BY PETER ANSON
Mediaeval Chantries and Chautry Chapels, by G. H. Cook (Phoenix, 45s.).
rrHE reaction on the reviewer, after studying the 59 photo I graphs and 17 plans which greatly add to the value of this enlarged and revised edition of Mr. Cook's fascinating book first published in 1947, was to realise that for architectural purposes "the Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory" (as it is described in the Book of Common Prayer, Article XXII) ig as dead as the dodo.
In 1963 no Catholic cathedral would be designed with numerous chapels and side altars to enable as many Masses as possible to be celebrated daily for the souls of the faithful departed. From the 8th century theologians had been insisting that each Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice has a definite value before God; therefore two Masses are worth twice as much as one.
So in Western Europe compacts began to he made between various monasteries to offer a definite number of Masses for deceased members. The custom spread to layfolk, and those who could afford it, endowed what were known as chantries. The word was applied to the office or benefice maintained to sing or say Mass for the souls of the founder and his friends, and also to the little chapel in which such Masses were usually said.
The chapel normally took the form either of an altar erected in a space partitioned off for the purpose within the parent building, or of a building constructed as a chantry chapel, annexed to the church or detached from it.
Munificence The first part of Mr. Cook's book deals with chantry fouedations in general; the second is devoted to cantry chapels in monastic and secular cathedrals in England, as well as those in collegiate and parish churches, also hospitals. Their architecture is described in detail. The munificence of noble families and the local gentry when it came to building, restoring of decorating chantries, as proved by their wills, shows how profound was their belief in the doctrine of Purgatory.
But the Chanties Act passed In Edward VI's reign resulted in the dismantlement or destruction of almost every chantry in parish churches, Our medieval cathedrals still retain them, but 11C) 114114AVS have been celebrated at their altars (some of them still in position) for more than three hundred years.
Shallow Yet even today the authorities of the Church of England have vague memories of chantries, and when a schedule of requirements for Coventry Cathedral was drawn up it was insisted that provision should be made for what were called eight 'Hallowing Places' but not for the celebration of Masses for the souls of the faithful departed. Each place was to take the form of a shallow recess, where visitors to the Cathedral could stand or kneel in prayer, meditating on the fields of activity which make up our daily human life (e.g. work, the arts. education, the home, commerce, healing, government, recreation).
The religion of the average Englishman in the twentieth century is a far cry from what it was in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, before the Reformers swept away these emblems of "the Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory."