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Chapel (Lat. capella; Fr. chapelle).—When St. Martin divided his military cloak (cappa) and gave half to the beggar at the gate of Amiens, he wrapped the other half round his shoulders, thus making of it a cape (capella). This cape, or its representative, was afterwards preserved as a relic and accompanied the Frankish kings in their wars, and the tent which sheltered it became known also as cappella or capella. In this tent Mass was celebrated by the military chaplains (capellani). When at rest in the palace the relic likewise gave its name to the oratory where it was kept, and subsequently any oratory where Mass and Divine service were celebrated was called capella, chapelle, chapel. The word is first found used in this sense by Marculfus (seventh century), who gives the above etymology, an explanation which has been generally accepted ever since, though Durandus ventures upon an alternative derivation, to wit, capra, because the tent above mentioned was made of goat-skins. Another, but improbable, derivation is capella, a domical or cup-shaped monument (see Cupola). The canopy over an altar was also at one time called a capella. In ecclesiastical documents the main sanctuary of a church is often termed the capella major, to distinguish it from the side-altars (cf. St. Charles Borromeo’s “Instructions”). In Spain the sanctuary containing the high altar is to this day called the capilla mayor. The thing is, however, much more ancient than the name, and Thomassin quotes numerous early references to oratoria, sacella, and eukt?ria. In dealing with the subject a large number of different kinds of chapels are to be considered, which vary according to their connection with, or dependence upon, other buildings, or to the specific uses to which they were put. Thus we have chapels which structurally form part of a larger church, those which are included within other buildings not churches, and those which are entirely separate and detached. We have also papal, royal, episcopal, votive, wayside and mortuary chapels. It seems best for the purposes of this article, first to trace the origin and development of chapels in general, and then to deal with the different kinds, according to their special uses, and under their respective titles, in alphabetical order.


—The earliest places of Christian worship may be called chapels, inasmuch as they were informal churches, i.e. a chamber in a house, or the atrium and tablinum of the house adapted for the purpose; but the earliest oratories or chapels, as distinct from the buildings where the bishop and presbytery presided over the regular assemblies of Christians, were probably martyrs’ memorials. Thus, the Council of Gangra (350) censures desecrators of the sepulchra martyrum and of the synaxes, sacrifices, and memorials celebrated therein. The Fifth Council of Carthage (400) orders the bishops to raze all unauthorized altars and martyrs’ monuments erected in the open fields or at the roadside unless authenticated. The first instance on record of a private chapel is that of Constantine (the prototype of the chapel royal, and of the saintes chapelles of France, viz.: at Paris, Vincennes, and St-Germain-en-Laye); the emperor had a chapel in his palace at Constantinople, and carried with him in his wars and progresses a facsimile of it in the shape of a portable tent (Socrates, Hist. eccl., I, xiv). Another early example of a chapel within another building is the small one now known as the Sancta Sanctorum, in the still remaining fragment of the ancient Lateran palace. It was the private chapel of the popes and existed as early as 583, when Pelagius II placed certain relics in it (MSS. Bibl. Vat., in Baronius). The private chapel also of the archbishops of Ravenna, in their palace there, is still to be seen; it was built, or at least decorated, by Archbishop Peter Chrysologus about 430. Instances are extant of the original meeting-places of Christians being preserved under the level of the subsequent church, the soil having risen in the course of ages. Thus, under the lower church of San Clemente at Rome is a chamber, at present inaccessible, that may have been part of the house of Clemens. Under the existing church of St-Gervais at Rouen is a third or early fourth-century chamber which is now a crypt. Under the high altar of Chartres cathedral is the chapel of St-Lubin, bounded on the west by a piece of the Gallo-Roman wall of the fortress of the Carnutenses, and here, it is believed, the first Christians of Chartres, who were allowed to erect a chapel against the wall itself, worshipped. Other examples occur at Sens (St-Savinien), Creteil, Etampes (Notre-Dame), Hexham and Ripon.

