On Monday February 22 we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. What do we mean by the Chair of Peter and what significance does it have for the Papacy vis-a-vis the Church and the world at large?
Obviously when we are talking about the Chair of St Peter we are in no way referring to the ornamented chair on which the Pope sits, which is to be found just in the apse of St Peter’s Basilica. If that would be the case then the Feast of the Chair of St Peter can rightly risk bridging on the ridiculous. More than that, the Feast of the Chair of St Peter is one which makes us appreciate, respect and follow with great love, care and responsibility the spiritual authority which that Chair stands for in the person of the present Pope Francis.
The Chair of St Peter is technically known as Cathedra Petri in Latin. In St Peter’s Basilica it is to be detected in the back chamber, behind the well-known altar, on the farthest back wall, just below the prominent stained glass figure showing the Holy Spirit represented as a dove. Regarding the original chair, the Catholic Encyclopedia article has it that “the seat is about one foot ten inches above the ground, and two feet eleven and seven-eighths inches wide; the sides are two feet one and one-half inches deep; the height of the back up to the tympanum is three feet five and one-third inches; the entire height of the chair is four feet seven and one-eighth inches. According to the examination then made by Padre Garucci and Giovanni Battista de Rossi, the oldest portion is a perfectly plain oaken arm-chair with four legs connected by cross-bars. The wood is much worm-eaten, and pieces have been cut from various spots at different times, evidently for relics. To the right and left of the seat four strong iron rings, intended for carrying-poles, are set into the legs.”