Religious Buildings: Chapel & Pagoda

If you’ve heard the lyrics, ‘we’re going to the chapel and we’re going get married,’ the couple was making their way to a place of worship located within a larger building or a nonconformist Christian religious building. In this article, you will learn more about the religious significance of the chapel and pagoda.


Chapels are built for Christians to hold meetings and worship. They are not always found in a church and can become a part of a hospital, college, palace, prison or even a funeral home. Some are their own free-standing buildings taking up space on their own grounds. Chapels are also found on some military sites where personnel can have contact with a military chaplain.

Before the Protestant Reformation, a chapel was a place of worship that was positioned at a secondary location that was not the main concern of the local parish priest. The majority of larger churches would have one or more secondary altars that took up their own space , they too were called chapels.

The earliest Christian places of worship are often referred to as chapels. They weren’t exactly dedicated buildings, but could have been a dedicated chamber found within a building. Sometimes, it was as simple as a specific room in someone’s home. One or two people could pray without having to be around the rest of the congregation. The chapel was favored by many who enjoyed a peaceful setting they could have to their own. They could relax without having to worry about the movement of others.

A few notable chapels from around the world include:

”¢    Brancacci Chapel at the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, Italy
”¢    Naval Academy Chapel at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland
”¢    St. Ivan Rilski Chapel on Livingston Island, Antarctica
”¢    Sistine Chapel at Apostolic Palace in Vatican City


A pagoda is a tiered tower that serves as a temple for Eastern worship. The multiple eaves of the structure are often associated with places of worship in India, China, Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, and Japan. Throughout other parts of Asia, you will encounter a pagoda, which are built with some sort of religious function in mind. The structures are often located in or close to temples.

The origin of a pagoda is one that is traced back to the 3rd century BC when Indian stupas were made as commemorative monuments. The stupa was a dome-shaped monument that was associated with the storage of sacred relics. In India, the stupa was embraced as a unique style in architecture that started to emerge in Southeast and East Asia. This style was used to create Buddhist monuments that also kept sacred relics on site. In some Eastern Asian locations, Chinese towers and pavilions were incorporated into the design of a pagoda.

Interestingly, the height of pagodas makes it a beacon for lightning. For some, they view the phenomena of being struck by lightning as creating a place that is spiritually charged. An example of a pagoda is the Liaodi Pagoda of Dingzhou, which was constructed in 1055 AD during the Song Dynasty.