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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
is the Latin name which was anciently given to places of public worship in general, as being houses of prayer, (See PROSEUCHA); but in later times, in contradistinction from ecclesia, has been applied to smaller or domestic chapels. Oratory is used among the Romanists to denote a closet or little apartment near a bedchamber, furnished with a little altar, crucifix, and other furniture, suited, in their view, to a place for private devotion. It is more correctly applied to such a place of worship as Luke refers to in Acts 13 — an upper chamber, in which the early Christians worshipped for safety, to preserve their secret discipline from the knowledge of the heathen, and in distinction from the pagan exhibition of graven images on the ground-floor of buildings, and also in memory of the place of the Last Supper. The rise of private places of worship, called εὐκτηρια, outlasted the times of persecution, and were permitted, under certain restrictions, by the councils of Saragossa (A.D.). 381) and Gangra. The name oratory is also applied to a chapel in which no mass may be said without permission of the ordinary. There are several kinds: 1, a monk's cell; 2, a private chapel, recognised by the Council of Ayde (506); 3, a chapel in the country without a district; 4, the private portion of a minster reserved for the use of the convent; the choir; a chapel attached to the chapter-house; 5, in the 6th or 7th century a burial chapel, or a chapel in a cemetery, in which mass was said at times, when the bishop sent a priest to celebrate; 6, a chantry chapel in a church. In 1027 Alexis, patriarch of Constantinople, condemned the abuse of oratories, in which persons of power had assumed to have baptism administered and to assemble congregations under a license. The private chapel of the dukes of Burgundy was rebuilt as the cathedral of Autun; the chateau of the Bourbons became that of Moulins. The ancient Cornish oratories are simple parallelograms, and contain a stone altar and well; they are sometimes raised on artificial mounds. In the Middle Ages oratories became a common appendage to the castles and residences of the nobility, and were of two kinds: the first simply for private and family prayer and other devotions; the second for celebration of mass. The latter fell properly under the jurisdiction of the bishop or the parochial clergy, and many jealousies and disputes grew out of their establishment or direction. The Council of Trent (sess. 22, Di Reformatione) placed them under very stringent regulations, which have been enforced and developed by later popes, especially by Benedict XIV. See Walcott, Sacred Archaeology, s.v.; Riddle, Christian Antiquities,, 703, 721. (See CHAPEL).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Oratory'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​o/oratory.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.