Chapter House

A chapter house or chapterhouse is a building or room attached to a cathedral or collegiate church in which meetings are held. They can also be found in medieval monasteries.

When part of a monastery, the chapter house is generally located on the eastern wing of the cloister. It comprises a large space, in order to hold all the monks of the monastery, and is often highly ornamented. In some Romanesque or Gothic monasteries, the entrance to the chapter house constitutes a veritable façade in miniature, with a door surrounded by highly decorated archivolts.

The community of monks would meet in the chapter house with the abbot to "hold chapter"; that is, to read aloud from the rule book and Bible and discuss matters concerning the monastery and its inhabitants. The meetings generally took place in the morning, after mass; the monks would sit along the length of the walls in strict age-order. At the end of the meeting the monks would publicly confess their sins or denounce others' (anonymously).

The side of the cloister on which the chapter house was located was usually the first to be constructed; it would have begun to be built shortly after the church’s frame was erected.

When attached to a cathedral, the cathedral chapter meets there. When attached to a collegiate church, the dean, prebendaries and canons of the college meet there.

Examples of chapter houses can be seen at:

  • Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze
  • Convent of the Order of Christ in Tomar
  • St Albans Abbey
  • Beauchief Abbey
  • Elgin Cathedral
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Exeter Cathedral
  • Ithaca NY
  • Gloucester Cathedral
  • Lincoln Cathedral
  • Margam Abbey
  • Rievaulx Abbey
  • Salisbury Cathedral
  • Southwell Minster
  • York Minster
  • Wąchock Abbey

Non-religious use of the chapter house design:

  • Library of Parliament, Parliament of Canada

Famous quotes containing the words chapter and/or house:

    When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.
    John Donne (c. 1572–1631)

    When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery...
    Bible: Hebrew, Deuteronomy 8:12-14.