The spread of Christianity from the cities into the country must have early occasioned the erection of oratories and chapels for the use of believers living at a distance from the bishop’s church. St. Chrysostorn (Horn. xviii in Act.) exhorts nobles and rich men to build chapels in their country homes and to employ priests, deacons, and other clerks to offer there, on Sundays, the Unbloody Sacrifice, on weekdays, to celebrate the morning and evening Offices, and to bless the table, and teach the children and servants on the estate. The prohibition by the Council of Laodicea (c. 350) of the celebration of the liturgy in private houses is considered by Thomassin to refer only to the cities where regular churches already existed. This freedom in the erection of chapels had soon to be restricted. There being as yet no parochial system, as now understood, it became necessary to safeguard the jurisdiction of the city-bishop throughout the circumscription of influence and activity recognized as belonging to the cathedral or mother-church. Justinian (Novel. lviii) made private oratories illegal, save for simple prayer; if such chapels were separate from the dwelling, the bishop might permit service to be held there, but clerks were not to be ordained to these as “titles”. Apparently this edict was ignored, for the Quinisext Council of Constantinople (692) decrees that clerks who in oratories within houses celebrate Mass or baptize must submit to the judgment of the bishop in each case (can. xxxi). The fifty-ninth canon of the same council positively forbids baptism in such chapels. Ordination, since the close of the age of persecutions, has never been given without a “title” or definite sphere of work and corresponding maintenance having been first secured to the ordained. In the Council of Chalcedon were read Acts of the Constantinopolitan Council under Flavian, mentioning priests attached to martyria or suburban churches at Constantinople, and the sixth canon forbade the ordination of any save to some title, these martyria being in the list of those recognized. In the West the same enactment was repeated by the seventh canon of the Fourth Council of Arles (524).

The royal example was soon followed by the nobles, over whose chapels the bishops were constantly asserting and enforcing their jurisdiction and safeguarding the interests of the parochia or mother-church. The Council of Agde (506) conceded to the nobles that the Mysteries might be celebrated in their oratories, except on the principal feasts, on which days they and their households must attend the parish church (cf. below, the present legislation); otherwise the offerings of the faithful on those days would have been made in the chapel, to the detriment of the mother-church and parochial clergy. Charlemagne, as head of the revived Empire of the West, followed his imperial predecessors in legislating for the Church, or rather in giving imperial sanction to needful reforms in the Church. “It hath pleased us”, he says in his Capitularies (V, clxxxii), “that neither in our palace nor elsewhere shall a chapel be set up without permission of the bishop in whose diocese (parochia) it is”; and (V, ccxxx), “Those who have oratories in their houses may pray there, but may not have Masses celebrated without permission of the bishop”. And Thomassin quotes, as proceeding from a Gallican council of this time, a canon to the effect that on Sundays and feasts all shall come to the church and none shall invite priests to celebrate Mass in their houses. In course of time many chapels, both those set up by nobles, and those furnished by the ecclesiastical authority, became regular parish churches. In England particularly many foundations, now parochial, were originally manorial chapels, and on the other hand the parish church was often founded independently of the manor-house, as at Deerhurst, on the Severn, where exist side by side and of the same date, both the manorial chapel and the Saxon parish church. Some of these manorial chapels, while still remaining private property, with chaplains appointed and maintained by the lay proprietor, were given semi-parochial privileges and came to be looked upon as chapels-of-ease to the parish church. A notable example of a nobleman’s chapel becoming a cathedral is found at Moulins-sur-Alher, where the ancient chapel of the Dukes of Bourbon now forms the choir of the cathedral, the nave having been added by Viollet-le-Duc. Other buildings such as court-houses, hospitals, and of course all religious houses and their granges, had chapels attached to them in medieval times; but, from the very first, except in the case of exempt monasteries and their dependencies, the appointment of priests to serve such chapels was always subject to the control of the bishop, which remains the law of the Church to this day.


