10 Things You May Not Know About Catholic Churches
1. Stained glass has been used not just as beautiful decoration, but to teach the truths of the Catholic Faith to those who could not read. It depicts events in the Bible, or the lives of the saints.
2. In Gothic Cathedrals, the great innovation was the "flying buttress," the outside structures that support the main building. They are beautiful and allow for larger stained-glass windows.
3. There are exceptions (most notably St. Peter's Basilica in Rome), but Catholic churches commonly point toward the East - ad orientem. That's because the East represents the Heavenly Jerusalem.
4. In the Sacristy is the Sacrarium. It's where the priest thoroughly rinses the chalice, and other sacred items. The water flows directly to the ground.
5. Catholic churches usually take the form of a "basilica" (meaning "town hall" inLatin), which has a long nave, or center aisle, giving the church the shape of a cross. Eastern Rite Catholic churches commonly use the "Greek-cross" plan, a square design. Some Western Catholic churches also use the Greek-cross plan.
6. Inspired by the California Missions, many more recent churches in California and the Southwest have a mission design.
7. The designs of the medieval Gothic cathedrals long inspired many American churches in the American East and Midwest, such as St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.
8. If a church has a dome, it is intended to lead the Christian's eyes upward toward Heaven. Often, the dome will be painted with images of saints and angels in Paradise.
9. The use of incense comes from its use in the Jewish temples (Exodus 25 and 35; Leviticus 16; 1 Chronicles 28; 2 Chronicles 2). For Catholics, the incense is the prayers of the believers rising to Heaven. "And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel": Apocalypse 8:4; Douay-Rheims Version.
10. The names of Catholic churches must follow "The Rite of Dedication of a Church and a Church and an Altar," which stipulates names must be "the Blessed Trinity; our Lord Jesus Christ invoked according to a mystery of his life or a title already accepted in the liturgy; the Holy Spirit; the Blessed Virgin Mary, likewise invoked according to some appellation already accepted in the liturgy; one of the angels; or, finally, a saint inscribed a saint inscribed in the Roman Martyrology or in a duly approved Appendix."