In the book Brideshead Revisited, Brideshead Castle has a private chapel. Was this a common phenomenon? What sort of permissions were needed to have one built?
Yes, it was common for nobility/very rich people to have their own chapels. I’m not sure what the rules were regarding the altar, but I know that entire households would worship together.
There’s mention of a private chapel in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, as well. I believe it was no longer used for any sort of worship.
Did such a thing every happen in the US? Where did the priests come from?
When I lived in Massachusetts I lived next to the country estate of one of the Back Bay elite who had converted to Catholicism. There was a private chapel in the house where Cardinal Cushing said mass on occasion.
The lord of the manor would have his own personal chaplain, a priest assigned to his household, who would say Mass in the private chapel of the manor house. Anyone can have a private chapel. If it has an altar, it must conform to the standards as set down by the canons of the church. It is much more difficult to get a priest assigned to your household.
I recall the house where Cardinal Dearden lived had a beautiful chapel on the second floor at the end of the hallway. He had only to walk down the hall each morning to say Mass. It was attended by his secretary and whatever household staff chose to attend. The secretary’s room was closer to the chapel than the Cardinal’s room but Dearden was always there before the secretary.
I was recently reading “The Reason Why” about the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War. One of the main characters in this event was Lord Lucan, a wealthy Englishman who spent a good deal of his time evicting starving tenants from his properties in Ireland in order to make them more productive. Suffice to say he was no diplomat, and easily irritated.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
Soon after Lord Lucan succeeded, he fell out with the rector over the family sittings in Laleham Church. In Lord Lucan’s opinion these were inadequate, and in 1843 he brought down an architect from London, who got out plans to alter the church to suit his convenience. It was proposed that it should be rebuilt entirely, “since the building is so old, having a Norman character. A clean sweep can then be made and the view of the church will not be obstructed by Norman pillars.” However, the rector would not agree, in spite of the fact that Lord Lucan was prepared to sweep away the Norman features at his own expense. Whereupon Lord Lucan flew into a passion, consulted ecclesiastical authorities, and came forward with an assertion of his absolute right to do what he pleased with what he called the “Manorial Chancel.” The chancel of the church had in mediæval times been the private chapel of the Lord of the Manor, and Lord Lucan stated that since it was “still kept up out of the Lord of the Manor’s private funds,” he had as Lord of the Mnor an absolute right to do what he pleased in it.
I consider [he wrote] I have exclusive and entire control over the Manorial Chancel, may exclude even the minister from passing through and may occupy it in any way I prefer…I cannot be debarred from so arranging the Manorial Chancel, my own private property, as would allow it to accommodate us…I claim exclusive power and control over the Manorial Chancel, and consequently a right to close up the door when or how I may think right. What course I shall adopt on the subject I have not yet had time to consider and decide.
Year after year, even during the famine, whenever Lord Lucan paid one of his flying visits to Laleham he found time to harry the rector on the subject of the “Manorial Chancel.”
Lucan was too busy in Ireland to follow through on any of these threats.
Here are some pictures of Laleham Church, although not the interior which caused Lucan such consternation. A bit of information can also be gleaned from the parish website, although not much about the private chapel aspect of its history.