A. Chapels within a larger Church

—Under this head must be included Lady chapels, side-chapels, ante-chapels, etc., attached to, or under the roof of a larger church. Chantry chapels will be treated in a separate section. The earliest form, perhaps, of the subsidiary chapel within a larger church, is to be seen in the parallel apses which in some ancient churches flank the great apse or main sanctuary. These originated in the East, where, however, they served as sacristies or the like. The Oriental Rites, unlike the Roman, have always had a preliminary offertory or prothesis at which the oblations are handled before Mass. This ceremony, at first performed at the altar itself, was in some rites (notably the Byzantine) elaborated into a preliminary offering at a subsidiary altar or “table of prothesis”, the prepared oblations being solemnly conveyed to the main altar in the course of the actual liturgy. The northern apse or chapel became the place of prothesis, and the other remained a sacristy or diaconicon. Although the architectural feature of parallel apses was early introduced into the West, they had no effect upon the rite in places where the Roman Liturgy was in use, but remained at first mere sacristies. In France and Spain, where the Gallican Rite prevailed, they would doubtless be used in the Oriental way. Paulinus of Nola, in the fifth century (Ep., xxxii), speaks of two chambers, possibly apses, flanking the altar of his church whereof the right-hand one was a sacristy and the other a library or place of retirement for prayer. In the ninth century the Roman church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin was altered for the use of the Orientals by the addition of side apses, and the well-known basilica of Torcello was similarly furnished at about the same time. If the word chapel includes places set apart for prayer as well as those for the celebration of the liturgy, these examples must be considered as rightly coming under this division of the subject. The same must be said also of the apartments opening out from the naves of the churches of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and Santa Balbina, both at Rome and dating probably from the fifth century. Similar chapels existed in the ninth-century churches of Santa Christina at Pola de Lena and Santa Maria de Naranco, both near Oviedo in Spain. All these examples and many others that might be enumerated differed only from the side-chapels of later ages in having no altars. The ancient discipline of “one altar in one church” has always been preserved in the East, at least in theory, though an exception to its corollary “one Mass at one altar” must be made in the case of Jerusalem, where in the fourth century Mass was offered twice on the Calvary altar on Maundy Thursday, and twice in the Anastasis on Easter Day. The Gallican Rite required this latter restriction; thus, in a synod of Auxerre, it is decreed that two Masses must not be said at one altar on the same day, and, moreover, that no presbyter may celebrate at an altar which had that day been used by the bishop. Also, for many centuries, the Ambrosian Rite preserved the same theory and it was for one altar only that Milan cathedral was designed. But when the members of the priesthood, instead of concelebrating with the bishop in the basilica, began each to say his own Mass, a plurality of altars became a necessity if the ancient rule of “one Mass at one altar” was to be kept. In the East, where the matter was not of great urgency, as individual Masses remained the exception, the subsidiary altar, if required, was enclosed in a chapel forming a complete though miniature church. The Blazhenny church in Moscow, which contains eight complete and enclosed chapels grouped round a central one, is probably an extreme example. In churches subject to Celtic rule a group of separate chapels was sometimes formed, e.g. the Seven Churches at Glendalough, Ireland, the Ten Churches of Twineham, in England (remaining as late as the eleventh century), and the marvellous group of sanctuaries at Rocamadour, in France, a famous place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages and probably an isolated survival of the Celtic plan. In churches of the Roman Rite altars were simply set up in any convenient part of the church, although, in the Middle Ages, they were partly screened off. An extreme example of this may be seen in the well-known plan, never carried out, for the abbey church of St. Gall (ninth century), which is so filled up with enclosed altars that congregational worship would have been impossible. In existing churches the parallel apses at once suggested a pair of chapels, and those which lacked this feature were sometimes altered accordingly. In others, smaller apses were often built out from the main apse; the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem seems to have been thus treated in the tenth century, if not earlier, and other chapels were added to the original plan. The sanctuary or “station” on the site of the Crucifixion, which stood between the Holy Sepulchre and the basilica of the Holy Cross, may be taken as an early example of a chapel within a church, for although it was originally in the open air and not included under the roof of the church, as at present, it was used daily in the fourth century after the morning and evening Offices in the Sepulchre church (Anastasis) and had an altar on which the Holy Oblation was offered on Maundy Thursday and the True Cross exhibited on Good Friday (Peregrinatio ad Loco. Sancta, ed. Gamurrini, Rome, 1888).

As access to the chapels radiating from the main apse was inconvenient, later builders devised the ambulatory, or passage behind the apse proper and connecting all the apsidal chapels with the “procession path”. This was an important innovation destined to revolutionize the plan of most large churches; it issued at length in the chevet, or crown of chapels, a design which found favor in most European countries, but was nowhere carried to the height of beauty and elaboration that it realized in France. The basilica of St-Martin at Tours is considered to have been the common source from which most examples of this idea were copied, none of them being older than about 900. They were comparatively rare in England, owing to the prevalent square east-end, but there are beautiful examples, as at Westminster, Norwich, and Peterborough. The transept, eastern or western, also invited the formation of chapels, and this position is almost universal in the great Norman cross-churches. It was used in preference to the chevet plan in England, where the transept was a more frequent and more developed feature than elsewhere; for while in continental churches the need for increased chapel space was supplied by utilizing the intervals between buttresses (first at Notre-Dame, Paris, in 1290), the English preferred to form extra chapels along the east wall of the transept, and even to lengthen or rebuild the transept for that purpose, their buttresses being as a rule too shallow to afford the space required. At Gloucester there are three stories of chapels, one above the other, the crypt and the triforium containing altars exactly corresponding with those of the ground level. Where the buttresses were interior, as at Albi, the church was from the out-set provided with a series of chapels, sometimes in two stories, along its whole perimeter.

