St Peter’s Chair

This feast of the ‘Cathedral Petri’ seems to have been celebrates from the very earliest times and commemorated the day when St Peter held the first religious and ceremony after his arrival in the capital of the ancient world, some eleven years after our lord’s Ascension. There used to be two ‘Chairs’ in the ancient Vatican Basilica; a marble one which was built into the apse and where the Popes sat, surrounded by their clergy and a ‘sedes gestatoria’, such as became fashionable in Rome about the middle of the first century.

 

It is this latter one which is still preserved today, enclosed in a huge bronze casing designed by Bermini, and high up in the wall of St Peter’s apse. It is a plain armchair of worm-eater oak, which in later ages was embellished with ivory panels. It was last exposed for the veneration of the faithful in 1867 to commemorate the eighteenth century of the great Apostle’s martyrdom.

 

Reflection: ‘And so I tell you, Peter: You are a rock and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and not even death will ever be able to overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: ‘what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19).

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