Chapter House

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Chapter house of the Cistercian Abbey of Zwettl Monastery
Chapter house of the Cistercian Abbey of Marienstern

The chapter house - briefly the chapter , sometimes also chapter house - is the meeting place of a monastic community . The assembly room of a cathedral chapter and a collegiate monastery is also known as the chapter hall. The chapter house is often located in the east wing of the enclosure and can be reached from the cloister .


The term is derived from the custom of monastic communities and secular clergy living together to begin their meetings with a spiritual reading of a chapter from the rules of the order or from the writings of the church fathers . The place for this has been called the chapter house over the years. Everyday as well as special non-liturgical gatherings took place there, in which the affairs of the community were discussed. Important life activities of the community - such as the election of a new abbot , the acceptance of postulants or candidates , the clothing of novices or the making of temporary profession - take place in the chapter house. In addition, the mediation of external or internal disputes, the division of the monastic work, the administration of the funds etc. are discussed. The debt chapter was a special form of the chapter . Especially during the cold season and could hour prayer held in the Chapter House.

The founders or important supporters of a monastery were often buried in the chapter house or in the adjacent cloister.


Lincoln Cathedral , Chapter House

After the church and the cloister, the chapter rooms are among the most important and representative rooms in an abbey and have been equipped accordingly. While on the European mainland rectangular chapter houses with mostly two to four columns placed in the middle with resting rib vaults were predominant, the tradition of round or polygonal chapter houses with a central column developed in English monasteries ; in rare cases the latter could be omitted, creating an extraordinary spatial effect ( York Minster ).

While the ceiling height in the free-standing English chapter houses could easily reach eight meters and more, the medieval continental chapter houses of the monasteries were comparatively low with ceiling heights of four to five meters - above them there was usually still the monks' dormitory with direct access to the church . In the Baroque period, however, high chapter halls were also built in the monasteries of Central and Southern Europe.

Medieval chapter rooms were usually not heatable; however, they were often located next to the scriptorium or calefactorium , the only heatable room in a monastery. In rare cases stone benches can still be found on the walls of the chapter hall (e.g. Sénanque ), but these have been replaced by wooden seats for health reasons; the seat of the head of the monastery was mostly opposite the entrance.


  • Christine Sauer: Fundatio and memoria. Donors and monastery founders in the picture. 1100 to 1350 (= publications of the Max Planck Institute for History. 109). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1993, ISBN 3-525-35646-3 (At the same time: Munich, University, dissertation, 1990: Founder image and foundation law in the German Middle Ages. ).
  • Heidrun Stein-Kecks : The chapter house in medieval monastery architecture. Studies on the image programs (= Italian research by the Art History Institute in Florence. Series 4, 4). Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich et al. 2004, ISBN 3-422-06429-X (At the same time: Regensburg, University, habilitation paper, 1997).
  • Michael Werling : The Otterberg Chapter House. For the 850th anniversary of the founding of the Cistercian monastery Otterberg. 1143-1993. Arbogast, Otterbach 1993, ISBN 3-87022-178-X .

Web links

Commons : Chapter House  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Chapter House  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Georg May : Chapter (I) . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 5 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1996, Sp. 1214 f . Laurentius Koch: Chapter House . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape
     5 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1996, Sp. 1216 f .