BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)
Throne (Cathedra) of St Peter1657-66
Marble, bronze, white and golden stucco
Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican
This structure is a brilliant creation by Bernini, designed to display the chair on which, according to ancient tradition, St Peter sat and taught Roman Christians. Pope Alexander VII had the ivory-covered chair put into the gigantic bronze cathedra, with the statues of the Doctors of the Church, St Ambrose and St Augustine of the Roman Church and St Athanasius and St John Chrysostom of the Greek Church. The religious significance is extremely clear. The Doctors of the Church were always consistent with Peter's teachings as they expounded theological doctrine.
The gospel does not change because the Holy Spirit, portrayed as a dove flies along the span of the centuries, assisting and accompanying its church. The chair or cathedra of Peter symbolizes the perpetual continuity of the doctrine and its promise of infallibility.
The fine alabaster window, surrounded by golden clouds and angels flying between rays of light, casts a mystical warmth through the basilica, especially in the afternoon. It is divided into twelve sections, in homage to the twelve Apostles who carried the words of the Gospel throughout the world.