PORCH (through the Fr. porche, from Lat. porticus; the Ital. equivalent is portico, corresponding to the Gr. vapdri^; Ger. Vorhalle), a covered erection forming a shelter to the entrance door of a large building. The earliest known are the two porches of the Tower of the Winds at Athens; there would seem to have been one in front of the entrance door of the villa of Diomede outside the gate at Pompeii; in Rome they were 1 It commands a fine view, and Corsica is sometimes visible, though not Sardinia, as Strabo (and following him, Lord Macaulay) erroneously state.
probably not allowed, but on either side of the entrance door of a mansion, porticoes set back behind the line of frontage were provided, according to F. Mazois, as shelters from Sun and rain for those who paid early visits before the doors were opened. In front of the early Christian basilicas was a long arcaded porch called " narthex " (q.v.) In later times porches assume two forms one the projecting erection covering the entrance at the west front of cathedrals, and divided into three or more doorways, etc., and the other a kind of covered chamber open at the ends, and having small windows at the sides as a protection from rain. These generally stand on the north or south sides of churches, though in Kent there are a few instances (as Snodland and Boxley) where they are at the west ends. Those of the Norman period generally have little projection, and are sometimes so flat as to be little more than outer dressings and hoodmoulds to the inner door. They are often richly ornamented, and, as at Southwell in England and Kelso in Scotland, have rooms over, which have been erroneously called parvises. Early English porches are much longer, and in larger buildings frequently have rooms above; the gables are generally bold and high pitched. In larger buildings also, as at Wells, St Albans, etc., the interiors are as rich in design as the exteriors. Decorated and Perpendicular porches partake of much the same characteristics, the pitch of roof, mouldings, copings, battlements, etc., being, of course, influenced by the taste of the time. The later porches have rooms over them more frequently than in earlier times; these are often approached from the lower storey by small winding stairs, and sometimes have fire-places, and are supposed to have served as vestries; and sometimes there are the remains of a piscina, and relics of altars, as if they had been used as chantry chapels. It is probable there were wooden porches at all periods, particularly in those places where stone was scarce ; but, as may be expected from their exposed position, the earliest have decayed. At Cobham, Surrey, there was one that had ranges of semicircular arches in oak at the sides, of strong Norman character. It is said there are several in which portions of Early English work are traceable, as at Chevington in Suffolk. In the Decorated and later periods, however, wooden porches are common, some plain, others with rich tracery and large boards; these frequently stand on a sort of half storey of stone work or bahut. The entrance porches at the west end of cathedrals are generally called portals, and where they assume the character of separate buildings, are designated galilees; e.g. the porticoes on the west side of the south transept of Lincoln Cathedral, and at the west end of the nave of Ely Cathedral, and the chapel at the west end of Durham Cathedral. The finest example in England of an open projected porch is that of Peterborough Cathedral, attached to the Early Norman nave.
The term " porch " is also given to the magnificent portals of the French cathedrals, where the doors are so deeply recessed as to become porches, such as those of Reims, Amiens, Chartres, Troyes, Rouen, Bourges, Paris, and Beauvais cathedrals, St Ouen, Rouen, and earlier Romanesque churches, as in St Trophime, Aries and St Gilles. Many, however, have detached porches in front of the portals, as in Notre Dame at Avigon, Chartres (north and south), Noyon, Bourges (north and south), St Vincent at Rouen, Notre Dame de Louviers, the cathedrals of Albi and Le Puy, and in Germany those of Spires and Regensburg, and the churches of St Laurence and St Sebald at Nuremberg. (R. P. S.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)