Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Dictionary

A modern dictionary of Catholic terms, both common and obscure. Find accurate definitions of words and phrases.

Search:

Or browse the dictionary by selecting a letter!
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

BASILICA

A lengthy oblong religious edifice, rectangular in shape with an apse at one end. This name was originally given to certain ancient churches in Rome, the Holy Land, and elsewhere that were converted from pagan edifices to Christian use. The width of a basilica building is never greater than one half of its length. It is divided by rows of columns into a central nave and a surrounding aisle, or ambulatory. The upper part of the nave is lighted by clerestory windows over looking the roof over the aisles. similar lower windows light the aisle sections. The altar is placed within or before the apse arching from the nave and opening into the transept, or cross hall. At the main entrance to the basilica is the narthex, beyond which the early neophytes were not admitted. St. John Lateran, the Mother Church, is the archbasilica for the patriarch of the West, the Pope; St. Peter's for the patriarch of Constantinople; St. Paul's Outside the Walls for the patriarch of Alexandria; St. Mary Major for the patriarch of Antioch; St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, for the patriarch of Jerusalem. Each of these major basilicas has an altar exclusively for the Pope's use, and by others only with his permission. Adjoining their basilicas were the former residences of the various patriarchs when they were in Rome. St. Francis of Assisi's church is also a major basilica with a papal altar and a throne. eleven churches in Rome and many others throughout the world have been designated by the Pope as minor basilicas, e.g., at Loreto and Padua in Italy, Lourdes in France, Lough Derg in Ireland. The clergy who serve in them enjoy a title of honor that gives them certain ceremonial rites. (Etym. Latin basilicus, royal.)

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Round Trip to the present moment: a Catholic jazz artist's latest offering April 22
Easter with the Pope April 21
Smaller Church, Bigger Faith, 3: Ecclesiastical Discipline April 17
The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer April 16
Journey to the Sun: A Strange Biography of Junípero Serra April 16

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis: Easter Vigil homily (full text) CWN - April 20
Pope Francis's Easter Message 'Urbi et Orbi' (To the City and the World): full text, link to video CWN - April 20