What is a Chapel of Rest?

A look at chapels of rest, what they are, how they’re used and what you need to know before attending one.

Last updated: 8 May 2019

A Chapel of Rest

It’s in a chapel of rest that many people say their last goodbye to a loved one, but not everyone knows exactly what a chapel of rest is.

What is a chapel of rest?

A chapel of rest is a room or building, often attached to or within a funeral home, where families and loved ones can come and view someone who has died before their funeral. There are no hard requirements for what form a chapel of rest should take but below are some aspects that most share.

What does a chapel of rest look like?

Chapels of rest don’t have a uniform size but they will always have somewhere for a person to be placed, usually in a coffin or a casket. This is known as a catafalque. They typically have seating where mourners can rest and spend time with their loved ones in peace. If they have windows, they will usually have heavy curtains so people can have privacy while they visit.

Do I have to visit a chapel of rest?

There’s no requirement for you to visit a loved one in the chapel of rest. They exist as places where you or other mourners can go and say a final goodbye to a loved one, if you choose to.

Can anyone go to the chapel of rest?

Whoever is organising the funeral will be able to advise whether you are able to visit the chapel of rest. There are no legal limits on who can visit a chapel of rest or what their relationship has to be to the person who died.

If the cause of death would mean viewing a loved one would be distressing or hazardous, in the case of death by an infectious illness, your funeral director will advise you of this. On the whole though, the decision to view a loved one will be the family’s choice.

Does every funeral home have a chapel of rest?

It is a common feature of funeral homes, but it’s not universal. If a funeral director does not have a chapel of rest in or attached to their funeral home, they will usually be able to arrange a space for you to come and view your loved one prior to the funeral.

Chapel of Rest Etiquette

There are some generally accepted rules we will discuss below when it comes to chapel of rest etiquette but for specific instructions on how to act, we suggest you contact either your funeral director or the next of kin of the person who has died.

What should I wear to a chapel of rest?

That’s entirely up to you and the loved ones of the person who has died. Typically, the dress code for visiting the chapel of rest will be less formal than the funeral itself. The people organising the funeral may want visitors to the chapel of rest to respect a certain dress code, for cultural, spiritual or personal reasons, but that is their decision to make.

Can you take photos in a chapel of rest?

So long as you have the permission of the next of kin, you should be able to take photographs in a chapel of rest. It’s important that you double check with the person who is organising the funeral and your visit to the chapel of rest so you don’t cause them offense or distress.

Am I allowed to speak in a chapel of rest?

You are allowed to speak in a chapel of rest and many people take a visit like this as an opportunity to vocalise their feelings and say goodbye to their loved one. It’s worth being aware of your tone of voice, what you’re saying and how you are saying it. So long as you are being respectful of anyone else present, you should be fine.