St. Peter's Chair

Discover the Throne of Peter the Apostle at St. Peter's Basilica

The Throne of St. Peter, commonly known as St. Peter's Chair or Cathedra Petri, is a relic found in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. One of the most sacred symbols of Christendom, St. Peter's Chair is celebrated as a mark of authority of St. Peter, the first Pope of the Church.

Discover St. Peter’s Chair at St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter's Chair

St. Peter's Chair is a grand structure reflecting the heyday of the Italian Renaissance. It also shines a light on the historical significance of Catholic relics preserved over centuries.

Along with Baldacchino and the High Altar of the Basilica, this ornate sculpture stands out as a treasure of history. Get a close look at this important piece of Roman history on your visit to St. Peter’s Basilica.

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St. Peter | The First Bishop

St. Peter's Chair

St. Peter was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ and is widely regarded as the first Pope of the Catholic Church. He preached his faith in Rome but was eventually sentenced to death by crucifixion by Emperor Nero.

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, one of the holiest churches in the world, was built in honor of his martyrdom. The Chair of St. Peter, now a grand structure, was designed inside the Basilica to commemorate the sacrifice of the Apostle

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Where is St. Peter's Chair located?

The Chair of St. Peter's is located in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. As you enter the Papal Altar of the Basilica, you will notice the massive Baldacchino at its center with the dome right above it. Behind this structure is the Altar of the Chair which consists of a grand bronze structure which encloses St. Peter's Chair.

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

St. Peter's Chair

The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter falls on February 22 every year. The celebration is held to honor the authority of St. Peter and his contribution to the Church.

Earlier, the feasts were celebrated on two different dates and marked the first homily St. Peter delivered in Rome. This dispute ended when Pope John XXIII declared the current date in 1962 to be observed as the official Feast of the Chair.

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A Brief History of St. Peter's Chair

For the Catholic Church, the Chair of St. Peter is a very sacred relic. According to some stories, St. Peter used to sit on this very chair during his sermons. Although archeologists differ on the authenticity of the chair, it has been considered an important relic since the first century, after the death of St. Peter. 

It was kept for a long time in the monastery of St. Martin before the Pope decided to bring it home to St. Peter's Basilica. The chair was studied in detail many times, with the last time it was removed from the sculpture being in 1968.

Who built St. Peter’s Chair?

St. Peter's Chair

The Chair of St. Peter at St. Peter’s Basilica was designed by enveloping the original oak chair of the Bishop with a bronze covering. Italian artist Bernini, who also created the Baldacchino, was the mastermind behind St. Peter's Chair.

The ornate design of Bernini matches with the baroque-style architecture famed in Rome. It took Bernini six years to complete the grand sculpture.

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Construction of St. Peter’s Chair

St. Peter's Chair

Pope Alexander VII entrusted Bernini with the construction of the St. Peter’s Chair in 1647 and he completed the work in 1653. The gilded bronze throne enclosed with the wooden chair was installed in the apse of the Basilica in the year 1666. 

The throne is supported by giant statues of four Doctors of the Catholic Church, while an alabaster window above the chair, brings in sunlight through its colorful panes. He also incorporated sculptures of angels holding the Papal Tiara and St. Peter's Keys. Bernini’s design creates the illusion that the chair is suspended in thin air.

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Design & Architecture

St. Peter's Chair is an important architectural achievement for the Vatican. As the Pope initiated the construction of the enclosing sculpture, it was entrusted with the best artist available in Rome - Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

St. Peter's Chair

The Original Chair

The legend is that St. Peter used this chair to deliver his sermons. The chair was believed to be made of oak wood, but inspection over the years shows that it was reinforced with ivory and iron. During the middle ages, the newly elected Pope was to be enthroned on the Chair of St. Peter.

St. Peter's Chair

Bronze Covering

Bernini was entrusted with creating a cover to preserve the chair. He chose gild bronze as the medium to create this enclosing structure. The design was ornate in tradition with the baroque-style popular at that time. He has even incorporated messages from the Bible and symbols of Papacy in the structure.

St. Peter's Chair

Statues of Doctors

The sculpture's base contains the life-size statues of four Doctors of the Catholic Church. Each of these statues is over 5-meters tall. The names of the saints are Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint John Chrysostom, and Saint Athanasius. These statues are designed to create the illusion they are floating in the sky while supporting the throne.

St. Peter's Chair

Angels

Angels appear on both sides of the symbolic bronze chair guarding the wooden chair behind. A pair of Cherub angels sit on the top of the chair while holding the keys of St. Peter’s in one hand and supporting the Papal tiara, which is placed directly above in the air, in the middle of the chair.

St. Peter's Chair

Glass Window and Dove

The structure has the backdrop of a golden alabaster glass window. It's decorated with statues of playful angels in the clouds. At the center of the window is a dove, a symbol of the holy spirit. The window pane is divided into twelve sections to pay tribute to the Twelve Apostles.

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Frequently Asked Questions About St. Peter's Chair

Q. What is St. Peter's Chair?

A. St. Peter's Chair is an ancient throne believed to have been used by the Apostle for his sermons.

Q. Where is the Chair of St. Peter located?

A. The Chair of St. Peter is located in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica.

Q. How old is the Chair of St. Peter?

A. The Chair of St. Peter dates back to the 1st century.

Q. Did St. Peter really use the chair?

A. It is widely believed that this was the same chair used by St. Peter during his sermons.

Q. Who designed St. Peter's Chair?

A. The enclosing structure around the chair was designed by Bernini.

Q. When did Bernini build St. Peter's Chair?

A. Bernini built the Chair of St. Peter between 1647 and 1653.

Q. How long did Bernini take to built the Chair of St. Peter?

A. It took Bernini six years to complete the Chair of St. Peter.

Q. Why is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter celebrated?

A. The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is celebrated every year to honor the authority of the Apostle and his contributions to the Church.

Q. When is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter celebrated?

A. The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is celebrated on 22nd February every year.

Q. Can I visit the Chair of St. Peter?

A. Yes. You can take a look at the Chair of St. Peter at St. Peter's Basilica.