St Peter’s Chair: St. Peter’s Throne Relic!

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The Cathedra Petri, or St Peter’s Chair, is one of the most sacred artworks in the Vatican City, attracting over 10 million visitors yearly!

This ancient relic belonged to St. Peter, which now occupies the central seat in St. Peter’s Basilica for its religious significance and unique architecture.

Visitors planning to explore the Basilica must see this marvelous carved art piece by Bernini and discover its holy history.

In this article, we’ll discover some construction details and highlights and learn about the feast dedicated to the chair!

Where does the St Peter’s Chair Vatican stand?

The Cathedra Petri stands behind the Papal Altar at the center of St. Peter’s Basilica.

You can easily see the massive chair through the Baldacchino, standing over the Papal Altar.

It is at the far end of the Basilica, in the Altar of the Chair St Peter’s Basilica Chapel. 

The Architectural Features of the Chair

The chair has metal rings attached on both sides, which makes it suitable for use as the Pope’s ceremonial chair, on which they were carried around in the 1700s.

It has a realistic bronze cushion, which is held up by a bunch of masterfully carved angels below, which is the carving of Jesus telling Peter to care for his sheep, the Catholics.

Here are some of the most unique features of the chair in St Peter’s Basilica: 

The Four Doctor Statues

At the sculpture’s base is a small group of four bronze sculptures of the Doctors of the Church.

These members contributed much of their time and effort towards developing the Church.

The 5-meter-tall sculptures of Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Athanasius, and Saint John Chrysostom are at the base. 

The Chair looks like it is floating in the air, held up by the four doctors from far away! 

Angels

Two massive Angel sculptures guarding the relic sit on either side of the gilded bronze chair.

Smaller cherub angels sit at the top of the chair, holding items that are most symbolic of St. Peter!

On one side, the cherub holds St. Peter’s keys to Heaven, which Jesus gave him, in one hand.

In the other hand, you will see them holding the Papal Tiara at the center of the chair, symbolizing St. Peter’s continuing legacy, as he was the first Pope. 

The Glass Panel with a Dove

Glass painters will really enjoy seeing the red and yellow shaded alabaster glass decorating the backrest part of the throne.

Surrounding the glass are groups of angels flying and playing around amongst the clouds in the sky.

A massive white dove at the center of the glass panel symbolizes the Holy Spirit. 

It is also divided into twelve different sections to represent all the apostles of Jesus. 

The painting also symbolizes the Church’s motive of using the Holy Spirit to spread its teachings to people around the world! 

From the top, left and right side, you can see sculptures imitating sun rays poking out of the chair, symbolizing the brightness of the Holy Spirit. 

Bernini’s Construction & History of the Bernini St Peter’s Chair

Emperor Charles of Bald gave this relic as a gift to Pope John VIII in 875 AD, dating back to the 6th century. 

Pope Alexandra VII commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini to transform the worm-eaten and destroyed oak St. Peter’s Chair into an artwork in 1647.

The original chair was carved with ivory on the back and the front sides. 

Bernini was the most famous Italian architect, known for his unique and eye-catching Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

He enclosed the chair with a reliquary and a container of bronze to protect it from further damage.

Lorenzo Bernini carved detailed Biblical scenes and symbols, making the chair appear like all the other famous Baroque artworks. 

Over the years, the chair has been taken out many times to study the age of its parts and other factors.

It was last removed for research purposes between 1968 and 1974. 

Check out our article on St Peter’s Basilica Architecture to know more about the construction of the beautiful structure in Vatican City!

Feast of St Peter’s Chair

Did you know the chair has its feast celebrated in Rome every year?

The Feast of St. Peter’s Chair is celebrated in the Vatican on 22nd February yearly to honor the apostle’s work for the Church.

The feast date of 18th January, also celebrated before, marked the date the Saint first gave a sermon in Rome.

On the 22nd of February, he gave a sermon in Antioch. 

It is an excellent celebration of the Church’s unity and strong foundation in Rome, which has been celebrated since 1969.

On the feast day, the mass timings are the same as the Sunday mass timings, which you can learn more about from our St. Peter’s Basilica mass article!

FAQs on St Peter’s Chair

1. What is the significance of the Chair of St. Peter?

2. What is the chair of Peter’s feast on February 22?

3. What does the Chair of St. Peter look like?

4. What is the best time of the day to visit Bernini’s St Peter’s Chair?

5. Does the Pope sit on St Peter’s Chair?

6. Where in the Basilica is the Chair of St. Peter?

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Featured Image: Reuters.com

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