Religion during the Medieval era
The Medieval Christian Church dominated the everyday lives of all the people. It was the age of ritualised prayer, pilgrimages, shrines, relics, religious rites, Religious Festivals, crusades and in many countries, the Inquisition. There was little choice - either adhere to the teachings of the church or be excommunicated and writhe in the fires of Hell for all eternity. The castle Chapel was one of the most important parts of the castle.
Time spent on Prayer during the Medieval era
The Medieval Christians were expected to pray four times a day. The prayer times were:
- Upon rising
- At Noon
- In the evening
- Before Bedtime
The time spent on prayers varied but could range between 5 and 30 minutes. The strict prayer requirements explain why the Chapel was built within castles. The development of a place for private prayer for the Lord and his family, the Oratory, is also explained.
Description of the Castle Chapel
The Castle Chapel was to intended for prayer and used by all members of the castle household. The Chapel was often built two stories high, with the nave divided horizontally. The Lord's family and dignitaries sat in the upper part and the servants occupied the lower part of the chapel. The chapel was probably the most elaborately furnished, rich in ornaments church plate and embroidered vestments, having glazed windows and colorful furniture. A chapel features would include a painted rood-screen and an altar chest. The Chaplain would say the Mass and lead the prayers but another important event took place in the Castle Chapel. Medieval Knights undertook a highly riualised Night Vigil in the Chapel of the Castle when they made their formal entry into Knighthood.
Location of the Castle Chapel
The Castle Chapel was usually close to the Great hall. The Chapel could, however, also be found situated behind the Gatehouse. The enemy would then be forced to fire on the Chapel as they were attacking the main entrance to the castle - God was seen as being on the side of the Defenders of the castle!
Origin, Meaning of the word 'Chapel '
The Origin and Meaning of the word 'Chapel ' derives from the Medieval Latin word 'capella' and the Old French word 'chapele' ,meaning hooded cloak. This name derives from the cloak which belonged to St Martin who was once the Bishop of Tours. The cloak was kept as a holy relic and over time the shrine where the cloak was kept took on the name of the cloak - the Chapel.