Vocabulary —Narthex

The narthex is that por­tion of a church build­ing between the out­side door and the entrance to the Sanc­tu­ary. The Narthex pro­vides a lit­tle sep­a­ra­tion from the out­side world and serves as a meet­ing area and an infor­ma­tion hub. Dis­plays and posters are ubiq­ui­tous and the Narthex is full of infor­ma­tion about God and the church. 

People entering and greeting in the entrance (narthex) at Mt. Olive
Greeters wel­com­ing peo­ple enter­ing Mt. Olive’s Narthex from the park­ing lot before mov­ing into the Sanc­tu­ary for Sun­day morn­ing wor­ship.

The Narthex is the entry space to enter the Sanc­tu­ary for wor­ship. It is a space where all the wor­shipers gath­er togeth­er before and after ser­vice.  In the ear­ly days of the Church, it was a ‘wait­ing area’ for cat­e­chu­mens and pen­i­tents. Today it serves as gath­er­ing space as well as the entrance and exit to the build­ing.

Information Center

Quite aside from being the only the place to greet the min­is­ter and pick up a bul­letin, the Narthex groups the con­gre­ga­tion and is the ide­al place to show the ser­vice aspects of a church.

With the con­gre­ga­tion mov­ing through the space both enter­ing and leav­ing, there is an ide­al place to reach out through posters or per­son­al con­tact for upcom­ing events, fundrais­ers, or what­ev­er is active. The Narthex is an infor­ma­tion cen­ter. It is a place for the pub­lic state­ment of a church.

Narthex Historically

The pur­pose of the narthex was to allow those not eli­gi­ble for admit­tance into the gen­er­al con­gre­ga­tion (par­tic­u­lar­ly cat­e­chu­mens and pen­i­tents) to hear and par­take in the ser­vice. The narthex would often include a bap­tismal font so that infants or adults could be bap­tized there before enter­ing the sanc­tu­ary or main body of the church, and to remind oth­er believ­ers of their bap­tisms as they gath­ered to wor­ship.


Lat­er reforms removed the require­ment to exclude peo­ple from ser­vices who were not full mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion, which in some tra­di­tions obvi­at­ed the need for the narthex. Church archi­tects con­tin­ued, how­ev­er, to build a room before the entrance of the sanc­tu­ary. Some tra­di­tions still call this area the narthex as it rep­re­sents the point of entry into the church, even though now every­one is admit­ted to the main body of the church itself.

Oth­er denom­i­na­tions may also call the entry area a Foy­erGath­er­ing Space, or a Vestibule.


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