Chapel at Eton
At the heart of Henry VI’s Foundation was College Chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and begun in 1441. From the start, therefore, regular services have provided the context for the day to day existence and business of the community. The Christian faith on which the college was founded remains the guiding principle for our collective spiritual life.
In the 19th century the School became too large to fit into College Chapel and Lower Chapel was built to accommodate the ‘lower’ boys.
Boys attend Lower Chapel during their first two years. Over 500 boys meet there for fifteen minutes on five weekday mornings, and on Sundays for a fuller service of about forty minutes. The services are concise and to the point, very often following a particular theme throughout the half, and the Chaplains strive to make the services varied, relevant, and interesting. There is a lively, cheerful atmosphere in Lower Chapel, and boys sing and listen well.
After their first two years boys attend a mixture of services in College Chapel and assemblies elsewhere. In their third year they go to two weekday services, and in their final years to one or two weekday services and to a fuller service on most Sundays. The aim is to nurture and develop spiritual awareness through mainly traditional forms of service, incorporating talks from a variety of speakers and music of the highest standard. The Choir is internationally renowned and enhances the beauty and devotional intensity of services, but congregational singing is also a most important feature. The congregations, of up to 500 boys, are characteristically reflective and attentive. For those who wish to take Communion, there are three services of Holy Communion each week in Chapel, and informal ones in boys’ Houses during the course of each half; these are well attended.
Apart from the spiritual value of spending the first fifteen minutes of a hectic day in a quiet, reflective manner, the regular coming together of so many boys — not to mention the many adults who attend the services — helps to create a sense of community in a large and diffuse school.