AskDefine | Define chapel

Dictionary Definition



1 a place of worship that has its own altar
2 a service conducted in a chapel; "he was late for chapel" [syn: chapel service]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A place of worship, smaller than, or subordinate to a church.
  2. A place of worship in a civil institution such as an airport, prison etc.
  3. A funeral home, or a room in one for holding funeral services.






cy-mut-c apel

Extensive Definition

A chapel is a holy place or area of worship for Christians, which may be attached to an institution such as a large church, a college, a hospital, a palace, a prison or a cemetery, or may be free-standing and unattached to another building.
Architecturally, a chapel may be a part of a large church set aside for some specific use or purpose: for instance, many cathedrals and large churches have a "Lady Chapel" in the apse, dedicated to Saint Mary; parish churches may have such a "Lady Chapel" in a side aisle, or a "Blessed Sacrament Chapel" where the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist are kept between services, for the purpose of taking Holy Communion to the sick and housebound and, in some Christian traditions, for devotional purposes.
In Roman Catholic Canon Law a chapel, technically called an "oratory" is a space dedicated to the celebration of services, particularly the Mass, which is not a parish church. This may be a private chapel, for the use of one person or a select group (a bishop's private chapel, or the chapel of a convent, for instance); a semi-public oratory, which is partially available to the general public (a seminary chapel that welcomes visitors to services, for instance); or a public oratory (for instance, a hospital or university chapel).
The word chapel is in particularly common usage in England, and even more so in Wales, for many non-Anglican Protestant church buildings; and in Scotland and Ireland many ordinary Roman Catholic churches are known to locals as "the chapel".
Chapels may be non-denominational when part of a non-religious institution. However in England, where the Anglican Church is established by law, even chapels which are in use by multiple denominations or even different religions (such as hospital or prison chapels) are usually consecrated by the local Anglican bishop when constructed.


The earliest Christian places of worship are now often referred to as chapels, as they were not dedicated buildings but rather a dedicated chamber within a building, such as a room in an individual's home.
The word "chapel" is derived from a relic of Saint Martin of Tours: traditional stories about Martin relate that while he was still a soldier, he cut his military cloak in half to give part to a beggar in need. The other half he wore over his shoulders as a "small cape" (Latin capella). The beggar, the stories claim, was Christ in disguise, and Martin experienced a conversion of heart, becoming first a monk, then abbot, then bishop. This cape came into the possession of the Frankish kings, and they kept the relic with them as they did battle. The tent which kept the cape was called the capella and the priests who said daily Mass in the tent were known as the capellani. From these words we get the names "chapel" and "chaplain".
This appears as well in the Irish language in the Middle Ages, as Welsh people came with the Norman and Old English invaders to the island of Ireland. While the traditional Irish word for church was éaglais (derived from ecclesia) a new word, ceipéal (from cappella) came into usage.
In English history, "chapel" was formerly the required designation of the churches of nonconformist faiths, which is to say, any Protestant churches outside of the established Church of England. It is a word particularly associated with religious practice in Wales and rural regions of England. As a result, "chapel" is sometimes used as an adjective in the UK to describe any non-Anglican Protestant ("I'm Chapel.").

Proprietary chapels

A proprietary chapel is one that belongs to a private person. They are anomalies to the English ecclesiastical law, have no parish rights, and can be converted to other than religious purposes, but a clergyman may be licensed there. In the 19th century such proprietary chapels were common, but they had practically ceased to exist by the 20th. There is one in Avonwick in Devon, and one formerly in London was St John's Chapel, Bedford Row.

Modern usage

While the usage of the word "chapel" is not exclusively limited to Christian terminology, it is most often found in that context. Nonetheless, the word's meaning can vary by denomination, and non-denominational chapels (sometimes called "meditation rooms") can be found in many hospitals, airports, and even the United Nations headquarters.
Common uses of the word chapel today include:
  • Side Chapels - a chapel within a cathedral or larger church.
  • Lady Chapels - these are really a form of side chapel, but have been included separately as they are extremely prevalent in the Roman Catholic church and the Anglican Communion. They are dedicated to the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  • Ambassador's Chapels - originally created to allow ambassadors from Catholic countries to worship whilst on duty in Protestant countries.
  • Bishop's Chapels - in Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Law, Bishops have the right to have a chapel in their own home, even when travelling (such personal chapels may be granted only as a favor to other priests)
  • Chapels of Ease - constructed in large parishes to allow parishioners easy access to a church or chapel.
  • Summer chapels - A small church in a resort area that functions only during the summer when vacationers are present.
  • Wayside chapels - Small chapels in the countryside
Another usage of the word "chapel", peculiar to some Protestants, is to an event rather than a place. For example, some institutions of learning hold worship services that are referred to simply as "chapel," as in, "I'm going to chapel tonight."

Notable chapels

See also

  • In Britanny (France) each village even very small, has is own chapel. Nowadays, they are only in service once a year for the local "pardon" which celebrates the saint to whom the chapel is dedicated. To permit some pretty of them to be better known, in the area of Pontivy, each summer, modern art is presented in a twenty of chapels. See details on :
  • Church (building)
  • Sacri Monti
  • Corpse road


chapel in Bulgarian: Параклис
chapel in Catalan: Capella (arquitectura)
chapel in Cebuano: Chapelles
chapel in Czech: Kaple
chapel in Danish: Kapel
chapel in German: Kapelle (Kirchenbau)
chapel in Modern Greek (1453-): Παρεκκλήσιο
chapel in Spanish: Capilla
chapel in Esperanto: Kapelo
chapel in French: Chapelle
chapel in Italian: Cappella
chapel in Hebrew: קפלה
chapel in Luxembourgish: Kapell
chapel in Lithuanian: Koplyčia
chapel in Limburgan: Kapel
chapel in Hungarian: Kápolna
chapel in Dutch: Kapel (gebouw)
chapel in Japanese: チャペル
chapel in Norwegian: Kapell
chapel in Narom: Capelle
chapel in Polish: Kaplica
chapel in Portuguese: Capela
chapel in Russian: Православная часовня
chapel in Simple English: Chapel
chapel in Slovak: Kaplnka
chapel in Finnish: Kappeli
chapel in Swedish: Kapell (byggnad)
chapel in Turkish: Şapel

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Lady chapel, amphitheater, arena, assembly hall, auditorium, chantry, chapel of ease, chapel royal, concert hall, convention hall, dance hall, exhibition hall, gallery, hall, lecture hall, meetinghouse, music hall, opera house, oratorium, oratory, sacellum, sacrament chapel, sacrarium, school chapel, side chapel, stadium, theater
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