Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Basilica (Greek basilike, royal), originally a hall used for the sittings of the courts under the later Roman Republic and the Empire; the name has either reference to the existence of similar buildings under the Greek kings who succeeded Alexander the Great, or is derived from the official residence of the "Archon Basileus," who was judge in certain cases, at Athens. These halls were also used as business exchanges, and as promenades. After the adoption of Christianity the model they presented was followed in church building. Thus the nave, the aisles, the narthex or vestibule, and the apse are all features of the basilica at Pompeii; the latter representing the tribunal or part devoted to the judges. Twelve of the old churches of Rome are still called basilicas, that of the Lateran being the most famous, and the churches of St. Peter and of St. Paolo fuori le Mure in that city were originally of this type. Most of Sir Christopher Wren's churches are basilican in character.