Every year on 22nd February, 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 17th January, 1666 it was solemnly set above the altar.
On the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Fr. Joachim preaches on how the amazing authority given to Peter by God is a key to the guarantee that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church nor the Truth that She proclaims for our salvation.
(Click into the audio link below.)
I suppose they get the Pope up there in a fork lift truck?
Yes Toad, this Chair of St. Peter is rather high off the ground for the poor Pope to physically have to get up there to sit on it! 😉
However as you can see, although it is an actual chair built into one that was probably used by St. Peter, when we speak of the Pope “taking the Chair of St. Peter” we are speaking of a spiritual reality. The “Chair” represents authority – in this case papal authority – on the infallibility of papal teachings on Faith and Morals.
It’s rather like saying that such-and-such a monarch “ascended the throne” on the date that he or she took power. Maybe the monarch actually climbed up and sat on the throne for the first time that day, and maybe not. It means “assumed the roles and responsibilities of the office.”