A hall church is a church with nave and side aisles of approximately equal height, often united under a single immense roof. The term was first coined in the mid-19th century by the pioneering German art historian Wilhelm Lübke. In contrast to a traditional basilica of the Roman Catholic Church, which lets in light through a clerestory in the upper part of the nave, a hall church is lit through windowed side walls typically spanning the full height of the interior.
This form of church construction has a long history (for example Bishop Meinwerk's Bartholomäuskapelle at Paderborn which was consecrated c.1017) but reached its height in the late Gothic period, especially in German Sondergotik, and most notably in the areas of Westphalia and upper Saxony. The design also found favour in the Angevin lands of western France (for example, Poitiers Cathedral) and a notable example in Bristol Cathedral, England. Elsewhere, one also finds the hall-church design adapted to smaller-scale projects such as chapels or retrochoirs (e.g. Salisbury Cathedral, Temple Church, London)
Some Gothic Revival churches imitate the hall church model, particularly those following German architectural precedents. One example of a neo-Gothic hall church is St. Francis de Sales Church in Saint Louis, Missouri, designed by Viktor Klutho and completed in 1908.
Munich Frauenkirche, a hall of three naves with lateral extensions
St-Wolfgang's in Schneeberg, Saxony
A completely separate 20th-century usage employs the term "hall church" to mean a multi-purpose building with moveable seats rather than pews and a chancel area which can be screened off, to allow use as a community centre during the week. This was particularly popular in Britain in inner city areas from the 1960s onwards.
Principles and variations
Some typical forms of hall churches and how to distinguish them from basilicas:
Pseudo-basilica, the central nave extends to an additional storey, but it has no upper windows.
Basilica, the central nave extends to two storeys above the lateral aisles, called gallery and clerestory.
Various floorplans of hall churches:
St. Elizabeth's Church, Marburg, cross-shaped
Lists of almost all hall churches of Europe are available in fr.Wikipedia (incomplete for Germany) and de.Wikipedia. The listed churches are identical with the national lists in Czech, Dutch (for Netherlands and Belgium), Polish, Portuguese and Spanish Wikipedias.
- Wilhelm Lübke Die mittelalterliche Kunst in Westfalen (1853)