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 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.").
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:
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."
|Brancacci Chapel||1386||Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, Italy|
|Cadet Chapel||1963||United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, USA|
|Contarelli Chapel||1585||San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, Italy|
|Duke Chapel||1930||Duke University, Durham, USA|
|Eton College Chapel||1440-c.1460||Eton College, Eton, Berkshire, England|
|Heinz Memorial Chapel||1938||University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA|
|King's College Chapel, Cambridge||1446||Cambridge University, Cambridge, England|
|Lee Chapel||1867||Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, USA|
|Magi Chapel||1459-1461||Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence, Italy|
|Medici Chapels||16th-17th centuries||Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy|
|Naval Academy Chapel||1908||United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, USA|
|Niccoline Chapel||1447-1449||Vatican Palace, Vatican City|
|Palatine Chapel||786||Aachen Cathedral, Aachen, Germany|
|Palatine Chapel||1132||Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo, Sicily, Italy|
|Pauline Chapel||1540||Vatican Palace, Vatican City|
|Pettit Memorial Chapel||1907||Belvidere, Illinois, United States|
|Queen's Chapel||1623||London, England|
|Rosslyn Chapel||1440||Roslin, Scotland|
|Rothko Chapel||1964||Houston, USA|
|Sainte-Chapelle||1246||Ile de la Cité, Paris, France|
|Sassetti Chapel||1470||Santa Trinita, Florence|
|Sistine Chapel||1473||Apostolic Palace, Vatican City|
|St. George’s Chapel||1348||Windsor Castle, England|
|St. Joan of Arc Chapel||15th century||Relocated to Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA|
|St. Paul's Chapel||1766||New York, USA|
|LLandaff Oratory||1925||Van Reenen, South Africa|
|Chapelle du Saint-Marie du Rosaire||1949||Vence, France|
|Theodelinda Chapel||15th century||Monza Cathedral, Italy|
|Thorncrown Chapel||1980||Eureka Springs, USA|