What is an Apse?

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What is an Apse?
An apse is an architectural term or design for structures and buildings with a rounded or semi-circular corner or end-part. This architectural design is common in churches of the past particularly during the Roman times, Byzantine empire, and the Gothic era. Typical in churches are dome-like or circular structures at one end of the building, in which the main altar is located.

The word “apse” is borrowed from the Latin word “apsis” and the Greek word “hapsis”. Its literal meaning is “a fastening together”. This applies to the the joining of both ends of a semi-circular structure to the rest of the building.

But the apse is said to be around even before Christian churches were built. Many designs of public buildings in the past also featured rounded or oblong shapes on different ends. Some homes also had apse-like structures which were common in bath rooms. But apses became widely popular as an architectural structure design with the building of Christian churches. It was said to be common in the early days of Christianity that the churches built had domed apse on the west part of the structure. But over the years, the Roman Catholic church had the apse or semi-circular part of the building built on the eastern side.

As architectural designs evolved over time, many churches of the past featured dome structures which are typically built at the end of a rectangular building. Some churches were also built with a cross pattern with the top of the cross shaped in a circular manner to form the apse. The apse at the “top” of a rectangular or cross-shaped church were said to represent Jesus’ head.

In modern times, apses can be found in large public buildings to make them look grander and fancier, owing to its historical roots from Christian churches. Some private individuals also have apses in their homes to improve the building’s appearance or facade.

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