Golden Legend – Chairing of Saint Peter

Of the Chairing of Saint Peter the Apostle.

The chair is said in three manners, that is, the chair royal, as it is said in the book of Kings: David sitting in a chair. And there is a chair of priests, as Regum primo, Eli, the priest sitting upon a chair. And the third is the chair for a master as is said, Matt. xxiii.: Upon the chair of Moses, etc. Then Saint Peter sat in a chair royal, for he was prince of the apostles, and he sat in the chair of priests, for he was lord of all the priests, and in the chair of the master, for he was a great doctor of christian men. The first was of equity, the second of quantity, and the third of truth and of virtue.

Holy church halloweth the feast of Saint Peter the apostle, and this day was Saint Peter honorably enhanced in the city of Antioch, and set in the chair as a bishop. Many causes there be wherefore this feast is hallowed and established. Of whom the first is, as is said in a sermon of this feast, that when Saint Peter went for to preach the word of God and founded holy church by his predication, Niceta and Aquila showed unto the city of Antioch that Peter the apostle of God came thither, wherefore the people and also the nobles of the city came against him, and knowledged themselves culpable of that they had holden of the predication of Simon Magus, which was an enchanter. After, they did to be brought tofore him all such people as were vexed with divers maladies and sicknesses, of whom there were so many that they might not be numbered. Saint Peter beheld their repentance, and also that they believed firmly in the name of God, and anon lift up his hands unto heaven, and made his prayer to God saying: O God, Father Almighty, I yield to thee thankings in this that thou hast worthily fulfilled the promises of thy blessed Son, by which all creatures may know that thou art one only God in heaven and in earth. And after, he ascended up into an high place, and all the multitude of sick men were brought tofore him, and he said to them in this manner: Ye that see me a mortal man as ye be, ween ne suppose not ye that by me ye may be healed, but by him that is descended from heaven to earth, which giveth to all them that believe in him full health of body and of soul. This ought ye to believe to the end that all may know that ye that thus believe entirely with all your heart in Jesu Christ may be made whole and guerished by him. And anon all they that were sick cried with a high voice: We believe that Jesu Christ is very God. Suddenly a light appeared there, and all the sick people were guerished and healed of whatsomever malady they had. And that same day the Holy Ghost showed so greatly his grace, that from the least unto the most, all believed in our Lord Jesu Christ. And there were baptized in seven days more than ten thousand persons of men, women, and children, and also Theophilus, the lord and provost of the city, to whom Saint Peter had raised his son which had been fourteen years dead. And some say that of his palace he made a church in the which all the people set up a chair for Saint Peter to sit in more higher, for to preach the doctrine of Jesu Christ, and the better to be heard and seen. And of the exalting thus of Saint Peter into this chair, this feast taketh the name of the chairing of Saint Peter. And in this church was Saint Peter seven years, and from thence he went to Rome and governed the church of Rome twenty-five years. That other reason why this feast was established was for the reverence of the crown or tonsure of his head, which yet clerks bear and have, for like as some say, at this journey was first found the crown of the clerks. For when Saint Peter preached at the first time in the city of Antioch, the paynims sheared him upon his head above, like a fool, in despising christian law. And because this was done to Saint Peter to do him despite and shame, it was sith stablished that the clergy should have his crown shaven in sign of right great honour and authority. And it is to wit that in the crown be three things: first the head is discovered and bare above and the hair cut away, and the crown is round. There be three reasons why the head is bare, of which Saint Denis assigneth the twain, and saith the rasure and cutting off of the hair signifieth pure life and clean without any arraying withoutforth; for like as hairs be naturally for to adorn the head, right so deform they the head when they be cut off by mockery or otherwise. Also good manners which ought to adorn the clean life, deform the holy conversation when they be left and taken away by habits covetous and proud. Also the rasure or shaving which is on the overmost part of the head signifieth that between God and them ought to be nothing ne mean that should displease God, but their love should be in God without any letting and empeshment and should address in him their thoughts. The second thing that is in the crown is that the hairs be shaven clean away. By that is signified that the clerks ought to take away from their hearts all vain thoughts which might let and empesh the service divine, and also ought to be withdrawn from all temporal business, and only to have their necessities. The third thing that is in the crown is that it is round, and this figure seemeth good by many reasons. The first is that a round figure hath neither beginning nor end. The second is, in a round crown be no corners, and as Saint Bernard saith whereas be corners there is gladly filth, and that is to be understood that the clerks ought not to have in their hearts no corners where the filth of sins might assemble, but ought to have a clean conscience, and also they ought to have truth in their mouths. For as saith Saint Jerome: Truth seeketh no corners. The third reason is, for like as the figure of a crown is most fair among all other, so the conversation of clerks or priests ought to be best adorned of good manners among all other lay people. The fourth reason is, for like as a crown hath but one way round and no figure, like as Saint Austin saith: There is none so simple a figure as that which hath but one way, also the clerks ought to be simple in their conversation, without fiction and pride. And it is to wit that holy church halloweth of Saint Peter three feasts in the year for three gifts that he hath power to give to the people. The first is the chair, for he giveth absolution of sins. The second feast is called advincula, that is the first day of the August, for he by his power transumeth the pain perpetual due for sins mortal into pain temporal. The third feast is of his martyrdom, for he hath power to release some pains of penance enjoined for the sins confessed, and for these three causes he is digne and worthy honorably to be served and worshipped. Let us then pray to him that he may impetre and get to us remission of all our sins, and after this short transitory life we may come to everlasting joy and glory in heaven. Amen.