About The Church
the most common shape is an oblong or rectangular shape, imitating the form of a ship. As a ship, under the guidance of a master helmsman, it conveys people through the stormy seas to a calm harbor. The Church, guided by Christ, carries us unharmed across the stormy seas of sin and strife to the peaceful haven of the Kingdom of Heaven. Churches are also frequently built in the form of a Cross to proclaim that we are saved through faith in the Crucified Christ, for Whom Christians are prepared to suffer all things.
Almost always Orthodox churches are oriented East to West, with the main entrance of the building at the west end. This symbolizes the entrance of the worshiper from the darkness of sin (the west) into the light of truth (the east).
On the roof of Orthodox churches are usually found one or more “cupolas” (domes with rounded or pointed roofs). A peculiar feature of Slavic Orthodox churches is the pres-ence of onion-shaped domes on top of the cupolas. This shape reminds believers of the flame of a candle, burning upward to heaven.
Every cupola is crowned with a Cross, the instrument of our salvation. In the Slavic Churches, the most common form is the so-called three-bar Cross, consisting of the usual crossbeam, a shorter crossbeam above that and another, slanted, crossbeam below. Symbolically, the three bars represent, from the top, the signboard on which
Orthodoxy 101—The Church Building, External Arrangement
Orthodox churches are correctly referred to as temples. The word Church is normally reserved for the Church established by Jesus Christ as both His Body and Bride.
Generally Orthodox temples take one of several shapes having a particular
mystical significance. Originally, the foundation was a cross of equal length
bars on top of which a dome was placed. This evolved over time and now
was written, in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews (John 19:19); the main crossbeam, to which the hands of Jesus were nailed; and the lower portion, to which His feet were nailed.
The three-bar representation existed in Christian art from the very early times in Byzantium, although usually without the bottom bar slanted. The origin of this slanted foot-board is not known, but the most common explanation is that it is pointing upward to Paradise for the Repentant Thief on Jesus' right and downward to Hades for the unre-pentant thief on His left (Luke 23).