Apse, basilica of S. Vitale, Ravenna, 526–547—Alinari/Art Resource, New York

Semicircular or polygonal termination to the choir, chancel (see cathedral), or aisle of a public building, first used in pre-Christian Roman architecture. Originally a large niche to hold the statue of a deity in a temple, the apse also appeared in ancient baths and basilicas. The domed apse became a standard part of the Christian church plan.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on apse, visit Britannica.com.

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