The dedication of the chevet chapels to important saints led naturally to the easternmost being assigned to Our Lady. In France this chapel is frequently somewhat larger than the rest, as at Bayeux, Reims, Sect, and Troyes; much larger at Amiens and Le Mans; and very much larger at Rouen (both in the cathedral and in the abbey church of St. Ouen) and Coutances. The number of the chevet chapels varies from three at St-Etienne of Nevers to the magnificent sweep of thirteen which are the glory of Le Mans. Langres is singular, for so large a church, in having but one such chapel, and Sens seems to have had originally one circular chapel at the east end, like “Becket’s Crown” at Canterbury. It was in the Lady chapel towards the close of the Middle Ages, that innovations in church music were allowed, only the strict chant being heard in the choir. At Gloucester the Lady chapel is furnished with two galleries (with chantry chapels below) for the singing of “prick-song”; each is provided with a broad stone desk for the necessary books, thus differing from the choir where such accommodation was unusual and unnecessary, but few books being used there except on the lectern.

Reference may here be made to Galilees and ante-chapels, which sometimes contained altars and were used for liturgical purposes. They usually take the form of an enlarged western entrance or narthex. Those of St-Front (Perigueux), Romain-Moutier, and, Jumieges are early examples, while those at Vezelay and Cluny are conspicuous for their size. The finest example in England is that at Durham (really the Lady chapel), and there is a smaller one at Ely. At Lincoln there is a Galilee on the western side of the south transept. Two parochial Galilees exist in Norwich, at St. Peter Mancroft and St. John Madder-market, both being the ground story of the western tower. In most of the medieval college chapels of Oxford and Cambridge, what is usually called the ante-chapel is really only the space outside the entrance to the choir, occupied nowadays at service time by those who are not members of the college. Baptisteries were often built in the form of chapels, and either contained altars or had chapels with altars opening out of them, as in the Lateran basilica (fourth century).

B. Ambassadors’ Chapels

—The use of a private chapel for the ambassadors of a Catholic country at a Protestant Court, and vice versa, has frequently been allowed as a matter of courtesy, though not of strict right according to international law. In England, even at a time when the exercise of the Catholic religion was proscribed by the penal laws, Catholic ambassadors were permitted to have such chapels attached to their embassies. The Sardinian, Neapolitan, Venetian, Bavarian, Portuguese, and Spanish ambassadors were thus favored, all having their private chapels in London. The Sardinian (erected 1648), Bavarian (1747), and Spanish (1742) chapels were even opened to the public and became eventually ordinary parochial churches. The two former still exist, while the latter was replaced (1890) by a handsome church.

C. Bishops’ Chapels

—The bishop’s chapel was, at first, nothing less than the basilica or cathedral where he was accustomed to preside with his presbytery, but the feudalization of the bishop and the installation in cathedrals of choirs of monks or canons, under an ordinary superior of their own, made it necessary that the bishop should possess a separate private chapel. Of these episcopal chapels there remain many beautiful examples, of which that at Reims is one of the finest. Another deserving of mention is that which was formerly attached to the London residence of the bishops of Ely, dedicated to St. Etheldreda. It was built in 1290; though dismantled at the Reformation, it was for a short period during the Stuart times refitted and lent for the use of the Spanish ambassador. Afterwards it passed into the hands of a Welsh Protestant congregation, from whom it was bought by the Fathers of Charity in 1876, and reopened by them for Catholic worship. In the Middle Ages the chapel, whether of the bishop or of the noble, often signified his whole maison ecclesiastique (see section, Papal Chapel), i.e. his chaplains, clerks, choristers and the ecclesiastical furniture, which accompanied him from place to place. All bishops have the right to a private chapel in their houses, and they retain this right even when travelling.

