From the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Latin Christendom was increasingly focussed, both institutionally and culturally, on Rome and the papacy. A key element of these changes was a growing concern with the provision of pastoral care and the standardisation of practices and beliefs. However, whilst parish churches have received considerable scholarly attention, chapels have been largely neglected, despite the fact that they were widespread in the landscape of medieval Britain and Norway, found in locations ranging from villages to castles, and central to the life of many.
This book, the first major comparative study of the subject, begins by examining what a chapel was, who used them, and their purpose. Using archaeological remains, the wider parish landscape - settlements, transport and geography - and historical records such as papal letters, it then categorises chapels according to function and their relationship with the parish church, showing that they served a far greater range of purposes than has previously been assumed. The author also considers whether the drive for uniformity had an impact on religious landscapes in Britain and Norway, arguing that there is little evidence of a Viking impact on chapel organisation in the British Isles, with the evidence pointing towards Scandinavian adoption of pre-existing organisation and local cults.
Sarah Thomas gained her PhD from the University of Glasgow; she is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Stirling.