Explore the Cathedral

The beauty of God's House


The sanctuary is the front part of the church from where the Mass is conducted. It is usually elevated from the nave.

The Nave

The nave is the area of the church where the congregation gathers for worship.

The Altar

Jesus sent two of his apostles to prepare a special room for them to share the Passover meal together. Jesus and his apostles shared their meal around a table. The altar reminds us that believers are sharing a special meal when believers receive the Body and Blood of Jesus as food for the spiritual journey.


Candles are used in Catholic worship to represent the light of Christ. During Mass, candles may be held on either side of the Priest as he proclaims the Gospel. At least two candles are placed on or near the altar.


The chalice is the cup that holds the wine during Mass. It is made from durable materials, usually precious metals, in the shape of a goblet. The chalice is covered with a veil of the same liturgical colour as the Priest’s chasuble.

Paten and Ciborium

The paten is the small flat dish on which the large host rests. The ciborium is similar in shape to the chalice, but has a lid. A plate or shallow bowl may also be used to hold the hosts at Mass. Consecrated hosts are reserved in the tabernacle in a ciborium.


The corporal is the square white cloth placed in the centre of the altar at the preparation of the gifts. On it stand the chalice, ciborium and paten.


Church banners are large sheets of cloth bearing a symbol or message. In the past, they were mainly used in processions, however, in recent years permanent and/or temporary banners are displayed on walls and pillars.

Presider’s Chair

The Priest presiding at Mass sits on the presidential chair during some parts of the Mass. Every Catholic church has a presider's chair but a cathedral is different because it also has a special chair for the Bishop or Archbishop. That chair is called a cathedra.


The tabernacle is a holy reciprocal for Consecrated Hosts, the real presence of Jesus, that have not been used during Mass. There is a red light always left on somewhere close by to remind us that Jesus is present.

Lectern – Ambo

Jesus always spoke from the mountainside or from a boat. During the Mass, the Word of God is spoken from the lectern. This helps to remind us that what believers are hearing is important and worthy of paying special attention to. The Gospels and the Readings can also be read from the ambo, which is a raised pulpit used in Early Christianity.


The Lectionary is a book containing a collection of scripture readings appointed for Catholic worship on a given day or occasion.

Paschal Candle

The Paschal Candle, or Easter Candle, is a large candle lit during the ceremony of the Fire at the Easter Vigil. It is lit at Mass during the Easter Season, and is also used at baptisms and funerals.


The Mass makes present to us the sacrifice and Death of Jesus on the cross. A crucifix, a cross bearing the figure of Jesus, is always clearly visible during Mass.

Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass windows are usually large ornate windows made from different colours of glass and cast iron. They usually represent Jesus, saints of scenes from the Bible or else they are ornate patterns.

Statues and Images

Statues or images of Jesus, Mary and the saints are in the church to inspire us to lead our Christian life as fully as possible.


When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, one of the special gifts brought to him was incense. It was a special gift to honour a King. Believers use incense at special Masses before the Gospel to help us remember that believers are listening to God’s Word from a special Book or Lectionary. Other times incense can be used is during the entrance procession, the Gospel procession, the preparation of the Gifts, and the consecration.

Votive Candles

It is a custom in many churches for people to light a candle in a stand designed for the purpose and then to say a prayer, perhaps for a particular intention. People usually are asked to make a small financial offering towards the cost of the candles. A lit candle can be helpful to us in entering a prayerful state of mind.

Baptismal Font

Baptismal fonts come in various styles, but all contain a bowl or bath in which water is placed. Baptism can take place either by immersion or by pouring of the blessed water over the head of the person to be baptised. The baptismal font can be either at the rear or the front of the church.

Holy Water Font

When you enter a Catholic church you will find a holy water font, often attached to a wall. In some churches it might be a simple bowl or basin. When people enter a church they dip their fingers into the holy water and make the sign of the cross with it. A new supply of holy water is blessed each year at the Easter Vigil.


A confessional is a small, enclosed booth used in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sometimes confessionals are built into the church wall and have separate doors, while others are freestanding with curtains to separate.


Originally, the Early Christians stood for worship. The pew, a long, backed bench upon which congregants sit, was an innovation of western medieval Christianity.

Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross represent the final hours of Christ’s life on earth, his Passion. The object of the Stations is to help the faithful make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer through meditating upon the chief scenes of Christ’s suffering.

Bread and wine

The bread and wine represent the Body and Blood of Christ. Catholics celebrate Mass in accordance with the instructions received in the New Testament. At The Last Supper, Jesus gave his disciples bread saying ‘This is my Body’, and wine saying, ‘This is my Blood’.

Foyer / Porch

The foyer/porch is the entry point to the church. It is located at the far end of the nave to the main altar.

For Reflection and Discussion


Go online and search for diverse representations of tabernacles, lecterns, altars, fonts etc.


Additionally, search for diverse representations of ordained and liturgical ministers and gathered assemblies.


Use these representations to recreate the sights within a church, particularly at the time of the celebration of Mass.

Further Resources