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Catholic Dictionary




Semicircular polygonal termination to the choir or nave of a church, in which the altar is placed. The term was applied variously to the arched roof of a room; canopy over an altar; or any semicircular recess with a roof. the apse is solid below, generally with windows above; the roof is vaulted. The term was first used in the Roman basilicas where the apse was an important feature, later retained when the basilica was transformed into a Christian church. The chevet is an apse enclosed by an open screen of columns leading into an aisle, then into several apsidal chapels. The apse as described was retained in Byzantine churches, also in Germany and Italy. In France they are polygonal in shape with chevets; in England the square apse is preferred. (Etym. Latin apsis, a bow, turn; Greek apsis, curve, bow, arch.)