Schematical illustration of a plan view of a cathedral, with the coloured area showing the nave.
The nave of the Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris, France
The Romanesque nave of the abbey church of Saint-Georges-de-Boscherville, Normandy, France, has a triforium passage above the aisle vaulting.

The nave /ˈneɪv/ is the central aisle of a basilica church, or the main body of a church (whether aisled or not) between its western wall and its chancel. It is the zone of a church accessible by the laity. [1]

The nave extends from the entry — which may have a separate vestibule (the narthex) — to the chancel and may be flanked by lower side-aisles [2] separated from the nave by an arcade. If the aisles are high and of a width comparable to the central nave, the structure is sometimes said to have three naves. It provides the central approach to the high altar.

The term nave is from medieval Latin navis (ship). A ship was an early Christian symbol. [3] [4] The term may also have been suggested by the keel shape of the vaulting of a church. In many Scandinavian and Baltic countries a model ship is commonly found hanging in the nave of a church, [5] and in some languages the same word means both 'nave' and 'ship', as for instance Danish skib or Swedish skepp.


A fresco showing Old St Peter's Basilica, built in the 4th century: the central area, illuminated by high windows, is flanked by aisles.

The earliest churches were built when builders were familiar with the form of the Roman basilica, a public building for business transactions. It had a wide central area, with aisles separated by columns, and with windows near the ceiling. Old St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is an early church which had this form. It was built in the 4th century on the orders of Roman emperor Constantine I, and replaced in the 16th century. [3] [6]

The nave, the main body of the building, is the section set apart for the laity, while the chancel is reserved for the clergy. In medieval churches the nave was separated from the chancel by the rood screen; these, being elaborately decorated, were notable features in European churches from the 14th to the mid-16th century. [3] [6] [7]

Medieval naves were divided into bays, the repetition of form giving an effect of great length; and the vertical element of the nave was emphasized. During the Renaissance, in place of dramatic effects there were more balanced proportions. [6]

Other Languages
العربية: صحن (كنيسة)
беларуская: Неф
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Нэф
български: Неф
brezhoneg: Nev
Deutsch: Kirchenschiff
eesti: Lööv
Esperanto: Navo
euskara: Habearte
français: Nef
Gaeilge: Corp eaglaise
한국어: 신랑
italiano: Navata
lietuvių: Nava
Limburgs: Sjeep (boew)
magyar: Főhajó
Nederlands: Schip (bouwkunst)
日本語: 身廊
norsk bokmål: Midtskip
norsk nynorsk: Kyrkjeskip
polski: Nawa
português: Nave (arquitetura)
русский: Неф
Simple English: Nave
slovenščina: Cerkvena ladja
српски / srpski: Брод (архитектура)
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Brod (arhitektura)
українська: Нава (архітектура)
West-Vlams: Middnbeuke
中文: 中殿