D. Cemetery or Mortuary Chapels

—These are of very early origin, whether special, as at the burial-place of a martyr, or general, as in the common resting-places of the faithful. The Roman catacombs furnish many examples of both kinds. After the days of persecution, Christians were able to worship at the resting-places of the dead without secrecy or fear of profanation, and thus the cemetery and mortuary chapels of the Middle Ages arose. Two of the most curious are: that at Sarlat, in the Dordogne, which is a conical structure some forty feet high, containing a circular mortuary chapel on the ground-floor and towards the top a pharos or lantern, and that at Avioth (Meuse), containing an open sanctuary supported by columns and a glazed lantern above. The former is of the twelfth and the latter of the fifteenth century. Magnificent chapels were often built to serve as the burial-places of kings and other great men. Becket’s Crown, at Canterbury, and Henry the Seventh’s chapel at Westminster, are examples, as also is the circular chapel containing the tomb of King Emmanuel of Portugal, in the Abbey of Batalha. The most famous of all, perhaps, is the Cathedral of Aachen, which enshrines the tomb of Charlemagne.

E. Chantry Chapels

—These differ from other interior chapels only in being erected and endowed for the celebration of Masses of requiem, in perpetuity, for some individual soul, generally that of the founder himself. Special priests were usually appointed to serve them, and were called “chantry priests”. It was not until the thirteenth century that such chapels became common, and by that time, most of the available space in the churches had been already occupied, hence we find chantry chapels stowed away in corners and odd places. Being intended for private, not public, Masses, they were frequently smaller than other chapels. Vacant spaces in aisles and transepts, or, as in many larger churches, between the pillars of the nave, lent themselves to their accommodation, though sometimes they were distinct buildings annexed to the church. Whenever possible they were placed near the tomb of their founder, and very often such tombs were either enclosed within the chapel itself or actually adjoined it. Like other chapels they were invariably screened off from the rest of the church; wooden screen-work was perhaps the more common, but some notable examples still exist in England of chantry chapels, like miniature sanctuaries, screened and vaulted in stone and of surpassing beauty. Such are Prince Arthur’s chantry at Worcester, the Founder’s chapel at Tewkesbury, the chantries of William of Wykeham and Cardinal Beaufort at Winchester, and those of Bishop Bubwith and Dean Sugar at Wells. Sometimes the chapel was placed above the tomb and reached by a winding staircase, as at Christ Church, Oxford, in what is commonly but wrongly called “St. Frideswide’s Shrine”. Chantries were also sometimes built and maintained by a local guild, such as the Guild of the Holy Ghost at Beccles, and the Palmers’ Guild at Ludlow. Strictly speaking, the chantry is the endowment, and in some cases it was attached to an existing chapel in which other Masses were commonly celebrated. (See Chantry.)

F. Charnel Chapels and Charnel-houses

—These were in the same class as cemetery chapels and consisted generally of a vault or chamber in which were deposited the bones displaced in the digging of graves, with a chapel adjoining or, more usually, above. Brittany abounds in such chapels, of which Viollet-le-Duc gives two curious examples, at Fleurance and Faouet. In England there were specimens at Worcester, Norwich, Old St. Paul’s (London), Bury St. Edmunds, Grantham, Stratford-on-Avon, and many other places. That at Norwich, a detached building to the west of the cathedral, now used as a grammar-school, is perhaps the most perfect example still standing.

G. Chapels of Ease

—These were separate buildings, churches in everything but name, built in remote portions of large parishes and so called because they were intended to ease the parish church and the parishioners living at a distance from it. Clergy appointed for the purpose served them as vicars of the parish priest. These chapels were not formerly allowed to contain a font or have a cemetery adjoining them, but in later times both these privileges were often conceded, and many such chapels have since become independent of the mother-church.

H. Gatehouse Chapels

—The enclosure wall of most medieval monasteries was entered through a gate-house, many of which contained chapels. In England such chapels existed at Furness, Evesham, Llanthony, Mailing, Merivale, and Bury St. Edmunds. Similar chapels were to be found also in the gate-houses of many walled towns. The “Hanging Chapel” of Langport, Somerset, is a fine example.

