Art and Architecture
Altar of Sacrifice
The Altar of Sacrifice, as the principle symbol of Christ and focus of the Eucharistic celebration, is the centerpiece of the Cathedral. Moved forward and freestanding, the altar is visually accessible to all assembled and creates a sense of community gathered around the table of the Lord.
The top of the altar or mensa is made of oak and cherry inlays forming a Jerusalem cross. Fifty-two white marble columns support the mensa, each four- and three-column pillar hold a hand-carved capitol which vaults to the next group of columns.
Beneath the altar table is a carved oak and cherry reliquary containing 84 true and verified relics of the saints and martyrs, holy men and women, including Saint Patrick, patron saint of the diocese. So we may truly say that it is on the faith, the blood and the love of those who lived and died for Christ that we celebrate.
Prior to the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council, the Reredos contained the Altar of Sacrifice where priests and the Bishops of Erie would celebrate Holy Mass. During the Cathedral renovations, the Reredos, which is made of white carrara marble, was cleaned and restored and remains the primary backdrop in the Sanctuary. The Reredos features statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and bas-reliefs depicting the sacrifices of Isaac and Melchisedec. Beneath the old High Altar is a splendid sculpture of the burial of Christ (the New Testament sacrifice).
Designed in a cruciform shape from polished bronze and carved oak, the tabernacle holds the reserved Blessed Sacrament. Its strong gothic character features a center spire accented with small carvings and inlaid cut crystal engraved with the symbols of Christ. Each side of the Tabernacle is adorned with an image of Christ, Christ crucified, Christ resurrected, Christ of the Word and Christ of the Eucharist.
The Tabernacle rests on an oak and cherry throne with a dark green marble top and is accented with marble columns.
As Moses housed the Ark of the Covenant in a tent in the desert, we today, as Catholic Christians, carry forward this tradition and set the Most Blessed Sacrament under a baldachin or canopy to signify the presence of God.
The baldachin, formerly located above the original Cathedra, was redesigned during the Cathedral renovations in 1992 to encase the tabernacle. Its natural oak finish was completely restored. Brass legs, trimmed in oak, were added on four sides to frame the tabernacle. The front section remains open and visible to the community.
The flame within the Sanctuary Lamp shined continually, except Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, as a symbol of the Light of Christ and the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist reserved in the Tabernacle. At Saint Peter’s Cathedral, the highly polished, ornate Lamp holds a hand-blown glass globe in which the candle burns. The lamp was completely restored in the 1992 renovation.
The Cathedral’s baptistry is located close to the front doors of the Cathedral to recall that through the Sacrament of Baptism we enter the Church of Jesus Christ.
The font has upper and lower wells to allow baptisms by pouring or immersion. Warm, clear water springs from the upper and cascades down to the lower well. The font features a blue pearl granite interior with inlaid gold mosaics of the morning sun to symbolize our awakening to Christ and everlasting life. The exterior is dark green marble which is used throughout the Cathedral to trim the gathering space, center aisle and sanctuary.
The Ambry is the reservation space of the Holy Oils. The Ambry is located in a niche in the tower wall near the baptismal font. Behind its carved wood grille and glass sit three silver urns containing the Chrism for Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders; the Oil of Catechumens for anointing those newly entering the Church; and the Oil of the Sick. The urns are large because they hold the holy oils for all the churches in the Diocese of Erie. Three small hand-blown glass decanters containing the Holy Oils also are located in the Ambry for use at the Cathedral. The background of the Ambry is black pearl granite, which allows the silver urns to be easily visible.
The word “cathedral” comes from the word “cathedra,” which is the official chair of the bishop. A cathedral is a church where the bishop’s chair is located. The cathedra at Saint Peter’s represents the bishop’s obligations to preside over the liturgy, and to teach, shepherd and sanctify the people in the Erie Diocese. It also symbolizes the Church’s authority throughout the Diocese.
In keeping with the other liturgical furnishings found in the Cathedral, the chair of the bishop is made of oak and cherry woods. The seat is large enough for the bishop to sit in full liturgical vestments.
The backdrop of the cathedra is fabricated from Spanish rosa duquesa marble and trimmed in red oak and cherry. The marble columns are made from Italian Calcutta marble. In the center of the field, the arms of the current Bishop of Erie is mounted.
The ambo or pulpit is located close to the community so that the Word of God can be heard. It is aligned with the altar, bringing together the Word and the Sacrament. Its open arch design was purposefully created to permit a clear view of other areas of the sanctuary. Yet, it is a strong statement which clearly defines its important purpose. The design allows for use by children proclaiming the Word of God.
The cross is the symbol of our salvation. The Cathedral’s oak and cherry gothic cross located in the sanctuary is 18 feet tall and clearly visible to all. The large cross holds the processional cross, behind which the faithful gather in procession and celebration of the mystery of the Lord’s life, death and resurrection. The linden wood corpus on the processional cross is four feet tall and, at rest, gives the appearance that Christ’s arms are embracing the sanctuary.
The oak and cherry woods forming the Cathedral furnishings are native to the Diocese of Erie. Each piece is made of solid stock. The pieces were kiln-dried, planed, laminated and carved.
The crypt is the final resting place of Erie’s Past Bishops. Located directly beneath the high altar, the crypt was first envisioned by Bishop Fitzmaurice and completed in October of 1902. The original design contained twelve marble niches in which the bishops of the Diocese of Erie would be buried. On October 29, 1902, after the celebration of a pontifical requiem mass by Bishop Fitzmaurice, two of his predecessors, Bishops Young and Mullen were placed in the crypt. Presently there are six bishops buried in the crypt:
- Bishop Young
- Bishop Mullen
- Bishop Fitzmaurice
- Bishop Gannon
- Bishop McManaman
- Bishop Watson
Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross trace the last journey of Jesus from accusation and condemnation through hi final steps up Calvary, to his death and burial.
The stations of the cross in the Cathedral are paintings with gold-leafed oak frames. The twelfth station is unique, however, and is a brilliant bronze sculpture of Christ crucified. The crucifix was originally located in the north transept. Both the cross and corpus have been ebonized. Upon seeing it restored during the 1992 restoration, Bishop Trautman suggested making this work of art the twelfth station, “Christ Crucified.”