A throne is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. "Throne" in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many terms such as "the power behind the throne".
Thrones have been the symbol of monarchs and deities since ancient times. In some cultures, an early form of the throne was used in coronation ceremonies, or to lift the monarch up above all others present. Thrones have ever since been associated with royal power.
The Greeks (according to Homer) were known to place additional, empty thrones in the royal palaces and temples so that the gods could be seated when they wished to be. The most famous of these thrones was the throne of Apollo in Amyclae.
The Hittites considered thrones to be gods themselves.
Isaiah mentions the same throne: (): "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the Throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
In the New Testament, the Angel Gabriel also refers to this throne in the Gospel of Luke (): "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
Jesus promised his Apostles that they would sit upon "twelve thrones", judging the twelve tribes of Israel (). John's Revelation states: "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away" ().
The Apostle Paul speaks of "thrones" in . Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, in his work, De Coelesti Hierarchia (VI.7) interprets this as referring to one of the ranks of angels (corresponding to the Hebrew Arelim or Ophanim). This concept was expanded upon by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica (I.108), wherein the thrones are concerned with carrying out divine justice.
In Medieval times the "Throne of Solomon" was associated with the Virgin Mary, who was depicted as the throne upon which Jesus sat. The ivory in the biblical description of the Throne of Solomon was interpreted as representing purity, the gold representing divinity, and the six steps of the throne stood for the six virtues. was also interpreted as referring to the Virgin Mary, the entire Psalm describing a royal throne room.
From ancient times, bishops of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and other churches where episcopal offices exist, have been formally seated on a throne, called a cathedra (κάθεδρα, seat). Traditionally located in the sanctuary, the cathedra symbolizes the bishop's authority to teach the faith (hence the expression "ex cathedra") and to govern his flock.
"Ex cathedra" refers to the explicative authority, notably the extremely rarely used procedure required for a papal declaration to be 'infallible' under Roman Catholic Canon law. In several languages the word deriving from cathedra is commonly used for an academic teaching mandate, the professorial chair.
From the presence of this cathedra (throne), which can be as elaborate and precious as fits a secular prince (even if the prelate is not a prince of the church in the secular sense), a bishop's primary church is called a cathedral. In the Roman Catholic Church, a basilica -from the Greek basilikos 'royal'-, now refers to the presence there of a papal canopy (ombrellino), part of his regalia, and applies mainly to many cathedrals and Catholic churches of similar importance and/or splendor. In Roman Antiquity a basilica was secular public hall. Thus, the term basilica may also refer to a church designed after the manner of the ancient Roman basilica. Many of the churches built by the emperor Constantine the Great and Justinian are of the basilica style.
Some other prelates besides bishops are permitted the use of thrones. For instance, abbots and abbesses. These are often simpler than the thrones used by bishops and there may be restrictions on the style and ornamentation used on them, according to the regulations and traditions of the particular denomination.
As a mark of distinction, Roman Catholic bishops and higher prelates have a right to a canopy above their thrones at certain ecclesiastical functions. It is sometimes granted by special privilege to prelates inferior to bishops, but always with limitations as to the days on which it may be used and the character of its ornamentation. The liturgical colour of the canopy should correspond with that of the other vestments. When ruling monarchs attend services, they are also allowed to be seated on a throne that is covered by a canopy, but their seats must be outside the sanctuary.
In the Greek Orthodox Church, the bishop's throne will often combine features of the monastic choir stall (kathisma) with appurtenances inherited from the Byzantine court, such as a pair of lions seated at the foot of the throne.
The term "throne" is often used in reference to Patriarchs to designate their ecclesiastical authority; for instance, "the Ecumenical Throne" refers to the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Western bishops may also use a faldstool to fulfill the liturgical purpose of the cathedra when not in their own cathedral.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope is an elected monarch, both under canon law as supreme head of the church, and under international law as the head of state -styled "sovereign pontiff"- of the Vatican City State (the sovereign state located within the city of Rome established by the Lateran Treaty in 1929. Until 1870 the Pope was the elected monarch of the Papal States, which for centuries constituted one of the largest political powers on the divided Italian peninsula). To this day the Holy See maintains officially-recognized diplomatic status, and papal nuncios and legates are deputed on diplomatic missions throughout the world.
