The idea behind churches facing east is rooted in the belief that the sun rises in the east and when the Messiah returns, he will come from the east. By positioning the building toward the east, churchgoers are positioned to pray toward the east.
Due to its strong connection to the sun as well as the Son, the east has become symbolic of Christ. Jesus is sometimes referenced as "the Orient," and heaven is also referenced as the east. Praying toward the east is an ancient Christian tradition mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, but the exact origin of the tradition is unknown.
In 2007, an Archaeology magazine article detailing the painstaking efforts of historian and archaeologist Ian Hinton discovered that, while all churches do face east, the degree to which they face east varies greatly. Furthermore, Hinton discovered that the farther west a church was located, the more likely it was likely to be positioned north of east. Although Hinton tried to determine a uniform reason for this, he could not. He was able to determine, however, that the degree of east to which a church faced is influenced by the day of the feast of the saint to which it is dedicated.