Art gifts

Gospel in art: Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter

The Chair of Saint Peter, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini © Christian Art

Source: Christian art

Gospel of February 22, 2022 – Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the area of ​​Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples this question: “Who do they say that the Son of man is? And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ “But you,” he said, “who do you say I am? Then Simon Peter spoke: “You are the Christ”, he said, “the Son of the living God”. Jesus answered, “Simon, son of Jonah, you are a happy man! For flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. So I say to you now: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of hell can never resist it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be considered loosed in heaven.

Reflection on the sculptural chair

Today’s feast has a rather special name: the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. How does the pulpit of an apostle deserve a holy day? Let’s first look at the object itself. The Chair of Saint Peter is a relic kept at the very back of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. It is a basic wooden relic of a throne which, according to tradition, was used by Saint Peter himself when he led the early Christians in Rome. The chair is now encased in an ornamental carved gilt bronze chair designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which he completed between 1647 and 1653. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI described the chair as “a symbol of Peter’s special mission and of his successors to guard the flock of Christ, keeping it united in faith and charity”. The chair is only a few meters from the tomb of St. Peter. The wooden throne chair was a gift from Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald to Pope John VIII in 875.

In today’s Gospel reading, Christ says: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church”. While St. Peter’s Chair may appear opulent in its magnificence, the chair is not intended to be a royal throne or a vain assertion of power. No, it is placed at the very back of the basilica to be an authentic reflection of the office entrusted by Jesus Christ to Saint Peter (as in today’s reading) and to his successors as pastors of the Church.

I have stood before this chair several times and each time it reminds me of the responsibility placed in our hands by Jesus Christ… Our humble roles are very different and modest compared to what Saint Peter and his successors accomplished, but the responsibilities are exactly the same for all of us through our baptism: to spread the Word of God…


Today’s story –
Christian art –

Key words: Christian art, Patrick van der Vorst, Bernini

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