Why are churches built in a direction?

In most major religions, the position taken in prayer and the layout of holy places is determined by a "sacred direction."

The sacred direction in Judaism is toward Jerusalem or, more precisely, toward the presence of the transcendent God - "shekinah" - in the Holy of Holies of the Temple, as seen in Daniel 6:10.

Early Christians no longer turned toward the earthly Jerusalem, but toward the new, heavenly Jerusalem. It was their firm belief that when the Risen Christ would come again in glory, he would gather his faithful to make up this heavenly city.

They saw in the rising sun a symbol of the Resurrection and of the Second Coming, and it was a matter of course for them to pray facing this direction. There is strong evidence of eastward prayer in most parts of the Christian world from the second century onward.


For this reason most churches are aligned so that the congregation is facing East when praying in the Church. However, this is not a universal requirement and many churches face other directions.