I. Papal Chapels

—Technically the Capella Papale signifies the entire staff of dignitaries and officials privileged to assist at one of the greater papal functions, and includes the College of Cardinals, the patriarchs, assistants at the pontifical throne, Apostolic prothonotaries, domestic prelates, private chamberlains, chaplains, heads and procurators of religious orders, papal choristers, and a host of other officials such as the vice-chamberlain of the Roman Church, the majordomo, the prelates of the Rota, etc., who rank as members of the pope’s household. Regarded in this sense, the papal chapel originated on the removal of the papal court from Rome in 1305, when the traditional feasts and ceremonies celebrated formerly in the different basilicas of Rome were transferred to the Palatine chapel of Avignon. On the return to Rome in 1377, the popes continued, for various reasons, to perform these ceremonies in a private chapel instead of in the basilicas. Nicholas V built a chapel in the Vatican for the purpose, which was demolished by, Paul III to make room for the Pauline chapel erected by him. The other chapel in the Vatican, now used for most of the important papal functions, is the Sistine, built by Sixtus IV in 1473. It is noted no less for its famous choir than for the paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo and others which adorn its walls and ceiling. Since 1870 the number of days on which the full capella assists the pope has been greatly curtailed. Formerly there were thirty-two such days in the course of the year; now they are not more than half a dozen. These are the anniversary of the coronation of the reigning pontiff, the requiem for his immediate predecessor, and the public consistories. To them are occasionally added such special ceremonies as jubilee Masses and the canonization of new saints, the latter functions often taking place in St. Peter’s instead of the Sistine chapel. With regard to the term “papal chapel”, taken in its untechnical meaning, such chapels would seem to correspond more or less with other private chapels, like those of bishops or reigning sovereigns. One of the earliest of these existed in the Lateran palace in the fourth century, and since that time the pope’s place of residence has always contained a private chapel for his own use. One is that in the villa of Innocent VIII (now the Belvedere), which that pope built in the Vatican gardens in the fifteenth century; that in the Quirinal during the time that it was a papal residence; that in the Castel Gandolfo, the former summer residence of the popes; and the small chapel in the Vatican, adjoining the pope’s private apartments, where the Holy Father says his daily Mass. The last-named is the only one that is now in regular use, and it differs in no way from any other private chapel.

J. Chapels of Repose

—According to the old English Rite it was. the custom in medieval times, on the afternoon of Good Friday, to deposit one of the Hosts consecrated on Maundy Thursday, together with the cross that had been used in the morning office (see Caoss), in what was called the Easter sepulchre or chapel of repose, and to bring them forth again on Easter morning with solemn chant and ceremony, thus symbolizing the burial of Christ’s Body in the sepulchre and its resurrection therefrom. The usual position for the Easter sepulchre was in a niche on the north side of the sanctuary, and the sepulchre itself was commonly a movable wooden structure erected year by year for the purpose. Among the entries in the old churchwarden’s accounts still extant, none occurs with more frequent regularity than that of the payment made for putting up and taking down the Easter sepulchre. In some instances it was a permanent stone structure, and among the few examples still existing the best known is that in the church of Arnold (Nottinghamshire). In the Roman Rite the term “chapel of repose” is applied to the altar or chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is solemnly reserved between the Mass of Maundy Thursday and the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday. (See Holy Week.)

