Definition of apse in English:



  • 1A large semicircular or polygonal recess in a church, arched or with a domed roof, typically at the eastern end, and usually containing the altar.

    • ‘The Romanesque wing is all church decorations of various sorts, and all the rooms are designed like actual Romanesque churches, with columns or apses as appropriate to display the (usually fragmentary) decoration in the right place.’
    • ‘In a tiny apse in one corner, like an afterthought to the chamber's spacious design, the eunuch turned a key and opened a door.’
    • ‘The flowers in the little ‘paradises’ that circled cathedral apses shared the iconography of the gardens of the Virgin in medieval art, while the parallel, secular ‘garden enclosed’ became a haven of sensual delights.’
    • ‘Inside is a nave surmounted by a generous barrel vault supported by large but simple columns and flanked by side aisles; a transept separates the nave from a central apse behind the altar.’
    • ‘The finished work, located in the apse high above the chancel, depicts Christ in the attitude of the cross before a flourishing Tree of Life.’
    • ‘Although St George's had to be wider than it was long, he managed to create a central, square nave flanked by galleried aisles, with an apse containing a magnificent tall reredos to the east.’
    • ‘Placing each channel inside each of the symmetrical apses on the ceiling and another on the roof truss, the performances would then take on specific tonal characteristics for each room.’
    • ‘However, the gallery at Cleveland House, two-storeyed and sixty feet long, was terminated at each end by a semicircular apse with the lozenge-shaped coffering of the Temple of Venus and Rome in Rome.’
    • ‘They were seated at the midpoint of the nave, with us facing them backward, that is, toward the narthex rather than the apse of the cathedral.’
    • ‘The painting in the dome marked the termination of a narrative sequence begun in the Assumption located in the apse behind the high altar.’
    • ‘A number of buildings, at Vindolanda, South Shields, Housesteads and Birdoswald, have been claimed as Christian churches, largely on account of their having semi-circular apses.’
    • ‘For example, the entrance hall, based on the basilica idea, is a rectangle with an apsidal end; the dining room is a long room with apses at the ends.’
    • ‘From the square townsmen view the church's apse and radiating symmetrical apsidal chapels.’
    • ‘She takes in narthex and ground plan, nave, altar, apse, chapels, the exterior, crypt and tower, relating each to architectural and religious history.’
    • ‘Then I found out that under the three-storey high arch around the apse inside the church was a beautiful mural, but covered with whitewash.’
    • ‘The baptistery-chapel consists of a semicircular apse divided into three arched sections built into the south wall of the church.’
    • ‘Remains of a set of baths were found beneath those of the C5 cathedral, which had a conventional layout of three naves and a large apse.’
    • ‘In most ancient church buildings the apse was to the east, so the presiding minister stood between the altar and the people.’
    • ‘Eight hung in the nave and three in the apse, with an additional two in the transept.’
    • ‘Many Orthodox churches have above the altar, in the apse, the iconographic picture of the community of the apostles with Christ as the heavenly liturgist in the robes of an earthly priest.’
    alcove, bay, niche, nook, corner, inglenook
    View synonyms
  • 2

    another term for apsis
    • ‘A break-down of the secular rates of motion of the lunar orbit's apse and line of nodes, taken from Brown's lunar theory, is instructive in this respect.’
    • ‘Moreover, the progression of the Moon's apse, thus determined by Newton, is but half its true amount.’
    • ‘Further, it should be stated that the assumption is negatived by the movement of the moon's apse.’


Early 19th century ( apse): from Latin apsis (see apsis).