PORCH, originally a roofed structure, usually open at the sides, to protect the entrance of a building; loosely used of any projecting portico, or even of any colonnade, and, in America, of any roofed structure open at the sides and front, attached to a house or other building; synonymous with veranda or piazza. Thus a sleeping porch is such a structure usually opening from an upper storey, arranged for sleeping in the open air.
Of the porch proper there are few extant remains prior to the classic period, although Egyptian wall paintings seem to indicate their occasional use with houses. The most important Greek porches are those of the Tower of the Winds at Athens (1st century B.c.), in which two columns of a simple Corinthian order carried a pediment. A similar porch exists in the so-called villa of Diomed at Pompeii. Houses in Rome sometimes had long colonnades facing the street which served as porches. During the Romanesque period simple projecting porches covering the western doors of churches gradually replaced the earlier basilican colonnaded narthices. Especially interesting are the projecting porches of the Italian Romanesque, such as are found in Zeno Maggiore at Verona (12th century), in which the columns are carried on marble lions (as frequently in Lombard work) and at Modena (12th century) and Parma (13th century). In Apulia there are many similar porches of distinct Lombard character.
In France, especially in Burgundy, an even greater development of the porch occurred, in which it became a vaulted structure of great height and importance, two or more bays long, and some times as wide as the entire church. The great porch of the abbey church at Vezelay (1132-4o), sometimes termed an ante-church, is the largest and most rich. In Norman work in England church porches are more frequently at the sides of the nave than at the west end. An interesting example is that at Southwell minster (early 12th century).
The English love of picturesqueness sometimes developed the porch to such an extent that it became almost a separate building which was called a "galilee," like that at Durham (1575). Gali lees in mediaeval churches are supposed to have been used some times as a court of law, or a place where corpses were placed be fore interment, but the galilee probably served chiefly as a chapel for penitents before their admission to the body of the church.
Many fantastically rich projecting porches occur in French flam boyant churches, such as that of the church of Notre Dame at Alencon (c. 1500) ; the pentagonal porch of S. Maclou at Rouen (c. 1520) and the little side entrance of the cathedral at Albi (early 16th century).
The same richness of porch design is not found in English Gothic churches, where western doors are often small and un important ; an exception, all the more remarkable for its unique character, is the west front of Peterborough cathedral (c. 1220), in which the doors are deeply recessed within great arches, 85 ft.
high, forming a most impressive porch. The other type of porch, the small projecting gabled feature projecting from the north or south walls of the nave, was, however, highly developed through out the course of English Gothic. In small examples, in parish churches, the porches are usually of wood, with a richly decorated bargeboard, running up the gable, and often panels of intricate tracery at the sides. In the larger city churches there was fre quently a room over the porch, sometimes known as a porch chamber, and sometimes incorrectly termed a parvis (q.v.). These seem to have been used sometimes as vestries, sometimes as treasuries and sometimes as chantry chapels. Similar porches, with chambers above, occur occasionally in Tudor mansions, as in the house of Compton Winyates (c. 5520).
In Germany churches of the Flamboyant Gothic period are frequently decorated with western porches of the most fantastic richness, with a great use of cusping, pierced tracery and canopy work. Such is the double arched entrance of the cathedral at Ulm (c. 139o), by von Ensingen, and the triangular porch of the cathedral at Regensburg, by M. Roritzer (1482-86).
During the Renaissance the porch was usually treated as a portico (q.v.), but simple porches of two or four columns were exceedingly common features of the late 18th century houses of England and America. (T. F. H.)