A pew is a long bench used for seating members of a church's congregation.

Churches were not commonly furnished with permanent pews before the coming of the Protestant Reformation. The rise of the sermon as a central act of Christian worship, especially in Protestantism, made the pew an indispensable item of church furniture. Most Orthodox churches do not have pews; they have stands instead.

In some churches, pews were installed at the expense of the congregants, and were their personal property; there was no general public seating in the church itself. In these churches, "pew deeds" recorded title to the pews, and were used to convey them. Pews were originally purchased from the church by their owners under this system, and the purchase price of the pews went to the costs of building the church. When the pews were privately owned, their owners sometimes enclosed them in "pew boxes", and the pews were frequently not of uniform construction. Conversely, some churches were fitted with uniform "box pews" throughout, while some of these may have been owned by families, or held as possessions of farms in the parish all, or others, would be available to the general congregation. The purchase or rental of pews was sometimes controversial, as in the case of B. T. Roberts.

Pews are generally made of wood and arranged in rows facing the altar in a church. This area where the congregation sits is called the nave. Usually a pathway is left between pews in the center of the sanctuary to allow for a procession; some have benchlike cushioned seating or even footrests, although more traditional, conservative churches usually have neither cushions nor footrests. Many pews have slots behind each pew; these may hold Bibles and hymnals as well as other church literature. Sometimes the church may also provide stations on certain rows that allow the hearing impaired to use headsets in order to hear the sermon. In many churches pews are permanently attached to the floor.

In churches with a tradition of public kneeling prayer, pews are usually equipped with kneelers in front of the seating bench so members of the congregation can kneel on them instead of the floor. These kneelers essentially have long, usually padded boards which run lengthwise parallel to the seating bench of the pew. These kneeler boards may be 15 cm or so wide and elevated perhaps 10-15 cm above the floor, but dimensions can vary widely. Permanently attached kneelers are often made so they can be rotated or otherwise moved up out of the way when the congregation members are not kneeling.

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Pew — Pew, n. [OE. pewe, OF. puie parapet, balustrade, balcony, fr. L. podium an elevated place, a jutty, balcony, a parapet or balcony in the circus, where the emperor and other distinguished persons sat, Gr. ?, dim. of ?, ?, foot; hence the Latin… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pew — If the Situation around you stinks, it is Pew. Mom/Dad: No, you Can t go to your friend s house. You: Oh, this is pew …   Dictionary of american slang

  • pew — If the Situation around you stinks, it is Pew. Mom/Dad: No, you Can t go to your friend s house. You: Oh, this is pew …   Dictionary of american slang

  • Pew — Pew, v. t. To furnish with pews. [R.] Ash. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pew — late 14c., raised, enclosed seat for certain worshippers (ladies, important men, etc.), from O.Fr. puie, puy balcony, elevation, from L. podia, pl. of podium elevated place, also balcony in a Roman theater (see PODIUM (Cf. podium)). Meaning fixed …   Etymology dictionary

  • pew — ► NOUN 1) (in a church) a long bench with a back. 2) Brit. informal a seat. ORIGIN originally denoting a raised, enclosed place for particular worshippers: from Old French puye balcony , from Latin podium elevated place …   English terms dictionary

  • pew — [pyo͞o] n. [ME pewe < OFr puie, balcony, balustrade < L podia, pl. of podium, balcony: see PODIUM] 1. any of the benches with a back that are fixed in rows in a church 2. any of the boxlike enclosures with seats, in some churches, for the… …   English World dictionary

  • PEW — Das Pew Forschungszentrum, engl. Pew Research Center, bis 1995 Times Mirror Center for the People the Press, ist ein Meinungsforschungsinstitut mit Sitz in Washington, D. C., benannt nach dem US amerikanischen Ölindustriellen Joseph Newton Pew… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • pew — pew1 [ pju ] noun count a long wooden seat in a church take a pew BRITISH SPOKEN used for telling someone in a friendly way to sit down with you pew pew 2 [ pju ] interjection AMERICAN SPOKEN used for saying you smell something unpleasant …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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