What Is The Difference Between Church, Chapel, And Cathedral?

Church, chapel, and cathedral can all refer to the same place - a building that is used for religious services. But there’s a big difference between them. Let’s find out what it is!
What Is The Difference Between Church, Chapel, And Cathedral?
What Is The Difference Between Church, Chapel, And Cathedral?

Church, chapel, and cathedral are considered to be synonymous with each other. While this may be true on the surface, each of these terms refers to a slightly different type of religious building. Let's understand the differences between the three.

What Is A Church?

A church is a general term for places of worship for Christians that have a regular congregation and are led by a priest or pastor.  "Church" comes from the Old English word "cirice," which is a derivation of the  prehistoric Germanic word ‘’kirika’’, meaning "place of assembling set aside for Christian worship."


The term "church" is also used to refer to the assembly of Christian believers as well as the Christian religious community as a whole. In traditional Christian architecture, a church's plan view resembles a Christian cross, with the bema and altar serving as the horizontal beam and the central aisle and pews serving as the vertical beam. This architectural arrangement symbolizes the fact that the church is a holy place, built to honor and serve God.

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What Is A Chapel?

A chapel is a smaller version of a church, often used as an adjunct to the main structure or located on the grounds of an institution.


The word chapel dates back to the thirteenth century and is derived from the Old French word chapele, which is a variant of the mediaeval Latin cappella, which means "small cape."

Smaller areas with their own altars within a church are frequently referred to as chapels. Chapels are sometimes free-standing structures allocated to certain events, such as weddings or memorials.

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What Is A Cathedral?


A cathedral serves as the bishop's seat as well as a place of worship and mission. A cathedral's principal function is to be a place of Christian prayer. It is the principal place of worship within a diocese, the geographical territory over which a bishop has power. A cathedral is not distinguished by its size; it can be bigger or smaller than a church or chapel. The major factor differentiating a cathedra from the aforementioned structures is the bishop. The cathedral is where the bishop sits.

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Difference Between Church, Chapel, And Cathedral

While a church is a building for Christian worship, a chapel is not intended to be a building; rather, it is a space set aside for prayer by individuals, and a cathedral is a church that is run by a bishop. The major factor differentiating a cathedral from a church or chapel is the presence of a bishop. 

Churches, chapels, and cathedrals are important symbols of faith and provide a space for worship, reflection, prayer, and community gatherings. While each one of these three places of worship has a different purpose, they all offer a place for individuals to practice their faith and to find support from those who share it.

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