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Cathedral




CATHEDRAL, more properly CATHEDRAL CHURCH (Ecclesia Cathedralis), the chief church of a diocese, in which the bishop has his official seat or throne, cathedra. The earliest example given of the use of the term Ecclesia Cathedralis is in the Acts of the Council of Tarragona, in 516. Another primitive designation was "Ecclesia mater " or "matrix," indicating the cathedral as the mother church of the diocese. As being the chief house of God, Domus Dei, of the district, it acquired in Germany the name of Domkirche, and in Italy of Duomo. The word "Ecclesia " was gradually dropt, and by the 10th century the adjective "cathedralis" took rank as a substantive, which it has successfully maintained in most of the modern languages of Europe. The essential distinction between a cathedral and all other churches, viz., that it is the church of the bishop, containing his throne of office, or bishops stool, as our Saxon forefathers termed it, is thus well expressed by Hooker (Eccl. Polit., vii. 8, 3), " To note a difference of that one church where the bishop hath his seat, and the rest which depend upon it, that one hath been usually termed cathedral, according to the same sense wherein Ignatius, speaking of the Church of Antioch, termeth it his throne ; and Cyprian, making mention of Evaristus, who had been bishop and was now deposed, termeth him cathedra; extorrem, one that was thrust besides his chair. The church where the bishop is set with his college of presbyters about him we call a see; the local compass of his authority we term a diocese." A bishop's see is, strictly speaking, a bishop's seat (sedes, siege), or cathedra, and is only in a secondary sense applied to the church in which that seat is placed, and the city in which that church stands. From this it follows that a church may lose its cathedral rank by the transference of the bishop's see to another church, which by that transference at once assumes the dignity lost by the other. Thus the Oxfordshire Dorchester was the cathedral of the vast East Mercian diocese, until in 1072 Eemigius removed the cathedra to Lincoln, while the West Mercian prelates at one time had their see at Chester before it was finally fixed in its earlier habitation at Lichfield. Thus also in 1088 the abbey church of Bath became the cathedral of Somerset-shire, which for nearly two centuries had been at Wells, where after a brief sojourn at Glastonbury the bishop's throne was again permanently set up in 1206. Towards the close of the 12th century the cathedral of Canterbury was in some danger of losing its rank, the contumacy of the monks having caused Archbishop Baldwin to conceive the idea of transferring his official seat to the church of Hackington, which would in that event have become the cathedral of the Kentish diocese, and the metropolitan church of England. Such a plan was actually carried out when, early in the 13th century (1220), Bishop Poore deserted the cathedral of Old Sarum, and founded the existing cathedral of Salisbury. The period of the Reformation saw the abbey churches of Bristol, Chester, Gloucester, Oxford, and Beterborough, and for a short space Westminster, elevated to cathedral rank by being made the seat of a bishop, a change which has been witnessed in the present century by the establishment of the sees of Ripon and Manchester. While we are writing, the church of Cumbrae has become the cathedral of the Scottish diocese of Argyll and the Isles, and the abbey church of St Albans is only waiting for the completion of preliminary necessary arrangements to be constituted the cathedral for the coun-ties of Hertfordshire and Essex.

By very early canons it was decreed that cathedrals should only be established in chief cities. The Council of Laodicea (361), following the legislation of the Council of Sardica (347), prohibited the appointment of bishops in villages or country places. Throughout the Boman empire, where the ecclesiastical coincided with the civil divisions, the seats of religious authority were fixed in the same spots as the seats of temporal authority, the bishop placing his cathedra in the city where the temporal governor had planted his curule chair. In Britain, however, where, in the early days when the church first developed her power, cities were but few and insignificant, the case was different. The bishop was rather the bishop of a district or of a tribe than of a city. The position of his cathedral was dictated by motives of convenience and security rather than by the dignity and populousness of the site. Not unfrequently the cathedra was migratory. This state of things drew to an end with the conclusion of the 10th century, when the country became more settled, and the Boman system was finally ratified by the Council of London (1075), which ordered that episcopal sees should be removed from unwalled villages to walled cities. In obedience to this decree the cathedrals of Salisbury, Chichester, and Chester (the last only temporarily) were created,—succeeding to the episcopal dignity of those of Sherborne, Selsey, and Lichfield (Freeman, Hist, of Norman Conquest, vol. iv. pp. 414-420). Other transferences of only slightly later date were those already mentioned from Dorchester to Lincoln, and from Wells to Bath, as well as that of the East Anglian see from Elmham to Thetford and thence to Norwich.





