Today’s Daily Telegraph reports on an unique garden gift – unique in this day and age, anyway: a man who built a chapel for his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Richards are residents of Worcestershire, a lovely, green part of England where I was fortunate enough to spend some time a few years ago. Both the Richards are devout church-goers, but Mrs. Richards complained that their local Anglican church was too “busy” and crowded. So as one does, Mr. Richards embarked on a 2 1/2 year process of building his wife a small Gothic Revival chapel, about 12 feet long by 8 feet wide, at the bottom of their back garden.
Private chapels such as this used to be de rigueur for a house of any decent size. One thinks of the stunning Baroque wedding cake of a chapel at Castle Howard that features in the BBC version of “Brideshead”, for example, or Giotto’s Arena Chapel for the Scrovegni family in Padua. At the more modestly-scaled country house of one of my cousins in Spain, I attended mass in a somewhat larger chapel (including a choir loft and a rounded apse with ambulatory) built in Romanesque style, complete with a small bell tower.
Mr. Richards’ example shows us, however, that a private chapel does not have to be a construction any larger than a substantial garden shed or greenhouse. Those of my readers who have both the religious devotion and the architectural interest for such a project, could spend some profitable and fun hours thinking up how they themselves could build or convert a small building on their property for just such a purpose. Even redesigning a small, underused room or storage area inside the house into an oratory could yield some truly beautiful results.