February 22 in the Catholic Church is officially the “Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter.” At first glance the title is a bit strange. Why do we devote an entire day in the calendar to a chair? Seriously, what’s the big deal?
The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter has a twofold meaning. First, it refers to the actual chair (called the cathedra petri in Latin) that Saint Peter sat on while reigning as the first pope. Officials in the Roman Empire would sit on chairs when administering judgments or when engaged in official ceremonies. Having arisen within the Roman Empire, this tradition was replicated in the Roman Catholic Church and survives to this day. Bishops, for example, have a special cathedra they sit in for liturgical ceremonies in their cathedral church (the church gets its name from the chair). The chair denotes a bishop’s special authority over a particular region and links him to the successor of Saint Peter, the pope.