An "intimate" scale of architecture means a place designed to make us feel comfortable and at home. One of the things that makes a building seem "intimate" is that it isn't immense. It feels like other familiar buildings; a room in a house, a room in an office. The opposite of an "intimate" scale is a "monumental" scale. A monumental building is one that makes us gasp in awe and amazement, partly because of its huge size.
To an ordinary native English speaker, when we hear words like "church," "chapel," and "cathedral" we know they are kinds of church buildings and we don't think too much about the technical distinctions.
The same is true for "abbey" and "monastery." I know they are places, collections of buildings where religious communities live. I know that a "monastery" is male (and a "convent" is female), and that an "abbot" or "abbess" is the person who runs an abbey.
If pressed, we guess at meanings from our general knowledge. For example, I've seen St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, and of course pictures of famous cathedrals in Europe. Just recently, the Catheral of Notre Dame in Paris was in the news because of a terrible fire. So I know from my general knowledge that a "cathedral" is huge. If I need to look up the precise definition in church governance I can. Similarly, a local hospital has a little "chapel" in it, so I know that a chapel is just a small place, in this case a room decorated and designed for personal worship. If I need to know more than that, I look it up.