(redirected from chancels)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.


primarily that part of the church close to the altar and used by the officiating clergy. In the early churches it was separated from the nave by a low parapet or open railing (cancellus), its name being thus derived. San Clemente at Rome has one of the few preserved examples. With the development of the choir, additional space was taken, between the sanctuarysanctuary,
sacred place, especially the most sacred part of a sacred place. In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, a sanctuary served as asylum, a place of refuge for persons fleeing from violence or from the penalties of the law.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and the nave, for the accommodation of the canons and singers. The chancel rail was moved forward, and the entire space became known as the choir, although it is also termed the chancel; there is no strict differentiation in the usage. In the Middle Ages the chancel rail was replaced by lofty choir screens (see roodrood
, crucifix mounted above the entrance to the chancel and flanked by large figures of the Virgin and St. John, an almost invariable feature in the 14th- and 15th-century European church.
..... Click the link for more information.
), especially in English cathedrals and in monastic churches.


The part of a large church that is located beyond the transept, containing the altar and choir.


The sanctuary of a church, including the choir; reserved for the clergy.


the part of a church containing the altar, sanctuary, and choir, usually separated from the nave and transepts by a screen
References in classic literature ?
Thereupon he was allowed to walk by her side unmolested, up to the chancel with the party.
Meanwhile Robin had leaped lightly over the chancel rail and stationed himself in a nook by the altar.
And they walked gravely down the aisle and stood over against the chancel.
Overhead, Handel's March swelled pompously through the imitation stone vaulting, carrying on its waves the faded drift of the many weddings at which, with cheerful indifference, he had stood on the same chancel step watching other brides float up the nave toward other bridegrooms.
It was known that she had insisted on sending her own carpenter to look into the possibility of taking down the end panel of the front pew, and to measure the space between the seat and the front; but the result had been discouraging, and for one anxious day her family had watched her dallying with the plan of being wheeled up the nave in her enormous Bath chair and sitting enthroned in it at the foot of the chancel.
Her face being, from her entrance, towards the chancel, even her shortsighted eyes soon discerned Will, but there was no outward show of her feeling except a slight paleness and a grave bow as she passed him.
Everybody looked at her feet; and when she stepped through the chancel door on the church pavement, it seemed to her as if the old figures on the tombs, those portraits of old preachers and preachers' wives, with stiff ruffs, and long black dresses, fixed their eyes on her red shoes.
All the blinds were pulled down at the Hall and Rectory: the church bell was tolled, and the chancel hung in black; and Bute Crawley didn't go to a coursing meeting, but went and dined quietly at Fuddleston, where they talked about his deceased brother and young Sir Pitt over their port.
Then, the Sacristan locks the iron-barred gates that divide the sanctuary from the chancel, and all of the procession having scuttled into their places, hide their faces; and then the intoned words, 'WHEN THE WICKED MAN--' rise among groins of arches and beams of roof, awakening muttered thunder.
Bits of old wood carvings from the pulpit, and panels from the chancel, and images from the organ-loft," said the clerk.
Thinking on in this way, I began to think of the old gentleman who was just dead, and I could have sworn, as I looked up the dark chancel, that I saw him in his usual place, wrapping his shroud about him and shivering as if he felt it cold.
Purchasers included major institutions, such as Eton or the colleges of Oxford or Cambridge, who have continued to pay for repairs to church chancels.