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.
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 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 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.
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 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.