Church, in Christianity, has two basic meanings. Church is the term for a community of Christians who share a specific set of beliefs. It also means the building that Christians use for worship and other religious activities. The word church comes from the Greek kuriakon, which means of the Lord.
In the early centuries of Christianity, church meant the community of all Christians. But in 1054, a split occurred between Christians in western Europe and those in eastern Europe and western Asia. The communities in eastern Europe and western Asia became known as the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
In the 1500's, a religious movement called the Reformation divided western Christianity into the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism. The Protestants established a number of new churches-often called denominations-including the Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches.
The early Christians had no church buildings. Because they feared persecution from the Roman rulers, they met secretly in private homes or in underground passages and rooms called catacombs. Christians began building churches in the 300's, when the Roman emperor Constantine the Great ended persecution of the Christians. Since then, most churches have reflected the architecture of their time and region.
During the 300's, the basilica became the most common form of church design. The basilica was originally a large hall built by the Romans for administrative and judicial purposes. Between 1000 and 1500, Christians built numerous majestic and richly decorated cathedrals. Many churches built today combine traditional and modern architectural styles.