Latin cross plan

   An architectural plan for a church that is shaped like the cross on which Christ was crucified, the central event in the Christian story of salvation. Latin cross plans are composed of a nave, usually flanked by aisles, chapels, or both, a transept that serves as the arms of the cross, and an apse where the main altar is placed. Some Latin cross churches also have a narthex, a vestibule that precedes the nave. The Council of Trent declared that the Latin cross plan was the best suited to the liturgy of the mass as it allowed all focus to be placed on the altar where the ceremonies take place. As a result, architects active in the early years of the Baroque era rejected the Renaissance experiments with the central plan type and instead built longitudinal churches, as advocated by the council.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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