- This article is about an architectural feature; for the astronomical term see apsis. For the rock band, see Apse (band). Or you may mean the acronym APS.
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In architecture, the apse (Greek ἀψίς (apsis), then Latin absis: "arch, vault"; sometimes written apsis; plural apses) is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome, also known as an Exedra. In Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral and church architecture, the term is applied to a semi-circular or polygonal termination of the main building at the liturgical east end (where the altar is), regardless of the shape of the roof, which may be flat, sloping, domed, or hemispherical.
The apse is the semicircular or polygonal termination to the choir or aisles of a church. In relation to church architecture it is generally the name given to where the altar is placed or where the clergy are seated.
The domed apse became a standard part of the church plan in the early Christian era.
Related features 
The presbytery (or sanctuary), directly to the east beyond the choir is the High Altar, where there is one (compare communion table). This area is reserved for the clergy. The word derives from the Greek presbuteros meaning "elder".
In the beginning of the 13th century in France, the apses were built as radiating chapels outside the choir aisle, henceforth known as the chevet (French, "headpiece"), when the resulting structure was too complicated to be merely an "apse". Famous northern French examples of chevets are in the Gothic cathedrals of Amiens, Beauvais and Reims. Such radiating chapels are found in England in Norwich and Canterbury cathedrals, but the fully developed feature is essentially French, though the Francophile connoisseur Henry III introduced it into Westminster Abbey.
The word "ambulatory" refers to a curving aisle in the apse that passes behind the altar and choir, giving access to chapels in the chevet. An "ambulatory" ("walking space") may refer to the arcade passages that enclose a cloister in a monastery, or to other types of aisles round the edge of a church building, for example in circular churches.
See also 
- Architectural development of the eastern end of cathedrals in England and France
- Byzantine architecture
- Cathedral architecture
- Church architecture
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- T. Poole (1907). "Apse". Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
- Jane Vadnal (January 1998). "transept". Glossary of Medieval Art and Architecture. University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "Apse". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Joseph Nechvatal, "Immersive Excess in the Apse of Lascaux", Technonoetic Arts 3, no3. 2005