Plan of a large Latin cross church with chancel highlighted
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Strict definition
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Broader definition
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The chancel is the part of a Christian church used by the clergy and others officiating at a service. Usually situated at the eastern end of the church, it houses the altar and perhaps the choir. In smaller churches the chancel may be separated from the naveCentral part of a church, used by the laiety., the part of the building used by the congregation, by a chancel arch, altar rails, or a series of steps. In larger churches and cathedrals, particularly those with a monastic past, the demarcation between nave and chancel may be a stone screen with a central door, known as a pulpitum,[1] perhaps supporting a gallery or loft.[2]

The term chancel is derived from the Latin cancellus, meaning a screen.[1]

See also

  • Holy Maid of LeominsterKnown only as Elizabeth, she was installed in the rood loft above the chancel of the priory of Leominster by its prior in the late 15th or early 16th century.



Curl, James Stevens, and Susan Wilson. “Pulpitum.” Oxford Dictionary of Architecture, Online, Oxford University Press,
Jones, Tom Devonshire, et al., editors. “Chancel.” Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art and Architecture, Online, Oxford University Press,