Wherever established, the cathedral church was regarded as being, what it usually was in fact, the mother-church of the district dependent upon it. This district was for the first three centuries designated the parochia (uapoiKta) of the bishop. Gradually the term diocese (SiotK^crts), originally signifying a civil province of the lesser sort, Dame to be transferred to ecclesiastical divisions, to the exclusion of the earlier name, which in its forms, parish, paroisse, parrocchia, &c, was restricted to the smaller ecclesiastical districts, each containing a single church. Cathedrals in their original idea possessed much of a mis-sionary character. The district of which they were the ecclesiastical centre in general received the light of reli-gious truth from them. They were the headquarters of the bishop and his clergy, from which they went forth for the evangelization of the heathen inhabitants—pagani, i.e., dwellers in the pagi, or surrounding country villages. To this also they returned as their home for rest and refreshment, as well as for necessary conference. In the words of Dean Milman,—" Christianity was first estab-lished in the towns and cities, and from each centre diffused itself with more or less success into the adjacent country. . . . The churches adjacent to the towns or cities either originally were or became the diocese of the city bishop " (Hist, of Christianity, bk. iv. c. 1. § 2). Thus, as Hooker says, " Towns and villages abroad receiving the faith of Christ from cities whereunto they were adjacent, did, as spiritual and heavenly colonies, by their subjection honour those ancient mother churches out of which they grew " (Eccl. Polit., bk. vii. c. 8, § 2). In some cases, however, especially in Britain, the history of the cathedral was different. The missionary element was the same ; but instead of starting with a bishop as the centre of organized action, establishments of missionary priests were formed, with a church as the focus of their religious life and a monastery as their home, which only tardily attained cathedral rank by the appointment of a bishop to preside over them. The cathedral of Worcester is instanced by Professor Stubbs in this relation, as an example, "like Canterbury itself, of a successful missionary establishment, thus attaining its due development" ("Cathedral of Worcester in the 8th century," Archœol. Jour., vol. xix. p. 244). The history of the missionary work of the Church of England during the early part of the present century reproduced this same system. The missionary clergy pre-ceded the bishop, and cathedral dignity was imposed on a church not originally erected with any such object. The last twenty years have seen a return to the other more primitive plan of operations. In newly-constituted dioceses in Africa and elsewhere, the bishop takes the lead among his clergy in date of constitution as he does in official rank, and the cathedral church is one of the first require-ments to be provided for. The true character and object of a cathedral church and establishment are thus well set forth by Bishop Stillingfleet :—" Every cathedral in its first institution was as a temple to the whole diocese, where the worship was to be performed in the most decent and con-stant manner ; for which end it was necessary to have such a number of ecclesiastical persons there attending as might still be ready to do all the offices which did belong to the Christian church,—such as constant prayer and hymns and preaching and celebration of sacraments,— which were to be kept up in such a church, as the daily sacrifice was in the Temple." Though it was the church of the bishop, it was essential for its completeness that he should be surrounded by his college of presbyters, as the members of the body of which he was the head. The purpose of this collective body was threefold :—(1.) Con-sultative,—as the concilium episcopi, by whose advice he might be strengthened in all important matters concern-ing the diocese; (2.) Ministerial,—for the maintenance and celebration of public worship in its most reverent and dignified form, cum cantu et jubilatione ; and (3.) Diocesan,—as the bishop's officials in the administration of his diocese, prepared also to go forth at his bidding to act as missionaries or evangelists in any part to which he might see fit to send them. Tn this way there sprang up the body known as the " chapter" of the cathedral,—a body originally in the closest connection with the bishop, and having no corporate existence apart from him. This collective body sometimes consisted of " seculars," i.e., of clergy not bound by monastic vows, living in the world, with separate homes of their own; sometimes of " regulars," i.e., of clergy living according to a monastic rule, residing in one religious community, and sharing in common buildings. Of both bodies the bishop was the head. When the cathedral was the church of a monastery and was served by regulars, the bishop was regarded as the abbot; and when the chapter consisted of a college of secular clergy, it owed allegiance to no one but the bishop himself. The " dean, " the present head of all English cathedral chapters, was a comparatively late addition, not appearing till the 10th or 11th century. He had been preceded by the propositus, a "provost, " who occurs in the 8th and 9th centuries. Earlier still we find the " archpresbyter, " who was gradually supplanted by the archdeacon " exercising chief authority among the cathedral clergy, but always in strict subordination to the bishop. Another chief officer of the church—one, with the two last, of the " tria culmina ecclesiae"—was the " custos " or " primicerius, " a title he derived from his name being that first entered on the waxen tablet or list. The strange con-tradiction by which the bishop has less authority in the church of which he is the titular head, and which takes its distinctive appellation from his throne, than in any other church in his diocese, only gradually came into existence. It was partly a result of the increase of his diocesan duties, partly of his transformation into a great political officer of the state, and partly of the organization of the chapter as an independent corporation. When travelling over his widespread diocese, or attending upon the king as chancellor, or other high officer, the bishop had no leisure to attend to the internal administration of his cathedral, and the authority naturally tended to attach itself to the permanent chief of the chapter, while he gradually sank into a mer£ external visitor called in when needed to correct abuses, or as an arbiter to settle disputes. Under the bishop as its nominal head the chapter of a fully organized cathedral, when it was formed of secular priests, consisted of the quatuor personal, or four chief " dignitaries " of the church, and a body of " canons " or " prebendaries." The four high officers were—(1.) the " dean," as the general head of the whole capitular body, charged with the internal discipline of the corporation; (2) the " praecentor," or " chanter," who was charged with the management of the choir, and the musical arrangements of the service ; (3) the " chancellor," the literary-man of the chapter, who, as theological professor, superintended the education of its younger members, delivered lectures himself, and procured the delivery of sermons by others, had the care of the library, and wrote the letters of the body; and (4) the " treasurer, " not in the modern fiscal sense of the word, but the officer to whose care were entrusted the treasures of the church, its sacred vessels and altar furniture, reli-quaries, and other ornaments. With these were usually united the " archdeacons," varying in number with the size of the diocese, who were, however, more diocesan than cathedral officers. Next after these dignitaries the main body of a cathedral chapter consisted of " canons " or " pre-bendaries." The former name they received originally from being enrolled on the " canon" or list of ecclesiastical officers, though subsequently it was supposed to have reference to their being bound by canons, i.e., rules. The additional title of prebendary was given to those canons who enjoyed a separate estate (prosbetida), in virtue of their position, besides their share of the corporate funds. These names were, generally speaking, two different designations for the same individual. A canon was usually, though not always, a prebendary; but a prebendary, as a member of the capitular body, was always a canon. The life of the canons was separate, not ccenobitic. Each had his own house and his private establishment. The attempt of Chrodegang, archbishop of Metz (who died in 766), to force a semi-monastic rule on canons, with a common refectory and common dormitory, though eagerly adopted by the Emperor Charlemagne, was short-lived. By the middle of the 9th century the rule was indeed established in almost all the cathedrals of Erance, Germany, and Italy, and had also been adopted in England. But its strict-ness proved unpalatable to the canons. It was gradually relaxed everywhere, and found no acceptance in Eng-land. The distinction between " residentiary " and " non-residentiary " canons had its origin in the attempt to combat the evils consequent on pluralities. The canons having other preferments were, by the end of the 12th century, generally non-resident. Their cathedral duties were performed by "vicars" receiving a small stipend. To attract them into residence the divisible part of the corporate revenue was ordered to be shared among those canons who had resided for a certain term. This created a degree of confusion, as there was no certainty how many canons would reside during a given year. To obviate this irregularity the, duty of residence was laid on a fixed number of canons only, who were to discharge the ordinary duties of the cathedral on behalf of the whole body (Freeman Cathedral Essays, pp. 148-149). The establishment of " vicars," or, as they are now more usually but unstatutably called, " minor canons," as a regular and permanent part of the cathedral body, originally due to non-residence, was sanctioned through the inability of some of the canons to take their part in the choral service of the church. In most cathedrals each officer had his deputy. Thus we find the " sub-dean," the !'sub-chanter" or " succentor," the "vice-chancellor," as recognized members of the cathedral staff. Another officer is the " praelector," or lecturer in theology, who in some cathedrals executes the duties elsewhere performed by the chancellor.





