Plan of a Western cathedral, with the narthex in the shaded area at the western end.
Floorplan of the Chora Church, showing both inner and outer narthex.

The narthex is an architectural element typical of early Christian and Byzantine basilicas and churches consisting of the entrance or lobby area, located at the west end[1] of the nave, opposite the church's main altar. Traditionally the narthex was a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper.

In early Christian churches the narthex was often divided into two distinct parts: an esonarthex (inner narthex), between the west wall and the body of the church proper, separated from the nave and aisles by a wall, arcade, colonnade, screen, or rail, and an external closed space, the exonarthex (outer narthex),[2] a court in front of the church facade delimited on all sides by a colonnade as in the first St. Peter's Basilica in Rome or in the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio in Milan. The exonarthex may have been either open or enclosed, with a door leading to the outside as in the Byzantine Chora Church.[3]

By extension, the narthex can also denote a covered porch or entrance to a building.


The word comes from narthex (Medieval Latin from Classical Greek narthex νάρθηξ[4] "giant fennel, scourge") and was the place for penitents.[5] In Modern Greek narthekas (νάρθηκας) no longer has this meaning and is either the porch of a church, as English, or the brace of a sprained wrist or sling of a broken arm. In English the narthex is now the porch outside the church at the west end, formerly it was a part of the church itself.[6]

Other Languages
беларуская: Прытвор
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Нартэкс
български: Нартекс
català: Nàrtex
čeština: Narthex
dansk: Narthex
Deutsch: Narthex
eesti: Narteks
español: Nártex
Esperanto: Nartekso
euskara: Nartex
français: Narthex
Frysk: Narteks
galego: Nártice
한국어: 배랑
Հայերեն: Նարտեքս
hrvatski: Narteks
italiano: Nartece
Latina: Narthex
latviešu: Nartekss
magyar: Narthex
македонски: Припрата
Nederlands: Narthex
日本語: 拝廊
norsk: Narthex
occitan: Nartèx
polski: Narteks
português: Nártex
русский: Притвор
slovenščina: Narteks
српски / srpski: Нартекс
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Narteks
suomi: Nartheks
svenska: Narthex
Türkçe: Narteks
українська: Нартекс