What's the difference between Храм, Церковь, Собор and Часовня in the Russian culture?
Once I prepared some material for students learning the Russian language. The material was about buildings in a city. Turning over them I run into the thought that Christian buildings have different names. And how can we explain their differences to a student if most of the Russians don't even know it?
So, I had to take a little investigation, and this article is about it.
This is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow
Храм Христа́ Спаси́теля
[khram khrista spasitelya]
And this is the Church of Our Lady of the Sign in Dubrovitsi
Це́рковь Зна́мения Пресвято́й Богоро́дицы
[tserkov znamenia presvyatoy bogoroditsi]
This is St. Isaac Cathedral in Saint-Petersburg
And... this is Alexander Nevsky's chapel
You can notice that the buildings dedicated to worship have different names in Russia.
What's the difference betweenХрам, Церковь, Собор and Часовня in the Russian culture? And are there analogues in the English one?
For the Russians Храм means a building that contains an altar and where church services are offered. It is not like a temple because the Russians use the term "temple" for a building used for worship in some religions other than Christianity.
e.g. a Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh temple
an ancient Greek/Roman/Egyptian temple
We now know the reason why Храм Христа́ Спаси́теля is not a temple. But why is it Cathedral?
Храм Христа́ Спаси́теля is a popular name with the Russians though it's official name sounds as Кафедра́льный собо́рный храм Христа́ Спаси́теля [kafedralny soborny khram khrista spasitelya]. So, yes. It is the most important church in the area that a bishop controls. "Кафедра́льный собо́рный храм" = "Собор" which is translated into English as Cathedral.
Це́рковь is any Christian храм and defines not only a building, but also a group of people who come together to worship. Церковь = church.
Собо́р is a main церковь of a cloister or a town. It is possible that there are several Соборов in a city like in Moscow and St.Petersburg. "Cathedral" is the right word for this case.
Часо́вня is a little building without an alter. So, I wouldn't translate it as chapel because in the English language a chapel contains it. But this is a common version for часовня.
You won't be criticised if you name all these buildings Храм because it can be applied to all of them except Часовня.
Come to Russia and learn more interesting things about it!