A nave is the main area of a basilica church lying between two or more side aisles usually separated from it by rows of columns. It is higher than the aisles, the part of its walls above the aisle roof forming the clerestory. The nave extends from the west wall (the return aisle in Egyptian churches) to the transept (transverse arms) or, if there is no transept, to the triumphal arch that forms the opening to the sanctuary or apse. The east end of the nave, in front of the sanctuary, is occupied by the presbytery surrounded by cancelli. Until the eighth century, the altar stood in the presbytery, but when the khurus was interposed between the apse and the nave, the altar disappeared from the nave.
In Egyptian basilica churches the nave usually has a saddleback (pitched) roof (see below). In early Christian times some village churches with relatively narrow naves had a barrel-vault roof (see “vault” below). But vaulting was not in general use until the late Middle Ages, in churches such as those at Dayr al-Suryan and Dayr Anba Bishoi.
- Monneret de Villard, U. “La basilica cristiana in Egitto.” In Atti del IV congresso internationale di archeologia cristiana, Vol. 1. Rome, 1940.
- Orlandos, A. K. Basilik», pp. 154ff. Athens, 1952.