The choir, or forechoir, is the small area, usually rectangular, between the apse and the naos (see below), or area for the laity. It is the place where the clergy or choir sings the divine service; hence its name. The choir is common in Western church architecture, where it is roughly equivalent to the presbytery or chancel, the area shut off from the naos by cancelli.
In middle and late Byzantine churches, which usually have a very small apse, the choir is often provided with side conchas. The side walls may also contain passages to the pastophoria (two rooms flanking the choir). In other Eastern churches the choir is very rare. Among early Christian churches of Syria and Asia Minor it is found only in the basilica of Qalbluzy and in some centrally planned buildings such as those in Apamea and Amida (Diyarbakr). In Egypt the oldest examples derive from the eighth century—the subsidiary church of the Church of Saint Menas in Cairo, dedicated to Mar Bahnam (Grossmann, 1982, pp. 13ff.), and a building from Hilwan (Grossmann, p. 83, ill. 28). An example from Nubia is the basilica in TAMIT (Grossmann, pp. 16ff.).
- Butler, H. C. Early Churches in Syria, 2nd ed. pp. 187ff. Amsterdam, 1969.
- Grossmann, P. Mittelalterliche Langhauskuppelkirchen und verwandte Typen in Oberägypten. Glückstadt, 1982.