Cathedra

Sunday, 11 February 2024 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
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Cathdra Petri_at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican © Ricardo André Frantz/cc-by-sa-3.0

Cathedra Petri at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican © Ricardo André Frantz/cc-by-sa-3.0

A cathedra is the raised throne of a bishop in the early Christian basilica. When used with this meaning, it may also be called the bishop’s throne. With time, the related term cathedral became synonymous with the “seat”, or principal church, of a bishopric. The word in modern languages derives from a normal Greek word kathédra, meaning “seat”, with no special religious connotations, and the Latin cathedra, specifically a chair with arms. It is a symbol of the bishop’s teaching authority in the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion churches.

The doctrine of papal infallibility, the Latin phrase ex cathedra (literally, “from the chair”) was proclaimed at the First Vatican Council by Pius IX in 1870 as meaning “when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, the Bishop of Rome defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.”

The definitive example of a cathedra is that encased within the Triumph of the cathedra Petri designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1657, and completed and installed in St Peter’s Rome in 1666. As early as the 8th century, an ancient wooden chair overlaid with ivory plaques depicting The Twelve Labours of Heracles and some of the constellations, was venerated as the episcopal chair of St. Peter. It is a Byzantine throne with framed fragments of acacia wood, encased in the oak carcass and reinforced with iron bands. It was long believed to have been used by the Apostle Saint Peter, but the Holy See recognises that the chair was a gift from Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald to Pope John VIII in 875. Several rings facilitated its transportation during processions. Pope Alexander VII commissioned Bernini to build a monument to display this relic in a triumphant manner. Bernini’s gilded bronze throne, richly ornamented with bas-reliefs, encloses the relic. On January 17, 1666, it was solemnly set above the altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Greater than life-sized sculptures of four Doctors of the Church form an honour guard: St. Ambrose and St. Athanasius on the left, and St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine on the right. Celebrated on February 22 in accordance with the calendar of saints, the Feast of Cathedra Petri (the Feast of the Chair of Peter the Apostle) honours the founding of the church in Rome and gives thanks for the work of Saint Peter.

Papal cathedra at San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome © flickr.com - Ern/cc-by-sa-2.0 Papal cathedra at San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome © Sailko/cc-by-3.0 Cathedra at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles © Kaihsu Tai/cc-by-sa-3.0 Cathedra Augustini at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent © Ealdgyth/cc-by-sa-3.0 Cathdra Petri at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican © Ricardo André Frantz/cc-by-sa-3.0 San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome © NikonZ7II/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Cathedra at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles © Kaihsu Tai/cc-by-sa-3.0
A fifth- or sixth-century bishop’s throne decorated with elaborate ivory carving is preserved in the sacristy of the cathedral at Ravenna. It bears a monogram in front, “Maximianus ep.”, which gave it its name. The identity of the bishop is given by the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia as Maximianus of Constantinople (d. 431), considered as more likely than Maximianus of Ravenna (d. 556).

The Chair of St. Augustine represents one of the most ancient extant cathedrae in use. Named after the first Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Augustine of Canterbury, it is made of Purbeck Marble or Bethesda marble and dates to sometime between the 6th and 12th centuries. Those who argue for an older date suggest that it may have been used to crown the kings of Kent. Canterbury Cathedral, in which the cathedra is housed, maintains that the chair was once part of the furnishings of the shrine of St. Thomas Becket, since dismantled. Since the Middle Ages, it has always been used in the triple enthronement of an Archbishop of Canterbury. He is seated on the throne in the quire as Diocesan Bishop, in the chapter house as titular abbot, and in St. Augustine’s chair as Primate of All England. This is the only occasion in which the cathedra is used. A second cathedra is used for other occasions at which the archbishop is present.

Read more on Wikipedia Cathedra (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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