Church (building)

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{church, century, christian}
{city, large, area}
{build, building, house}
{group, member, jewish}
{god, call, give}
{language, word, form}
{law, state, case}
{town, population, incorporate}
{@card@, make, design}
{style, bgcolor, rowspan}

A church building is a building or structure whose primary purpose is to facilitate the meeting of a church. Originally, Jewish Christians met in synagogues, such as the Cenacle, and in one another's homes, known as house churches. As Christianity grew and became more accepted by governments, notably with the Edict of Milan, rooms and, eventually, entire buildings were set aside for the explicit purpose of Christian worship, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Traditional church buildings are often in the shape of a cross and frequently have a tower or dome. More modern church buildings have a variety of architectural styles and layouts; many buildings that were designed for other purposes have now been converted for church use, and, similarly, many original church buildings have been put to other uses.



The first Christians were, like Jesus, Jews resident in Israel who worshiped on occasion in the Temple in Jerusalem and weekly in local synagogues. Temple worship was a ritual involving sacrifice, occasionally including the sacrifice of animals in atonement for sin, offered to Yahweh. The New Testament includes many references to Jesus visiting the Temple, the first time as an infant with his parents, see Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The early history of the synagogue is obscure, but it seems to be an institution developed for public Jewish worship during the Babylonian captivity when the Jews (and Jewish Proselytes) did not have access to a Temple (the First Temple having been destroyed c. 586 BC) for ritual sacrifice. Instead, they developed a daily and weekly service of readings from the Torah, and possibly also the Prophets, followed by commentary. This could be carried out in a house if the attendance was small enough, and in many towns of the Diaspora that was the case. In others, more elaborate architectural settings developed, sometimes by converting a house and sometimes by converting a previously public building. The minimum requirements seem to have been a meeting room with adequate seating, a case for the Torah scroll, and a raised platform for the reader.

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