Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Chantry is a term for the English establishment of a shrine or chapel on private land where monks or priests would say (or "chant") prayers on a fixed schedule, usually for someone who had died. The same term is also used for the endowenent itself, as well as for the monks or priests so endowed.
Chantries date to the late medieval period, but they were not numerous in England until the 14th and 15th centuries. For the establishment of a chantry, a private person or organization would need to pay an endowment for the erection and upkeep and then would gain the consent of the ordinary, the consent of the King of England for taking lands from mortmain, and would offer a guarantee to the local priest that the chantry would not interfere with the diocesan priest's duties. Chantries were often appended to existing churches. While some chantries were established for the purpose of saying mass and prayers for the dead, they were also established on behalf of guilds.
When Henry VIII initiated the Reformation, he issued an Act in 1545 that chantries were, in fact, misapplied funds and misappropriated lands. The Act stated that all chantries and their properties would belong to the King himself for as long as he should live. Along with the dispersal of the monasteries, this was designed to help Henry relieve the monetary pressures of the war with France. However, few chantries were closed or given over to Henry, as Henry did not live far beyond the passing of the act. His successor, Edward VI, had a new Act issued in 1547, completely suppressing 2,374 chantries and guild chapels and launched inquiries into any possessions they might have. Although the money was supposed to go to "charitable" ends and the "public good," most of it seems to ahve gone to Edward VI's advisors. However, the Act provided that the crown had to guarantee an pension to all chantry priests so displaced.
The most significant effect of the chantries, and the most significant loss that resulted from their suppression, was educational. Chantries had provided education to their communities. Since chantry priests were not ordinaries and did not offer public mass, they could serve their communities in other ways. When Edward VI closed the chantries, the amount of education available to the poor and the rural residents was greatly diminished. Some of the chantries, however, were converted into the grammar schools that are now called "Edwardian."
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