Leaving the Baptistery, you enter the nave, the main body of the church. The word “nave” comes from the Latin word “navis” which means, “ship.”
A ship is a symbol for the Catholic Church. In a traditional Gothic church, the interior resembles the hull of a ship, the pilgrim church moving around the world. The ceiling, made of heavy beams and timbers, represents the hull.
Standing in the nave, it becomes apparent that the church is cruciform in shape, meaning that the floor plan is in the shape of a cross. This form symbolizes the Body of Christ. As you stand in the nave, you are on axis with the altar. The altar area can be seen as the head of the body. To either side of the altar are rows of pews that would be the “cross-beam” of the cross form. These areas are the transepts. Symbolically, they are the arms of Christ. The nave, which holds the assembly of believers, is the body of Christ joined to the head. The baptistery, on axis with the altar, graphs us to the body of Christ.