Pews are a Heresy?

Hello Everyone!

So, I was listening to some Chant from both East and West Catholics and I found in the comment section on youtube, another “Apologetics session” (like not even close ;)) discussing the Orthodox and Catholic faiths. They were all the basic arguments and such until I saw this one post by an Orthodox brethren. He seemed ill informed about the Catholic Church but what struck me is that, while listing off all of the RC heresies, he included Pews to be a heresy. :eek: I will be honest, I didn’t see that one coming.

Now, I have seen Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic videos where the Lay faithful didn’t sit down and had no pews. And I have always wondered why.

So its a twofold question.

1.) Are pews a heresy or “modernization” of some sort?

2.) Why don’t the Orthodox and EC’s have pews?

Thanks and God Bless you all :smiley:


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To learn more about brother Dimond, his Monastery and the true teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ, then please visit or **

No, they are not a “heresy”. Use of pews would fall under regulations, not doctrines on faith or morals. Regulations can be changed; doctrines can’t.

I don’t know if there was ever a regulation banning pews in Catholic Churches or not. Nothing came up on my google search. :slight_smile:

Pews are furniture…furniture is not heresy :stuck_out_tongue:
I would, however, say that pews are a modernization and a Protestantization in that benches in church were not common until more recent times, and they are useful for Protestants, for whom the central part of worship is sitting and listening to a sermon. This doesn’t mean that they are intrinsically bad…pews, however, are certainly not necessary. For example, we couldn’t have a church without an altar or a pulpit…but pews are just a convenience.

I should also include that, while I think it could be nice to do away with them, in large part, I make use of them every time I go to church! :wink:

While this is discipline and not a matter of heresy, from the Orthodox perspective they do have a point. In their liturgy with ancient roots it has never legislated a requirement to sit during certain times. Since time immemorial the Eastern Divine Liturgy has always been celebrated with all standing reverently, sometimes making prostrations, never kneeling on Sundays because that is considered penitence rather than adoration. The presence of pews in Orthodox and Eastern Catholic parishes is a “Latinization” as they would call it, well really it is a “Protestantization” because they were the pioneers to install pews, not the Catholics. While there have been liturgical reforms and accretions and modifications along the years, the Eastern liturgies have not had the Extreme Makeover that the Roman Rite did in the 1970s.

Pews generally are a “modernization” of the 16th century, tho’ family box seats are considerably older (Going back at least to the 12th century, if not before).

It is true that most of the Eastern Churches do not have pews, and that most of their parishioners stand throughout the liturgy; no Eastern Orthodox church has declared it to be a heresy, and many have a handful of chairs available for the old and the infirm.

Further, in long services with multiple readings, it’s not that uncommon to see people drop a coat on the floor and sit during the readings and homily.

Traditional Roman praxis was, and in some places still is, the entire nave is open and seatless. Kneeling is done on the floor. Sitting is optional, and if done, is on the floor.

For what it’s worth, the church I attend has pews, but then Canada isn’t a traditionally Orthodox country.

I’m very thankful to be able to sit down during the liturgy, because I’m often tired on a Sunday morning and have on occasion felt queasy. (One time it was hot outside but the air conditioning wasn’t on in the building: I had to stay seated for something like half the liturgy to make sure I didn’t throw up/faint/etc. in the stifling atmosphere. The week after things were much better, to say the least.)

There’s no reason to be legalistic about pews. It’s better to sit down and pray/chant attentively than to stand up and be focusing on how uncomfortable one is, after all.

Yes… while pews could be found before the 12th century, the widespread use of pews were Lutheran practice form the 15th century onward - due to the long Lutheran Divine Service that included many hymns and a typically lenghty sermon. Lutheran Divine Service is typically an hour and a half long and was a change from the norm.

I’ve almost wondered if we don’t need them - the only time we sit is during the readings and sermon, otherwise we’re standing or kneeling.

We should be thankful for bench pews - in many churches in America and England, you would ‘rent’ your pew or pew-box. Wealthier people would sit closer to the altar with the poor kept well away. :eek:

As true as all this is, it is also my understanding that seats - as opposed to pews - are in fact quite ancient and very Catholic – the seats being in the form of the monastic stalls or choir. Having toured a number of the “great cathedrals of Europe,” the common pattern was that the monastic choir had pride of place in front of the sanctuary and most certainly had seating. The “great unwashed” peasants would be allowed to stand in the rear, their view of the Mass largely blocked by the choir. We have a very different understanding of the Church community today of course.

The ‘unwashed masses’ were lucky to see the elevation of the Body and Blood - typically there was a screen that separated the celebrants from the people.

Lutherans were first to remove them, followed quickly by the Catholics during the counter-reformation. Anglicans kept theirs longer.

I’m glad for them, personally, because I have arthritis in my legs!

I don’t understand. How can pews be considered a heresy and not the church building itself. If we can only use what was in the very first liturgies of the early church than wouldn’t that mean we can only have Mass in our homes? :shrug:

If pews are heresy, would that mean that those cushy seats with cup holders are apostasy?

Wow, why did we get rid of these?? I mean i realize the inconvenience to the laypeople but those are beautiful! I’ve always wondered what they were called because I have seen them in Eastern Churches. Interesting. :thumbsup:

*Just found out that it is called an Iconostasis in the East :smiley:

The west, it’s a “Rood Screen” or “Chancel Screen”… and it’s actually a late medieval addition for non-monastic non-cathedral chapels.

An altar rail is also traditional - and predates the rood screen.

One still sees Altar Screens in Southern Spain. I particuoarly recall a beautiful one in the Cathedral in Alicante, Spain. This Cathedral as late as the 1960’s had neither pews or chairs, and was packed to the rafters for Sunday Masses.


I have a thread for you: Rebuilt: The story of a Catholic parish. It’s about remaking Catholic communities into the image of Evangelical megachurches.

As someone with experience with this… don’t do it! It’s a mistake!

Some Lutherans got a bit of envy of the megachurches growth and decided to copy their techniques - and found out that the megachurches seem to only produces a ‘church’ that is a ‘mile wide and an inch deep.’

Better to have two or thee people gathered in His name, than a crowd gathered around stage.

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