Friday, February 22, 2013

The Chair of Saint Peter

Bernini's 'Chair of Peter' bronze sculpture

Just one week before Pope Benedict resigns officially, today we celebrate the feast of St Peter, and precisely the authority of St Peter in a feast called “The Chair of Saint Peter.” Of course we do not venerate chairs as such, but the ‘chair’ or ‘cathedra’ of St Peter is very symbolic, to such an extent that his chair has been immortalized in a magnificent sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini behind the main altar at St Peter’s basilica. It is actually a part of the colonnade above the main altar, the massive chocolate-colored baldacchino that dominates the interior of the basilica. Next to the chair are the 4 Fathers of the early church, St Ambrose, St John Chrysostom, St Augustine and St Athanasius. Above the chair is a stained-glass window of the Holy Spirit in yellow texture. The bronze sculpture was crafted between 1647 and 1653 by Bernini. 
Original chair of Saint Peter
The original chair of Peter is preserved, although in a very worn-out state. It was transferred from the church of Santa Prisca to the Vatican, and was exposed to the public once a year. However it was encased with the Bernini masterpiece, where it still is, protected mostly because of its fragile structure. For 200 years it was kept hidden and protected, but in 1867 it was exposed to the faithful to commemorate the anniversary of the martyrdom of Sts Peter and Paul.

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