (the spiritual mother) and or the abbot (the spiritual father), the abbey is where the religious (monks and the like) dwell. In this place, there are lots of them, at least a dozen.

Abbeys, as a structure or place, is a group of infrastructures that comprises many minor buildings like a separate monastery, convent, place to receive gifts from offerers from the outside, and of course a place of worship amongst other specialized centers. Abbeys are therefore complexes with varied centers. Each center is designed for a particular purpose like grooming, living, community gathering, praying.

Derived from the Latin word that literally means father ‘Abbatia,’ an abbey can also be called as a nunnery. But this term is usually not used for it gives some confusion to the technical definition of an abbey by describing it as a place for nuns only.

Cathedral is more closely likened to a typical church. But unlike most churches, the cathedral is considered as the principal church (the major) religious establishment in a certain diocese. It may not be the biggest church in the city but it does house the throne of the bishop. And unlike abbeys, cathedrals are led by the bishops.

Taken from the Latin word ‘cathedra’ that literally means seat, the word cathedral was originally an adjective that describes a church as in the cathedral church. Nowadays, it is widely accepted as a noun pertaining to a structure or place of worship. Although the cathedral is also a center for many functions both civic and social, the main purpose for erecting a cathedral is to serve as a place for worship.

It has a hierarchy guided by the Episcopal denomination like the Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. Being the central church of the diocese, cathedrals are often designed or constructed as remarkable edifices.

Content for this question contributed by Howard Luke, resident of Orange, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA