Holy Chairs

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 14
WE were unable to obtain in time for our last number a sufficiently clear photograph of the holy chair of Rome, having upon its ivory tablets the labors of the pagan hero, Hercules, to present a favorable representation of it to our readers.
However, we are now enabled to do so., and the curious can inspect the pictures upon it, and find what they can in them of the holy servant of our Lord, the great apostle Peter. We add also a few additional remarks upon this chair from "Roma Papale," by Desanctis.
Tillmont, the learned Benedictine monk, in his travels in Italy, says: "It is pretended that the episcopal seat of St. Peter is in Rome ... and Baronius says that it is made of wood. Yet some who saw the one that was selected to be solemnly placed on the altar in A.D. 1666, declare it to have been made of ivory, that the ornaments were not more than three or four hundred years old, and that they represent the labors of Hercules." The contradiction which is so great between these two Catholic authorities is accounted for thus:—The festival of St. Peter's chair had existed for more than half a century before any chair had yet been exposed for veneration. Among the relics in the Vatican there was a chair said to have belonged to St. Peter, and Pope Clement VIII. thought to expose it for veneration, when Baronius observed that the designs represented the labors of Hercules, and that the chair could not therefore have been the one in which St. Peter sat. The Pope was convinced of this, but still required a chair. Then search was again made among the relics, and a chair of wood was adopted instead of the one of ivory, and this is the one to which Baronius refers, while Tillmont speaks of the first. Sixty years after the death of Baronius, when Alexander VIII had the present altar constructed, they were perplexed to know which to venerate, because the one was mythological, and the other in Gothic style. The Pope then found a third, which had been brought from the East as a relic to Rome in the time of the crusades, and this is the one now venerated. This latter view of the case would be confirmed if what Lady Morgan states in her work on Italy be true. She says that during the occupation of Rome by the French soldiers at the beginning of this century the chair was taken out of its bronze exterior and very carefully examined, and that the following inscription in Arabic was found beneath the seat: "There is but one God, and Mahomet is His prophet." If the Papal authorities would allow the chair to be seen this point would soon be settled, but they are not likely to do this.
Mr. Wall will, we hope, continue his article in our next issue.