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The English household chapel, c. 1100 - c. 1500: an institutional study

Rawlinson, Kent (2008) The English household chapel, c. 1100 - c. 1500: an institutional study. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines the English medieval household chapel. Such chapels have only been studied previously in a partial and disjointed manner, as 'private', 'domestic' or 'castle' chapels, to name some categories. Past scholarship has assumed them to be maintained in an ad hoc manner, as the extraordinary consequence of individual piety, or the desire for social display. Instead, this thesis defines, for the first time, a discrete class of chapels based upon their primary function: the religious provision of medieval lordly households. It argues that individual households were instances of a wide-ranging and well- established ecclesiastical institution: 'the household chapel'. It posits that this institution had five principal elements: a basis in canon law; systems of maintenance and regulation; personnel (household chaplains); architectural and material expressions (household-chapel buildings and furnishings); and domestic religious routines. It argues that these elements were common to most household chapels between c. 1100 and c. 1500 (up to the English Reformation).Although aspects of these elements have received scholarly attention, none has-been examined from an institutional perspective. This thesis focuses primarily upon two: the canonical basis of the household chapel; and methods of establishment, maintenance and regulation. It argues that the household chapel possessed a clear remit in canon law, which enabled the widespread and uncontentious maintenance of such chapels; and that this canonical character was shaped in parallel with that of the English parish (and in some respects pre-dated its formation). This thesis also demonstrates that household chapels were maintained in an institutional manner, by the receipt of chapel grants, episcopal licences and papal privileges. Close examination of these demonstrates that household chapels were maintained on a large scale - by the majority of greater and gentle households - throughout this period, and that this maintenance was actively facilitated and supported by the contemporary ecclesiastical hierarchy. Alongside other classes of chapel (as yet unstudied), household chapels were a ubiquitous element of the English medieval church. This examination of the canonical and regulatory foundations of the household chapel establishes a framework within which chapel buildings, chaplains and domestic religious routines may be further studied, in an interdisciplinary manner, as elements of one institution. For instance, the disposition and form of some 250-350 extant chapel buildings must be considered in light of their institutional functions. Finally, this thesis challenges the scholarly assumption that household chapels were maintained either for the spiritual satisfaction of individual lords, or as a form of social display. Rather, it argues that the household chapel, as an institution, was a necessary and ubiquitous means of enabling the orthodox religious provision of greater and gentle medieval households who could not, for a variety of reasons, be served by the medieval parish, or fully belong to its communities.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2008
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:28

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