We have been speaking hitherto of the cathedrals of secular canons. The monastic cathedrals differed little from ordinary monasteries, save in being governed, in the almost constant absence of their titular abbot, the bishop, by a prior as the real head of their society. Cathedrals of this class are peculiar to England and Germany, which received its religion mainly from England. The monks or regular clergy who served them were, in England, every-where of the Benedictine order, except at Carlisle, where they were Austin canons.

The distinction between monastic and secular cathedrals in England was perpetuated at the Beformation under the new titles of " Cathedrals of the Old Foundation " and " Cathedrals of the New." In the cathedrals of the former class the foundation remained substantially unchanged. But the monasteries attached to cathedrals having been suppressed by Henry VIII., together with the other religious houses, these cathedrals were founded afresh as chapters of secular canons presided over by a dean. These new chapters were eight in number, viz., Canterbury, Durham, Winchester, Carlisle, Ely, Norwich, Rochester, and Worcester. The members of the chapter were designated, not canons, but prebendaries, an improper appellation, as none had any separate estate or " praebenda" assigned to them. The highest number of these new prebendaries was twelve, at Canterbury, Durham, and Winchester ; the lowest was four, at Carlisle. With these monastic cathedrals may be classed the new sees formed by Henry VIII. from existing monasteries, viz., Bristol, Chester, Gloucester, Oxford, and Peterborough. The con-stitution of these cathedrals was similar to those of the other monastic cathedrals, and the codes of statutes almost identical. In all the cathedrals of the New Foundation the praeeentor, instead of being a chief dignitary second only to the dean, is one of the minor canons.

The cathedrals of the Old Foundation, whose constitution has not been materially changed since the 13th century, and which are in some instances still governed by pre-Reformation statutes, are those of York, London, Chichester, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield, Lincoln, Salisbury, and Wells, together with those of the four Welsh bishoprics—Bangor, Llandaff, St Asaph's, and St David's. Monastic cathedrals being nearly peculiar to England and Germany, these Old Foundation cathedrals " are those whose history and con-stitution has most in common with the churches of Scotland, Ireland, and Western Christendom generally" (Freeman, u.s., p. 139).

To these must be added the two recently-erected cathedrals of Manchester and Eipon. In each of these cases advantage was taken of an existing collegiate establishment on which to graft a cathedral. No provision is made in the Act for the founding of the see of St Alban's for the creation of a capitular body.

The legislation of 3 and 4 Victoria reduced all the cathedrals of England and Wales to a uniform constitution. The normal type is that of a dean and four canons. Canterbury, Durham, and Ely, however, have six canons a-piece, and Winchester and Exeter five. To remove still further the distinction between cathedrals of the Old and New Foundation, a body of honorary canons was called into being in the latter to correspond to the prebendaries of the former foundations. The prebendal estates having been alienated, the honour in each case is equally a barren one.

In not a few of the English cathedrals the due perfor-mance of the choral service is provided for by a corporation of " lay vicars," forming in some cases an independent body endowed with estates of their own. The chorister boys also in some cases are supported and educated from the proceeds of separate estates. The " priest vicars," or " minor canons," in several instances, also have their own estates and form a corporation by themselves.
It does not fall within the scope of the present article to enter upon the ritual and architectural history of cathedrals. In neither of these respects do they differ essentially from other important and dignified churches.

Essays on Cathedrals, edited by Dean Howson ; Freeman, Cathe-dral Church of Wells; Walcott, Cathedralia; Robertson, History of the Christian Church ; Milman, History of Christianity. (E. V.)




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