The Story behind the Clearstory

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ClerestoryChurches are special buildings, and over the centuries, special words have been created to describe the spaces within. Many have aisles or bell towers, of course. Churches can also have naves and narthexes, presbyteries and sacristies and baptisteries, or maybe chancels, chapels, and choirs.

Our church building here at UUCBG is a unique shape with some special features.

We have a tower, though it doesn’t have a bell. The largest room is called the sanctuary. It has two aisles, but no nave, which in a rectangular church is the center path between two sets of seats. At the front of the room is the raised platform called a dais, and that whole area is known as the chancel. The pulpit is on the chancel, but we don’t usually have an altar, which is a table upon which gifts are laid.

Architecture of a ChurchBehind the chancel is a storage area used for keeping extra candles, flowers, and music books. That’s called the sacristy, a place to store sacred things.

The most striking features of our sanctuary are probably the soaring ceiling and the windows. We have four tall narrow windows on each side of the room, and stained-glass symbols of different faiths hang near their tops. At the highest part of the ceiling are two more rows of windows, six diamond-shaped and then a circular one close to the base of the tower.

That architectural feature—a wall of windows set high– is known as a clearstory (also spelled clerestory). They give our church a unique roofline, and though we can’t really see the windows from inside, the light certainly shines through and illuminates our sanctuary from on high.

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