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Galleries on five levels in the Frauenkirche (Dresden)

A gallery is a raised gallery or grandstand with one long side open to a larger interior space.

Profane architecture

Gallery in the reading room of the Graz University Library

In secular buildings to find galleries especially when a continuous over several floors hall at the various levels should be made available. In library halls, galleries often take on the function of an elevated corridor from which the bookshelves on the higher floors can be reached.

In lecture halls and concert halls, galleries serve as spectator stands, which enable an additional audience to watch the lecture or performance from an elevated position. Galleries in the auditorium of a theater are often referred to as tiers . If it is divided into individual cabins that are only open to the front for a few seats, these are called boxes .

Sacred architecture

Galleries are an often used building element in Christian, Jewish and Islamic sacred buildings . They mostly serve to separate a certain group from the rest of the congregation during worship .


middle Ages

In medieval sacred architecture, galleries can be found especially in the form of the basilica , where they can occupy the space above the side aisles and under the upper aisle . One then speaks of a gallery basilica. In Romanesque and Gothic basilicas , the galleries usually open up to the central nave by means of arcades , the arches corresponding in their structure with the underlying arcatures and the arched windows of the upper aisle.

In the basilica, a distinction is made between the following types of gallery:

  • Real gallery: A fully accessible gallery above the side aisle, which opens with arcades to the central nave;
  • False gallery: the arcades visible from the central nave only open into the roof truss of the side aisle, the resulting walkway is only used for maintenance purposes;
  • Mock gallery: The arcades visible from the central nave open directly into the aisle, so it is a purely aesthetic dividing element.

In Romanesque and early Gothic church architecture, galleries above the aisles still have a static function and, instead of buttresses , serve to absorb the sideshift of the central nave vault. In this context, the accessibility plays only a minor role or (in the case of the false gallery) no role. The arcade openings of the gallery are part of the decorative structure of the nave walls. To be distinguished from the gallery is the triforium , a walkway that runs in the thickness of the central nave wall and is open to the interior.

With regard to the construction, a distinction can be made:

  • Open gallery: mounted on supports or self- supporting on the wall. Often made of wood. Often found in Saalkirchen .
  • Covered gallery: is usually located above a side aisle and is covered with its own flat ceiling or a vault. Opens to the main room with arcades or window-like wall openings.

Galleries were mainly built into the narrow western side of the nave. They served very different functions. Due to their height, separated from the main assembly area of ​​the community, but at the same time connected acoustically and visually with the main nave, they were suitable for separating certain groups of people from the rest of the community. They were often used - for example as a nun's gallery - as a separate area for women, mostly in the western part of the nave of the monastery church, and they also served as sickrooms . Also, class differences offered the opportunity of an exclusive use of the galleries by members of the upper classes. As lordship galleries , patronage boxes - in castle churches as royal or princely galleries - the galleries were reserved for the court or the nobility. They often served as a singers' gallery and later as a place of installation for the organ , organ gallery or organ stage.

Regardless of the respective use, the gallery in the Catholic church building remained an optional component that was not necessarily associated with a specific function. There are also representative church buildings (for example hall churches ) without galleries, while in other cases wooden galleries were only added later. In addition to their function as space, in vaulted basilicas they often serve the static purpose of supporting the high vaults of the central nave at the sides.

Protestant church building

In Protestant church construction, especially in the only purely Protestant form of the transverse church , the gallery developed into an almost programmatic feature soon after the Reformation. In addition to its traditional function as a rank feature, it has recently offered the congregation a more direct acoustic and visual access to the pulpit as the starting point for the preached gospel . In addition to the western gallery, which is also traditionally widespread in the Catholic area, Protestant churches often have two-sided angled, three-sided U-shaped horseshoe galleries, as well as four-sided round galleries that surround the entire nave. Partly due to a real lack of space, partly to a baroque need for representation, the creation of impressive double or multi-storey gallery constructions can be traced back, as in many Protestant transverse churches initially in southern Germany and later also in other regional churches and for example in the Silesian peace churches Jauer and Schweidnitz and the Saxon Dresden Frauenkirche (1743).

While the galleries, especially in Reformed Switzerland and other Reformed churches, did without ornamentation, those in the Lutheran churches developed a partially diverse and rich program of images. In the gallery fields there are thematically structured illustrations of biblical stories, some in connection with other church, social, Reformation-historical and moral symbolism and iconography. Biblical sayings were also a popular design motif. In addition to depictions of saints, some galleries of Catholic churches were also provided with biblical images.


Main synagogue in Frankfurt am Main, 1860, galleries for women

Galleries are also often found in synagogues , especially in the representative sacred buildings that arose in the course of the middle-class emancipated Judaism in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Examples are the New Synagogue in Berlin (1866) or the Neudeggergasse Synagogue in Vienna (1903). The galleries in the synagogues were used for traditional gender segregation during worship and were reserved for women.


Galleries are also used in interior design in mosques . Similar to the synagogues, they can create separate prayer places for women. A form characteristic of the Islamic sacred building is the dikka , a free-standing platform from which the invitation to prayer was called out or the Koran was recited.

Web links

Wiktionary: Empore  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Galleries  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilfried Koch: Architectural Style. The standard work on European architecture from antiquity to the present. Gütersloh 2009, p. 442.
  2. Marcel Aubert: High Gothic. Baden-Baden 1974, p. 219.
  3. Hans Koepf , Günther Binding : Picture Dictionary of Architecture (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 194). 4th, revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-520-19404-X , p. 153.
  5. Thiele, Klaus: The Protestant gallery pictures in the tradition of Christian art, private printing 2003.