There are many parts of Christianity that feel the types of the buildings in which they worship and the type of worship itself assists them in day to day life but I have noticed the Orthodox denomination particularly shows this and that I am studying this particular area of Christianity. Within the Orthodox religion architecture assists the worshippers in their life and beliefs in a very major way. This is shown just in the design of the building as, unless impossible, the church will nearly always face East to symbolise that the worshipper is entering from the darkness of sin (West) into the Light of truth (East). Also as shown in the plan below a typical Orthodox church is square shaped and topped by a circle or a dome. This is meant to represent the Orthodox view on the world. The square represents correctness, organisation and equality hence the four equal sides and right angles, this reminds the worshipper of how they should run their life. By standing within the square people feel called together and equal with God. The floor represents earth, the ceiling the universe and the dome shows God’s eternity because it has no beginning or end.
The church can take many other shapes as well, a circle to symbolise the eternity of Christ, an octagon to resemble a star because Christ, like a star guides man through the darkness of sin, a cross to signify that the worshippers are saved through their crucified Christ and are prepared to endure the same suffering also the church may be built in the shape of a ship to resemble that Christ is guiding his followers through the stormy seas to the peaceful and safe heaven of God. The main or central part of the Church is known as the Nave, from the Latin word “navis”, which means ark or ship, because to the Orthodox, it is in the ark or ship of the church with Christ at the helm that they will be lifted into heaven. The four corners of the church, on the columns which support the Dome are depicted the four pillars of the Orthodox faith, the four evangelists.
The baptismal font is symbolic of the womb emphasizing that the sacrament of Holy Baptism is a rebirth. The pulpit symbolises the stone, which was used to seal the tomb of Christ. Symbolically, the preacher would stand upon the stone rolled away from the tomb, as did the angel of the Lord, who preached the Good News to the women. The throne of the Bishop is a historic reminder of the Byzantine Empire where it was used by royalty of the land. It has remained in the modern Orthodox Church as the throne of the visiting royalty of the church, the Bishop.
The icon screen has a dual meaning; firstly it reminds the Orthodox of the partition, which separates Heaven (symbolised by the altar) and Earth (symbolised by the nave). Secondly, it serves as a reminder of the incarnation of Christ that Heaven and Earth met and in the architectural symbolism of the church, the icon screen is also a place where Heaven and Earth meet.
The altar area always, unless physically impossible, faces East, facing the rising sun which represents Christ the light of the world. In addition the altar is elevated from the floor of the nave by a set of steps. The floor represents Earth the ceiling represents the universe, with the stars and planets are represented by chandeliers. The altar symbolises heaven which lies somewhere between the Earth and the Universe and is thus elevated by steps to serve as a reminder of this relationship.
The architecture is so important in the worship of the Orthodox religion because it reminds the worshipper of their place on Earth and helps them to relate with God by acknowledging his greatness and power.