Religious services at Harvard were originally held by each class in their tutor's room; afterwards all the students came together in Commons Hall or the Library; and later an apartment in the old Harvard Hall was used as a chapel. In 1744, Holden Chapel was erected. The building was entered by the door at the western end and the seats were ranged one above the other from the middle aisle to the side walls. Soon after 1766 a room on the lower story of the new Harvard Hall was taken for devotional exercises. In 1775 the academic buildings were occupied as barracks by the American troops, and the College was removed to Concord, Mass., where recitations were held in the court-house and prayers in the town meeting-house. After the College returned Harvard Hall continued to be the place of worship until University Hall was built in 1814. Here services were performed during forty-four years, until 1858, when Appleton Chapel was erected, which has since been devoted to religious purposes.
In President Dunster's day, the "Rules and Precepts that are observed in the Colledge" required that "Every schollar shall be present in his Tutor's chamber at the 7th houre in the morning, immediately after the sound of the Bell, at his opening the Scripture and prayer, so also at the 5th houre at night, and then give an account of his own private reading." The daily services in the Hall were conducted by the President. In the morning the undergraduates were required to read in the Old Testament from the Hebrew into Greek, excepting the Freshmen, who were allowed to use their English Bibles, and in the evening to read in the New Testament from the English or Latin into Greek. The reading by the students was followed by an exposition of the passages, which was given by the President, who concluded with prayer. On one occasion, when President Rogers officiated, his prayer was not so long by half as usual; and Cotton Mather remarked, "Heaven knows the Reason! The scholars returning to their chambers, found one of them on fire and the Fire had proceeded so far, that if the Devotions had held three Minutes longer, the Colledge had been irrecoverably laid in Ashes, which now was happily preserved." A peculiar feature of morning prayers at this period was, that, after the exercises, the President was accustomed to hear public confessions from the students in presence of all the classes and officers, and to ad- minister discipline, which consisted of degradation, admonition, or expulsion, according to the nature of the offence. Many instances of this sort are recorded. In the diary of President Leverett we find that on "Nov. 4, 1712, A--, was publicly admonish'd in the College Hall, and there confessed his Sinful Excess, and his enormous profanation of the Holy Name of Almighty God. And he demeaned himself so that the President and Fellows conceived great hopes that he will not be lost."
Morning prayers at this time were held at six o'clock and attendance upon them was enforced by requiring the payment of money for any delinquency. Immediately after prayers the students proceeded to their recitations before breakfast, which was served at half-past seven o'clock. This order of exercises was justified on the ground that it was important that the undergraduates should not only be roused from their beds, but called to some intellectual exertion at an early hour; and that a recitation immediately after rising in the morning was the best security for the proper employment of the previous evening. One result of this was, however, that books were carried into the Chapel and lessons were clandestinely studied during the service. Various disorders occurred continually at these exercises. It was then the custom for each Divinity student who received assistance from the Hopkins Fund to read four theological dissertations, occupying about ten minutes each after evening prayers. In one year the students were required to listen to thirty-two such dissertations, among which were an English essay on "Ejaculatory Prayer," and a Latin disquisition on "The Hebrew Masoretic Points.