Comparing religious buildings

Princes Risborough church


Compare historic religious buildings in Buckinghamshire with the rest of the United Kingdom and the world, using Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal; PastScape; Historic England's database; Archaeology Data Service; Coflein; the Northern Ireland historic buildings database; World Heritage Sites


Compare medieval churches in Buckinghamshire, such as at Princes Risborough, and in Britain with the mosque in Marrakesh, Morroco or the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia (both World Heritage Sites).


Notley Abbey


Compare medieval monasteries in Buckinghamshire, such as Notley Abbey or Burnham Abbey, and Britain's Fountains Abbey or Westminster Abbey, to the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, a World Heritage Site and monastery of the Russian Orthodox faith.


Some churches were built or rebuilt in the nineteenth century. Compare ones in Buckinghamshire, such as at Marlow, with others around the world, Snell's Bush church, USA (www.mohawkvalley, or St George's Anglican cathedral and parish churches in St Vincent, for instance (


Design of churches

Medieval churches seem quintessentially English, but in fact their design is based on Roman basilicas. A basilica was a public meeting hall in Roman times. It was a large open rectangular building with a semi-circular projection called an apse at one or both ends. The apse was for members of the community to sit and hear court cases. The basilica was often very big and so was supported by two rows of columns that created a central nave and aisles on either side. This design was exported all over the Roman world.


Most churches have a nave, though many medieval churches were not as big as Roman basilicas and did not have to have columns supporting the roof. If they did the columns created side aisles, or side aisles could also be added later. At the eastern end of the church, pointing towards Jerusalem, an apse could be added that would be a place for the altar. Alternatively, the eastern end could be extended by adding a rectangular projection called a chancel. An apse is sometimes added to the end of that. Later the main basilica could be raised to put in windows over side aisles to provide more light.


There are several basilicas of Roman and medieval date listed as World Heritage Sites to compare to the medieval churches of Buckinghamshire. Also look on the internet for the surviving Roman basilica at Trier in Germany.


Click here for more ideas for Putting Buckinghamshire in context.