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narthex(när`thĕks), entrance feature peculiar to early Christian and Byzantine churches, although also found in some Romanesque churches, especially in France and Italy. Usually extending across the entire west front of the building, it was a vestibule for the penitents and catechumens who were not admitted to the church proper. The narthex was either enclosed within the building (often separated from the nave by a mere screen of columns) or consisted of an exterior colonnaded or arcaded portico. In the latter case it was sometimes merely a continuation of the atriumatrium
, term for an interior court in Roman domestic architecture and also for a type of entrance court in early Christian churches. The Roman atrium was an unroofed or partially roofed area with rooms opening from it. In early times its center held a cooking hearth.
..... Click the link for more information. , as in a number of Italian basilical churches, including the original basilica (4th cent.) of St. Peter's Church, Rome. The inner narthex was particularly characteristic of the monastic churches, where admission was restricted. In churches having both types of narthex, as in Hagia SophiaHagia Sophia
[Gr.,=Holy Wisdom] or Santa Sophia,
Turkish Aya Sofia, originally a Christian church at Constantinople (now İstanbul), later a mosque, and now converted into a museum.
..... Click the link for more information. , Constantinople (originally a Christian church), the outer one is termed exonarthex. With the growth of unrestricted entry into the churches, the narthex served no further ritual purpose after the 13th cent. The deeply recessed portals of Gothic cathedrals are derivatives of the narthex.
a vestibule, an entrance that is often attached to the western side of Christian churches. Some churches have both an outer narthex (exonarthex) and an inner narthex (esonarthex). The narthex was designed for persons who did not have the right to enter the main room reserved for the worshipers.
a structure built onto the west (or, frequently, the north or south) side of a church. The narthex was used widely in the architecture of Smolensk, Polotsk, and Pskov and in the wooden architecture of the Russian North. A single church commonly had two or three narthexes.