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Cinema has often borrowed Christian themes and stories to draw in audiences. Musicals, such as Jesus Christ Superstar, treat Jesus's story with a light touch, in contrast with more dramatic re-enactments, such as The Passion of Christ. This created controversy with its graphic portrayal of Jesus's suffering in the period before and during his Crucifixion.

Places to visit

WESTMINSTER ABBEY, LONDON This largely Gothic church, built on the scale of a cathedral, is the traditional place of coronation for English monarchs. The original Abbey was built by the saxons. Many famous people, such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Dr Johnson, lie buried within its walls.

ROSSLYN CHAPEL, EDINBURGH The 15th-century Rosslyn Chapel was originally intended as part of a larger building. A visit is a thrilling experience as almost every surface is covered in detailed carvings of biblical scenes or vivid symbolic imagery. The Chapel featured in the bestselling book The Da Vinci Code.

SKELLIG MICHAEL, COUNTY KERRY This mysterious barren rock rises 213 m (700 ft) out of the sea 13 km (8 miles) off the Irish west coast. Now a World Heritage site, during the 1st century it was home to a community of 12 monks for over 200 years until disruption by Viking raids. Today, the tiny monastery is a place of pilgrimage and can be reached by a steep stairway of 600 stone steps.

ST PETER'S BASILICA, ROME Conceived as the "greatest church in Christendom" and completed in 1590, st Peter's dominates the tiny Vatican state. Designed in the form of a cross with a huge dome over its centre, it is built on the legendary tomb of st Peter, Christ's disciple and the first pope. Many important architects and artists worked on it, including Bramante and Michelangelo, who designed the dome and painted the sistine Chapel ceiling. The world's largest church, in Yamassoukro, Ivory Coast, is modelled on st Peter's.

SANTIAGO DI COMPOSTELA CATHEDRAL santiago di Compostela in northwest spain once marked the destination of an important medieval pilgrimage route and is still walked today. A mixture of Romanesque and baroque styles, the cathedral is built over the remains of saint James, one of Christ's disciples. Those who completed the trail wore

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ABBOT/ABBESS The head of a community of monks or nuns.


ABBOT/ABBESS The head of a community of monks or nuns.

ALTAR A raised structure at the east end of a church, where bread and wine are consecrated.

ALTAR A raised structure at the east end of a church, where bread and wine are consecrated.

ANGEL A spiritual being who may act as a messenger from God or as a guardian to humans.

ANNUNCIATION An announcement specifically the announcement that Mary would bear the Son of God.

ANOINTING The act of conferring a blessing, typically by making the sign of the cross over a person's head with oil or water.

APOSTLE A missionary, a supporte^ or a person sent to spread the word of Christ; specifically, one of Jesus's 12 disciples during his lifetime.

ASPERGILLUM A small, perforated ball or brush used for Angel sprinkling holy water during church services.

ASSUMPTION The taking of a soul into Heaven. The religious holiday called the Feast of the Assumption celebrates the taking of Mary's soul into Heaven.

BAPTISM A sacrament in which holy water is used to bless a new member of the church and "wash away" his or her original sin.

BISHOP A high-ranking member of the clergy with spiritual and administrative powers over a diocese or group of churches.

CARDINAL Senior official in the Roman Catholic Church, ranking just below the pope. Duties include advising the pope and electing new popes. Most also lead a diocese or archdiocese.

CATACOMBS Underground cemeteries made up of cavelike hallways. During the 300 years after Christ's death when Christianity was illegal, many Christians used the catacombs to worship in secret.

CATHEDRAL The pricipal church of a diocese, often large and ornate. The name is derived from cathedra, which is the Latin word for "throne", or the official seat of a bishop.

CHALICE A ceremonial cup from which communion wine is taken.

CONFESSION A sacrament in which a person confesses their sins in order to be absolved or forgiven. In the Catholic tradition, a priest hears confession before granting absolution. In the Protestant tradition, the sincere act of confession through prayer is believed to achieve absolution.

COWL The hood or hooded cloak worn by a monk.

CROZIER A tall staff shaped like a shepherd's crook that symbolizes a bishop's or abbof s office.

CRUCIFIXION The act of executing a person by hanging them on a cross; specifically, Jesus's death on the cross.

DENOMINATION An organized group of Christians that adheres to a certain set of practices and beliefs.

DOGMA A decree handed down as an absolute truth from the pope.

ENCYCLICAL An official letter from the pope to all Roman Catholic bishops.

EPISTLE A letter, especially a formal or official letter.

EUCHARIST Another word for communion; the re-enactment of Chrisf s sharing of bread and wine as his body and blood at the Last Supper.

EXCOMMUNICATE To expel from membership of the Church.

GOOD SAMARITAN Like the character in Jesus's parable, someone who is willing to help another person, even if the person is an enemy or stranger.



GOSPEL One of the first four books of the New Testament, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each gospel presents the story of Jesus Christ from his birth to his death and resurrection. A gospel reading is included in most church services.

GRACE The spiritual state of being close to God; a short prayer recited before or after a meal to invoke a blessing on the food.

HABIT A nun's or monk's uniform.

HERETIC A baptized person who holds beliefs contrary to Church teachings.

HOLY ORDERS The sacrament of being ordained as a priest, nun, or other minister of the Church.

HOLY WATER Water that has been blessed by a priest for use in church services.

ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT A handwritten book whose pages are illustrated with colourful, intricate artwork, usually by scribes in a monastery.

INDULGENCE A "credit" for grace or absolution (forgiveness of sins) that was once sold to parishioners by Catholic Church officials.


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