A hall projecting in front of the façade of a church, found from
the fifth century both in the East and the West. In western Europe
it was generally a narrow open ante-chamber with sloping roof and
closed on the smaller sides, which were probably, when connected
with the main buildings, provided with apses, as in the baptistery
of San Giovanni at Rome. In the East, especially in Syria, this
ante-chamber was given a fine façade, and was flanked by two
towers. It was also frequently closed in front in Oriental
countries and entered by one or three doors, and often had two
stories, as in the churches of Turmanin and Suweda. The purpose of
the vestibule, at least in western Europe, was not to provide a
resting-place for penitents, but to deaden the noise outside. In
medieval times Italy held firmly to the simple open chamber with
sloping roof. North of the Alps, however, the vestibule developed
into a projecting structure united with the main building,
recalling the Syrian churches. The method of construction shown in
the palace church of Charlemagne at Aachen, an ante-structure of
several stories between the two western round towers, was adopted
in the early Romanesque period, especially by the Cluniac monks.
The Romanesque architecture also made use of a covered ante-
structure placed before the west front. This style was first used
on a large scale in the cathedral at Speyer, where the vestibule
has three stories. The churches in which the main entrance was on
the side aisle had a vestibule or portico (called the "Paradise")
on the same aisle, as in the cathedrals at Münster and Paderborn.
The name "Paradise", originally given to the atrium, was given
later to the ante-chamber. In Gothic architecture the vestibule
was reduced in size, and became an ornamental baldachino-like
structure, which also served as an entrance, as in the cathedral
at Freiburg in Baden. The name "Paradise" for the vestibule
explains the festival, popular among the common people and called
the Expulsion of Adam, held at Halberstadt as early as 1391, and
which took place in the vestibule. In the Middle Ages alms were
distributed and offerings made in the vestibule. The latter was
used at times also for judicial proceedings, and in many such
ante-chambers the announcements of the standard weights and
measures were posted up, as at Freiburg in Baden the standard
weight of bread in 1270, 1317, and 1320.
In Italy the architecture of the Renaissance and of the Rococo
style held to the vestibule, which had been made sacred by
tradition. Alberti considered its use necessary on all occasions.
Even basilicas, as San Giovanni in Lateran and Santa Maria
Maggiore, received new porticoes, which in the two churches
mentioned were constructed as loggias in two stories. These
vestibules were detrimental to both churches, concealing the
façades and giving the buildings a somewhat secular appearance.
The Carmelite church at Arezzo has a vestibule with columns built
by Benedetto da Majano.
Transcribed by Michael C. Tinkler
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the
Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by
New Advent, Inc.
Taken from the New Advent Web Page (www.knight.org/advent).
This article is part of the Catholic Encyclopedia Project, an
effort aimed at placing the entire Catholic Encyclopedia 1913
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