Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

( Latin capitulum , a chapter).

The daily assembling of a community for purposes of discipline and administration of monastic affairs has always included the reading of a chapter of the rule, and thus the assembly itself came to be called the chapter and the place of meeting the chapter-house. The qualifying word conventual, provinical , or general , explains the nature of the meeting, and a general chapter, therefore, is one composed of representatives of a whole order or congregation or other group of monasteries. Historically, general chapters, or the germ from which they developed, can be traced back to St. Benedict of Aniane in the beginning of the ninth century. Although his scheme of confederation did not outlive its originator, the idea was revived a century later at Cluny. The example of Cluny produced imitators, and abbeys like Fleury, Dijon, Marmoutier, St-Denis, Cluse, Fulda, and Hirsau (or Hirschau ), became centres of groups of monasteries in which a more or less embryonic system of general chapters was introduced. Later on, Cîteaux, Camaldoli, Monte Vergine, Savigny, and other reforms, elaborated the idea, which resulted eventually in the congregational system inaugurated by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and since that date it has been the almost invariable custom of every order or congregation. The constitution, times of meeting, and powers of a general chapter, however, vary so much in the different religious orders that it is impossible to generalize on these points. At Cîteaux, for instance, the chapter met at the mother-house every year, and was, in theory, attended by all the abbots of the order. In other orders the meeting of chapters was held every three or four years, and this has remained the more general usage till the present day. In those that are divided into provinces, the provincial superiors, and sometimes some other officials as well, presided over by the general, if there be one, form the chapter; in others, the superiors of all the houses. Amongst Benedictines, each congregation has its own separate chapter, which is composed usually of the abbot and an elected delegate from each monastery, with the president of the congregation at their head. A general chapter usually elects the general or president of the order or congregation, sometimes appoints the various superiors and other officials, settles matters of business and discipline, hears appeals from its subjects, and in some cases also has the right to draw up or sanction changes in its constitutions. Subject of course to the Holy See, it represents the highest authority in its own particular order or federation. For more detailed descriptions as to the composition and powers of general chapters, the separate articles on the various religious orders must be consulted.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Daily Readings for Sunday, May 29, 2016
  • Your Daily Inspirational Meme: He will never leave you
  • WARNING: Exorcist claims demon is targeting families
  • Advent Prayer HD Video
  • Daily Reading for Wednesday, June 1st, 2016 HD Video
  • St. Maximinus of Trier: Saint of the Day for Sunday, May 29, 2016
  • Woman diagnosed with 'nightmare bacteria' in US

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Kings 8:41-43
41 'Even the foreigner, not belonging to your people Israel but coming ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 117:1, 2
1 Alleluia! Praise Yahweh, all nations, extol him, all ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 7:1-10
1 When he had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he ... Read More

Reading 2, Galatians 1:1-2, 6-10
1 From Paul, an apostle appointed not by human beings nor through any ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 29th, 2016 Image

St. Maximinus of Trier
May 29: Bishop of Trier, Germany, from 332, and a miracle ... Read More