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Differences between A Church, Chapel, Cathedral and Basilica.

Differences between A Church, Chapel, Cathedral and Basilica.


In the early days, Christians where persecuted by the governments and other religions. This made Christians to mostly meet in their homes or in a secret place like cave to worship.

As Christianity grew, they were now accepted by the people and they now came out to worship in open places especially in a building called church.

In this present day there are 4 major buildings Christians worship especially Catholics and these buildings are as follows :

  • Church
  • Chapel
  • Cathedral
  • Basilica.

In this article you will know the difference between this buildings and their purpose.



A church is a place of worship that is run by a clergy or a pastor with a permanent church members and it’s the seat of the Clergy or pastor. Church can be used to refer the building as well as the congregation itself or the institution the congregation belongs.

Church is the most common and can be found in every Christian denomination.

A church building can take any shape, it can be circle in shape signifying eternity, shape of cross with dome inside to draw attention to the heavens etc they also have tower or spire beside it.


Chapel building

The word chapel is gotten from a French word chapele which means “little cape”.

It’s a smaller space or building compared to a church. It can be located within a church, hospital, airport, school etc used for worship or special prayer service. It has no permanent Clergy or Pastor also no permanent congregation.


Cathedral building

Cathedral is the central church of a diocese. It is the seat of a bishop. The word cathedral is derived from the word cathedra which is the name of the chair bishops sits on.

A diocese or archdiocese usually have only one cathedral and that’s where the bishop of the diocese resides. But some diocese have more than one cathedral usually for historic reasons.

A cathedral doesn’t necessarily need to be big or beautified with stained glass and flying buttresses. There’s no physical requirements for cathedrals. It’s all about the bishop. Once your church is where the bishop resides, it’s a Cathedral.


Basilica Rome

Basilica is just additional status or label given to already existing structure. A Church, Cathedral or Chapel can be made a Basilica by the Pope (a Chapel being a basilica is rare to see).

There are two types of Basilica

  • Major Basilica
  • Minor Basilica

Major basilica are the four personal churches of the Pope, it’s located within or around Rome. They are as follows :

  • Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
  • St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • Basilica of St. Paul located Outside the Walls.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

Minor Basilica are Basilicas that are found around the world. They are awarded the status by the Pope, because of its historical, spiritual or architectural significance.

The Catholic Church recognizes 1500 churches all over the world as basilicas with 325 in the US. Basilica has 3 major differences from Cathedral and other churches. They are as follows

  • The Conopaeum: yellow and red striped canopy.
  • The Tinntinnabulum: a bell mounted on a pole.
  • Crossed Keys: a banner displaying the papal seal.

In conclusion the term Church can be used generally to refer to these buildings mentioned above, but they differ from each other by their purpose and use.

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