Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 26 September |
Saint of the Day: Sts Cosmas and Damian
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Why do bishops have a special chair?

CATHEDRA

Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. | Flickr CC by NC ND 2.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 02/22/19

The "cathedra" that bishops sit on has a long and rich history in the Catholic Church.

When you visit a cathedral church where a bishop regularly celebrates Mass, one of the primary features is a special chair. This chair is called a cathedra (hence the name “cathedral”) and is only used by the bishop during liturgical ceremonies.

Why is that?

The cathedra comes from an ancient tradition in many cultures of a leader or judge ruling from a chair. Teachers would often teach from a chair while their pupils stood and listened. In fact, the term cathedra is sometimes defined as the “professor’s chair.” Additionally, chairs were not mass produced as they are today, so possessing a chair was a sign of power.

Additionally, in the Roman Empire there existed a “curule chair,” which was used solely by magistrates and officials. Since the Catholic Church was born within the Roman Empire, many of the same traditions were shared by the Church hierarchy.

While chairs no longer have that same significance in our modern culture, the cathedra of the bishop still retains spiritual symbolism tied to the office of the bishop.

Pope Benedict XVI explained the symbolism in a homily given on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

“Cathedra” literally means the established seat of the Bishop, placed in the mother church of a diocese which for this reason is known as a “cathedral”; it is the symbol of the Bishop’s authority and in particular, of his “magisterium,” that is, the evangelical teaching which, as a successor of the Apostles, he is called to safeguard and to transmit to the Christian Community.When a Bishop takes possession of the particular Church that has been entrusted to him, wearing his miter and holding the pastoral staff, he sits on the cathedra. From this seat, as teacher and pastor, he will guide the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity.

The chair reminds the bishop of his duties to his flock, and its size (since it is usually larger than other sanctuary furnishings) denotes the immense weight that is placed on his shoulders as chief shepherd of the local area. It’s a special honor, one that comes with great responsibility.




Read more:
Why is there a feast day for a chair?


CATHEDRAL,BASILICA

Read more:
What is the difference between a basilica and a cathedral?

Tags:
ArchitectureLiturgy
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
2
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
3
Tolkien
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
4
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
5
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
6
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
7
peace
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.