CHANTRY (Cantairia, in the middle age Latin), a private religious foundation, of which there were many in England before the Reformation, established for the purpose of keeping up a perpetual succession of prayers for the prosperity of some particular family while living, and the repose of the souls of those mem bers of it who were deceased, but espe cially of the founder and other persons named by him in the instrument of foun dation. The French word Oratoire ap pears to correspond to chantry.
Chautries owed their origin to the opi nion once generally prevalent in the Christian church of the efficacy of prayer in respect of the dead as well as the liv ing. Among the English, it prevailed in all ranks of society. The inscriptions upon the grave-stones of persons of ordi nary condition in the times before the Reformation almost always began with " Orate pro salmi," " Pray for the soul," which was an appeal to those who resorted to the churches to pray for the soul of the person who slept below. Princes and persons of great wealth, when they founded monasteries, included amongst the duties of the religious for whose use they gave them, that they should receive in them their bodies, and for ever make mention of them in their daily services. When a taste for founding monasteries declined, which may be referred to about the close of the twelfth century, the disposition to secure the same object, by the foundation of chantries, began to prevail extensively in the better classes of society, and it con tinued to the Reformation, when all such 'bundations were swept away as super stitious.
chantry did rot necessarily require that any edifice should be erected for it. Chantries were usually founded in churches already existing: sometimes the churches of the monasteries, sometimes the great cathedral or conventual churches, but very frequently the common parish church. All that was wanted was an altar with a little area before it and a few ap pendages • and places were easily found in churches of even small dimensions in which such an altar could be raised with out interfering with the general purposes for which the churches were erected. Au attentive observation of the fabric of the parish churches of England will often show where these chantries have been ; in some churches there are perhaps small remains of the altar, which was removed at the Reformation, but the traces of them are seen more frequently in one of those ornamented niches called piscinas, which were always placed near the altars. Some
times there are remains of painted glass which was once the ornament of these private foundations, and more frequently we see one of those arched recesses in the wall which are called Founders' Tombs, and which in many instances no doubt were the tombs of persons to whose memory chantries had been instituted.
In churches which consisted of only nave and chancel with side aisles, the eastern extremities of the north and south aisles were often seized upon for the pur pose of these foundations ; in the larger churches, in which the ground-plan re sembles the cross on which the Saviour suffered, the transverse beams (transepts) were generally devoted to the purpose of these private foundations. In the great conventual churches and the churches of monasteries, it would appear as if provi sion was often made for these private chantries in the original construction, each window that looks eastward being often made to light a small apartment just sufficient to contain an altar and a little space for the officiating priest.
It was by no means unusual to have four, five, or six different chantries in a common parish church : in the great churches, such as old St. Paul's in Lon don, the Minster at York, and other ec clesiastical edifices of that class, there were at the time of the Reformation thirty, forty, or fifty such foundations. When the church allowed no more space for the introduction of chantries, it was usual for the founders to attach little chapels to the edifice. It is these chantry chapels, the use and occasion of which are now so generally forgotten, which occasion so much of the irregularity of design which is apparent in the parish churches of England. They were gene rally erected in the style of architecture which prevailed at the time, and not in accommodation to the style of the original fabric.