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Pisa Cathedral , Roman Catholic cathedral of the Archdiocese of Pisa
Lincoln Cathedral , Anglican cathedral of the Diocese of Lincoln
Florence Cathedral, Italy

A cathedral or cathedral church ( Latin ecclesia cathedralis "church of the cathedra"), also episcopal church , is a church in which a bishop resides and which contains the cathedra as his seat . As the main and mother church of a diocese , it is the place from whose cathedra the local bishop performs the tasks of preaching, liturgical service and pastoral supervision associated with his office. The designation of a church as a cathedral does not make any statement about the architectural style , size or time of construction of the building.

Cathedrals exist in episcopal churches such as the Roman Catholic Church , the Orthodox , Anglican and Old Catholic Churches, as well as individual Lutheran and Methodist churches.

In the lists of domes and cathedrals, cathedrals are sorted by continents.


The word is derived from ancient Greek καθἐδρα kathedra via Latin cathedra 'throne, seat' as a local manifestation of the episcopal authority. The name ecclesia cathedralis first appeared in 516 at the Council of Tarragona , which, however, does not belong to the series of ecumenical councils .

In the Eastern Church , the term cathedral has not established itself, instead the episcopal churches are simply called "Church" or "Great Church" (cf. Latin ecclesia maior ).

Similar terms

In the German and Italian language areas, many cathedrals are also referred to as cathedral or minster . Examples are Cologne Cathedral , Milan Cathedral , Freiburg Cathedral, and Strasbourg Cathedral . However, these terms are not synonymous and are also applied to large or significant churches that are not a bishopric: Ulm Minster and even St. Peter's Basilica are not cathedrals.

Other names

In the Lutheran churches of Scandinavia the cathedrals are called Domkirke or Domkyrka ("Cathedral Church").

In the Orthodox Church of Greece , whose head and most important bishops also bear the title of Metropolitan , there is the designation Mitroppolitós Naós (Μητροπολιτικός Ναός), Metropolitan Church , actually even a Metropolitan Temple . In the Slavic countries the name Sobor ( собор ) is widespread, which is derived from the Slavic term for council .

Other names have been passed down in medieval sources: ecclesia maior ('big church'), ecclesia mater ('mother church'), ecclesia principalis ('main church'), ecclesia senior ('old church'), ecclesia matrix ('starting church') .

The name Episcopal Church ( ecclesia episcopalis ) is a separate title in the Latin Church and refers to the fact that the church is the seat of a full professor with the rank of bishop. The cathedrals of higher-ranking prelates , on the other hand, have titles whose designation is derived from the official dignity: The ecclesia archiepiscopalis ('Archbishop's Church ') is the seat of an archbishop , ecclesia metropolitanae (' Metropolitan Church ') the seat of a metropolitan and main church of a church province (metropolitan primatialis ), ecclesia (' Primate Church') the seat of a primate and ecclesia patriarchalis ('Patriarchal Church' , also Patriarchal Basilica ) the seat of a patriarch .

Cathedrals in the Roman Catholic Church

Choir and apse of the Lateran basilica with cathedra

According to the understanding of the Second Vatican Council ( Sacrosanctum Concilium No. 41), the cathedral is the primary place where the people of God of a particular Church (diocese) meet under the direction of the bishop, most especially during the celebration of the liturgy ; In the cathedral the unity and order of the particular Church are expressed, from the cathedra the local bishop performs his office of “teaching, sanctifying and leading” for his diocese.

In the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, the cathedral therefore has a special legal status as a church . Solemn consecration is prescribed ( can. 1217 CIC , can. 871 CCEO ). As a rule, the bishop takes possession of his diocese ( enthronement ) in the cathedral ; his papal certificate of appointment must be read there ( can. 382 CIC ). It is also intended as a place for the funeral of the bishop ( can. 1011 CIC ). The bishop is required to celebrate mass frequently in the cathedral, especially on the required holidays and other solemn occasions ( can. 389 CIC ), and to administer the sacrament of ordination there ( can. 1011 §1 CIC ). The Eucharist must be kept in a cathedral ( can. 934 §1 CIC ).

The canon law of the Catholic Eastern Churches requires the bishop to ensure that at least parts of the worship services are celebrated in the cathedral every day in accordance with the regulations of the respective rite church ( can. 199 §2 CCEO ) and that he regularly and especially on public holidays and others Celebrations with great popular interest preside over the celebration in the cathedral or in another church ( can. 199 §3 CCEO ).

According to the listing, the Roman Catholic Church has 3,015 cathedrals as well as 296 con-cathedrals, 423 former cathedrals and 41 pro-cathedrals worldwide.

The highest-ranking church in the Roman Catholic Church is the Lateran Basilica , the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and the bishopric of the Pope . She bears the honorary title of mother and head of all churches in the world . The day of consecration of the Lateran Basilica is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church as a festival with the rank of a gentleman's festival.

Cathedral churches and bishopric

The relocation of bishoprics or the abolition of dioceses as a result of the Reformation or secularization can cause cathedrals to lose their title.


In the Roman Catholic Church a former Episcopal church after laying a bishop's or the merger of two dioceses is sometimes continued as the second cathedral of the diocese and is called Co-Cathedral or Co-Cathedral . The cathedral of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising is still known under its old name Frauenkirche , while the original bishopric, the Freising Cathedral , is now a co-cathedral. The Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in Jerusalem is referred to as the co-cathedral of the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem because the cathedral rank is reserved for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher .

Other concathedrals are:


Temporarily or temporarily established episcopal churches are called procathedral and usually retain this name even after the bishopric has been relocated. In the case of newly built dioceses in particular, it can happen that another church temporarily functions as the bishopric until a planned cathedral is completed.

Special cathedrals

Holy Cross Cathedral in Nin , Croatia


  • Adolf Adam : Where God's people gather. Shape and symbolism of the church building. Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) et al. 1984, ISBN 3-451-20186-0 .
  • Norbert Ohler: The cathedral. Religion, politics, architecture. Patmos, Düsseldorf et al. 2007, ISBN 978-3-491-69432-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Auguste Boudinhon: Cathedra . In: The Catholic Encyclopedia . Vol. 3. Robert Appleton Company, New York 1908 ( online at New Advent [accessed May 19, 2016]).
  2. ^ Günter Assenmacher : Cathedral . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 5 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1996, Sp. 1337 .
  3. Second Vatican Council , Christ Dominus No. 11.
  4. Cathedrals in the World at , accessed on May 20, 2016. (English)

Web links

Commons : Cathedral  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Cathedral  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations