Feb. 22, The Chair of St. Peter

 |  NCR Today

Today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. This picture shows the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter, by Bernini. Today, 110 candles illuminate the altar.

This picture shows a copy of the Chair that "was placed in the Cathedra Petri monument built in the basilica by Bernini between 1658 and 1666".

"Every year on February 22, the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, to commemorate St. Peter's teaching in Rome. Already in the second half of the 18th century an ancient wooden chair inlaid with ivory was venerated and traditionally held to be the Episcopal chair on which St. Peter sat as he instructed the faithful of Rome. In fact, it is a throne in which fragments of acacia wood are visible, which could be part of the chair of St. Peter, encased in oak and reinforced with iron bands. Several rings facilitated its transportation during processions. Pope Alexander VII commissioned Bernini to build a sumptuous monument which would give prominence to this ancient wooden chair. Bernini built a throne in gilded bronze, richly ornamented with bas-reliefs in which the chair was enclosed: two pieces of furniture, one within the other. On January 17, 1666 it was solemnly set above the altar."

--"Altar of the Chair of St. Peter"

"'Cathedra' literally means the established seat of the bishop, located in the mother church of a diocese, which for this reason is called 'cathedral,' and it is the symbol of the authority of the bishop and, in particular, of his 'magisterium,' that is, of the evangelical teaching that he, insofar as a successor of the apostles, is called to guard and transmit to the Christian community."

--from an address by Pope Benedict XVI on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, 2006

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The Pope, in his address in 2006, referred to the fact that the feast of the Chair of Peter dates back to the end of the fourth century. He quoted from a letter from St. Jerome to "the Bishop of Rome": "I enter into communion with your beatitude, that is, with the chair of Peter for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built!"

St. Jerome wrote those words to Pope St. Damasus I, although Pope Benedict did not refer to his predecessor by name. It was during the reign of St. Damasus, and due to his efforts, that the Bishop of Rome achieved primacy over all other bishops.

"Then, on February 27, 380 CE, the emperor Theodosius I issued an edict making Christianity not just a legal religious option (as had his predecessor Constantine) but the official religion of the empire. At the summit of that newly Christian empire was not Theodosius himself--of not merely Theodosius, anyway--but Damasus, as the heir to a primacy that Jesus had bestowed upon Peter according to church teachings (Matt 16:18). There was now in place a direct and continuous thread of 'apostolic succession' extending from Peter, now remembered formally as the first bishop of Rome, to each man who held the bishop's kathedros or seat."

--from The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women, by Nicola Denzey.

Click here for a 2006 article by Cindy Wooden on the "Chair of St. Peter".

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June 16-29, 2017