In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar, including the choir and the sanctuary, at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building. It may terminate in an apse and it is generally the area used by the clergy and choir during worship, while the congregation is in the nave. Direct access may be provided by a door, usually on the south side of the church. In smaller churches, where the altar is backed by the outside east wall and there is no distinct choir, in churches with a retroquire area behind the altar, this may only be included in the broader definition of chancel. In a cathedral or other large church there may be a choir area at the start of the chancel, before reaching the sanctuary. All these may be included in the chancel, at least in architectural terms, in churches with less traditional plans the term may not be useful in either architectural or ecclesiastical terms. The chancel may be a step or two higher than the level of the nave, and the sanctuary is often raised still further and this is an arch which separates the chancel from the nave and transept of a church. As well as the altar, the sanctuary may house a credence table, in some churches, the congregation may gather on three sides or in a semicircle around the chancel. In some churches, the pulpit and lectern may be in the chancel, the word chancel derives from the French usage of chancel from the Late Latin word cancellus. This refers to the form of rood screens. The chancel was formerly known as the presbytery, because it was reserved for the clergy, a large chancel made most sense in monasteries and cathedrals where there was a large number of singing clergy and boys from a choir school to occupy the choir. These usually sat in the nave, with any lay congregation, however the screen enjoyed a small revival in the 19th century, after the passionate urgings of Augustus Pugin, who wrote A Treatise on Chancel Screens and Rood Lofts, and others. After the Reformation Protestant churches generally moved the forward, typically to the front of the chancel. The rear of deep chancels became little used in churches surviving from the Middle Ages, with the emphasis on sermons, and their audibility, some churches simply converted their chancels to seat part of the congregation. Fleming, John, Honour, Hugh, Pevsner, Nikolaus, Dictionary of Architecture,1980, Pevsner, Nikolaus, Priscilla Metcalf, The Cathedrals of England, Southern England,1985, Viking White, James F. The Cambridge Movement, The Ecclesiologists and the Gothic Revival,1962, Wipf and Stock Publishers, ISBN1592449379,9781592449378, google books Chancel
View from the nave of the chancel of Condom Cathedral in France, with ambulatories and two altars, the modern one in the choir
A medium-sized English church showing the nave, chancel arch, and a chancel with choir and sanctuary
Plan with the broader definition of the chancel highlighted
Plan of a large Latin cross church, with the chancel (strict definition) highlighted. This chancel terminates in a semicircular sanctuary in the apse, and is separated from the curved walls to the east in the diagram by an ambulatory.