The throne upon which the Pope is traditionally seated as Bishop of Rome (the Cathedra Romana), is located in the apse of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, his cathedral. The throne upon which he sits as Pope is in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Enshrined above this throne is an armchair believed to have been used by Saint Peter, the first pope. This relic is known as the Cathedra Sancti Petri (Chair of Saint Peter).
In the past, the pope was also carried on occasions in a portable throne, called the sedia gestatoria. Originally, the sedia was used as part of the elaborate, ostentatious pomp surrounding papal ceremonies that was believed to be the most direct heir of pharaonic splendour, and included a pair of flabella (fans made from ostrich feathers) to either side. Pope John Paul I at first abandoned the use of these implements, but later in his brief reign began to use the sedia so that he could be seen more easily by the crowds. However, he did not restore the use of the flabella. The use of the sedia was abandoned by Pope John Paul II in favor of the so-called "popemobile" when outside. Near the end of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II had a specially-constructed throne on wheels that could be used inside.
Prior to 1978, at the Papal conclave, each cardinal was seated on a throne in the Sistine Chapel during the balloting. Each throne had a canopy over it. After a successful election, once the new pope accepted election and decided by what name he would be known, the cardinals would all lower their canopies, leaving only the canopy over the newly-elected pope. This was the new pope's first throne. This tradition was dramatically portrayed in the 1963 film, The Shoes of the Fisherman.
In European feudal countries, monarchs often were seated on thrones, based in all likelihood on the Roman magisterial chair. These thrones were originally quite simple, especially when compared to their Asian counterparts. One of the grandest and most important was the Throne of Charlemagne in the "Imperial Cathedral" (Kaiserdom) at Aachen, the site of the coronation of 30 German kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Byzantine emperors made use of much more elaborate thrones, often guarded by stone lions. The emperor was initially seen behind a series of silken screens, which would be pulled aside if the foreign visitor was sufficiently important. As the throne was approached mechanical lion would roar and organs would play. On reaching the foot of the throne, the suppicant was forced to prostrate and touch his head to the ground, and the throne would rise into the air, so that when the visitor raised his head from the ground he would be astounded.
The medieval Russian Tsars also employed Byzantine ceremonial with regard to throne-room etiquette. The most famous throne of Muscovy was the Ivory Throne of Ivan IV "the Terrible". Dating from the mid-XVIth century, it is shaped as a high-backed chair with arm rests, and adorned with ivory and walrus bone plaques intricately carved with mythological, heraldic and life scenes. The plaques carved with scenes from the biblical account of King David’s life are of particular relevance, as David was seen as the ideal for Christian monarchs.
In the Indian subcontinent, the term gaddi (also called rājgaddī) was reserved for the throne of a Hindu princely state's ruler, while their Muslim colleagues throned on a musnad ([məsnəd̪]), even though both were in the shape of a divan. In the Mughal times the throne was called Shāhī takht while traditional Sanskrit name for the throne was singhāsana (lit., seat of a lion).
During the Russian Empire, the throne in St. George's Hall (the "Greater Throne Room") in the Winter Palace was regarded as the throne of Russia. It sits atop a seven-stepped dais with a proscenium arch above and the symbol of the Imperial Family behind (the two-headed eagle). Peter I's Room (the "Smaller Throne Room") is modest in comparison to the former. The throne was made for Empress Anna Ivanovna in London. There is also a throne in the Grand Throne Room of the Peterhof.
Among the most famous thrones still in usage are St Edward's Chair, on which the British monarch is crowned, and the thrones used by monarchs during the state opening of parliaments in the United Kingdom, Denmark, The Netherlands, Canada, Australia, and Japan (see above) among others.
Some republics use distinctive throne-like chairs in some state ceremonial. The President of the United States sits on a distinctive high-backed white-clothed chair in the Oval Office in the White House when meeting distinguished visitors in front of the media.(The visitor sits in a matching chair.) The President of Ireland sits on a former viceregal throne during his or her inauguration ceremony while Lords Mayor of many British and Irish cities often preside over local councils from throne-like chairs.