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The first instance on record of a private chapel is that of Constantine (the prototype of the chapel royal, and of the saintes chapelles of France, viz.: at Paris, Vincennes, and St-Germain-en-Laye); the emperor had a chapel in his palace at Constantinople, and carried with him in his wars and progresses a facsimile of it in the shape of a portable tent ( Socrates, Hist. Another early example of a chapel within another building is the small one now known as the Sancta Sanctorum , in the still remaining fragment of the ancient Lateran palace.
We have also papal, royal, episcopal, votive, wayside and mortuary chapels.
It seems best for the purposes of this article, first to trace the origin and development of chapels in general, and then to deal with the different kinds, according to their special uses, and under their respective titles, in alphabetical order.
In England particularly many foundations, now parochial, were originally manorial chapels, and on the other hand the parish church was often founded independently of the manor-house, as at Deerhurst, on the Severn, where exist side by side and of the same date, both the manorial chapel and the Saxon parish church.
Some of these manorial chapels, while still remaining private property, with chaplains appointed and maintained by the lay proprietor, were given semi-parochial privileges and came to be looked upon as chapels-of-ease to the parish church, A notable example of a noble man's chapel becoming a cathedral is found at Moulins-sur-Allier, where the ancient chapel of the Dukes of Bourbon now forms the choir of the cathedral, the nave having been added by Viollet-le-Duc.
In this tent Mass was celebrated by the military chaplains ( capellani ).
When at rest in the palace the relic likewise gave its name to the oratory where it was kept, and subsequently any oratory where Mass and Divine service were celebrated was called capella , chapelle , chapel.
The Council of Agde (506) conceded to the nobles that the Mysteries might be celebrated in their oratories, except on the principal feasts, on which days they and their households must attend the parish church (cf.
below, the present legislation); otherwise the offerings of the faithful on those days would have been made in the chapel, to the detriment of the mother-church and parochial clergy.
Ordination, since the close of the age of persecutions, has never been given without a "title" or definite sphere of work and corresponding maintenance having been first secured to the ordained.
In the Council of Chalcedon were read Acts of the Constantinopolitan Council under Flavian, mentioning priests attached to martyria or suburban churches at Constantinople, and the sixth canon forbade the ordination of any save to some title, these martyria being in the list of those recognized.
The word is first found used in this sense by Marculfus (seventh century), who gives the above etymology, an explanation which has been generally accepted ever since, though Durandus ventures upon an alternative derivation, to wit, capra , because the tent above mentioned was made of goat-skins.