K. Royal Chapels

—It has always been the privilege of royal palaces, in Protestant as well as Catholic countries, to possess private chapels for the use of the Court. That of Constantine has already been mentioned. Chapels royal have often been merely apartments in the palace itself, but sometimes separate buildings have, been specially erected for the purpose. St. George’s, Windsor, and La Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, are noteworthy examples of the latter class. The last-named beautiful building is perhaps the most famous of all royal chapels. It was built in 1248 by St. Louis of France to house the relic of the Crown of Thorns which he had obtained from Constantinople, and it adjoined his palace of La Cite. The architect was Pierre de Montereau, whose wonderful creation is still one of the most admired and most imitated buildings of its kind in the world. In the lower story was a chapel for the palace servants and above was the royal chapel proper, with its sumptuous shrine. It was, of course, desecrated at the Revolution, but became once more a chapel royal for a short time under Louis Philippe. Since then it has, until recently, been used only once a year, for a “Red Mass” said at the opening of the law courts hard by. It is now merely a national monument. Of English chapels royal, besides St. George’s, Windsor, already mentioned, those of St. James and the Savoy date from Catholic times. The latter was rebuilt by Henry VII on the site of the old Savoy Palace. From 1564 to 1717 it was used as a parish church and only became a chapel royal in 1773. Besides this and the chapel in St. James’s Palace, there is also a Protestant chapel royal in the palace of Hampton Court. In the seventeenth century the presence in England of the Catholic consorts of three of the Stuart kings brought about the existence of Catholic chapels royal in London during a period of about eighty years, One was built at St. James’s in 1625 for the use of Henrietta Maria, consort of Charles I, and her retinue, which was used occasionally up to 1642. It was reopened in 1662 for Queen Catherine of Braganza, Charles the Second’s consort, but closed again in 1671 when she removed her court to Somerset House. Under James II it once more served for Catholic worship, from 1685 to 1688, since which date it has been assigned to the use of the Lutheran members of the Court and is now known as the “German chapel” At Somerset House a new Catholic chapel was built for Queen Henrietta Maria in 1636, which was in use until 1642, and again from 1662 until her death in 1669. When Queen Catherine removed her court hither from St. James’s in 1671, it was reopened for Catholic worship and so continued until her death in 1705, when it passed into the hands of the Protestant Government. There was also a Catholic oratory at Whitehall, used occasionally up to 1642 when Queen Henrietta Maria was resident there, and in 1687 James II opened a new chapel in the same palace, which was closed again the following year. In Scotland the chapel royal was originally located in Stirling Castle, but was transferred to Holyrood by Queen Mary in 1542. At the Reformation it was used for a time as a Protestant parish church, but again became a Catholic chapel royal in 1687 under James II (James VII of Scotland). After his flight to France in 1688, it was plundered and partially destroyed by fire. It was subsequently reroofed, but since 1768 it has been in a state of ruin.

L. Ship Chapels

—Thomassin mentions a few examples, the best known being that of St. Louis, who was allowed to carry the Blessed Sacrament on board ship and to have Mass, without consecration, celebrated before It, the rolling and tossing of the vessel being considered prohibitive of the full ceremonial.

M. Votive, Wayside, and Bridge Chapels

—The Middle Ages furnish numerous examples of votive chapels, erected by the devotion of private persons, often to commemorate some special event or to enshrine some valued relic. Among these may be classed many of the famous places of pilgrimage, both in England and elsewhere. Akin to these are the wayside and bridge chapels which testify to the piety of the times. Existing examples of the latter are to be seen at Pisa, Avignon, Wakefield, Rotherham, Bradford-on-Avon, and St. Ives, while a century ago the remains of such buildings still stood at Rochester, York, Bath, and London. (See Bridge-Building Brotherhood.) Wayside chapels, intended for the use of travellers, were often to be found on the way leading to some pilgrimage shrine. The “Slipper Chapel”, in Norfolk, is a well-preserved example, formerly used by the pilgrims going to the celebrated shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. It has in recent years been restored and once more placed in Catholic hands.


—The present-day law of the Church, while placing no restriction on the erection of chapels that form part of a larger church, lays down very definite regulations respecting any that belong to the category of private chapels. This applies, however, only to those intended for the celebration of Mass; there is no restriction whatever as regards the setting apart of a particular chamber in a private house merely for purposes of private prayer and devotion. But for a chapel in which Mass is to be said, canon law legislates very strictly. Cardinals, bishops (even titular), and regular prelates, are allowed the use of a private chapel by right; for all others a special indult is required. The ordinary of the diocese can give the necessary permission for the chapel or oratory of an institution such as a religious house, an orphanage, hospital, workhouse, or prison, such chapels being usually public or semi-public. But for a strictly private chapel in a private house, intended only for the convenience of the inmates of the house, a papal indult must be obtained, and such indults are only granted for sufficient reasons, e.g. distance from a church, permanent ill-health of a member of the household, etc. With regard to the fulfilment of the obligation of hearing Mass in such private oratories, the ancient law of the Church was that the obligation could only be satisfied by attendance at the parish church. The Council of Trent somewhat modified this rule and since then theologians have differed as to what was the exact law. To settle the matter, Leo XIII, in 1899 (S. R. C. no. 4007), decided that (I) the obligation can be satisfied by any one in all public or semi-public chapels to which the faithful have access; but (2) it cannot ordinarily be satisfied in a strictly private chapel by any persons other than those for whose convenience the chapel exists. This rule, in practice, is capable of a somewhat wide interpretation, and the indult by which the permission for the chapel is granted usually extends the privilege to various other persons, e.g. relations, guests, servants, etc. All places of worship in England belonging to Catholics, like those of other religious bodies outside the Established Church, were formerly termed “chapels.”


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