Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Abbey and Cathedral

Abbey Vs Cathedral

Even for non-Catholics, distinguishing an abbey from a cathedral is not that difficult. Simply said, an abbey is like a monastery but a more mature version of such. Under the direct supervision of its abbess (the spiritual mother) and or the abbot (the spiritual father), the abbey is where the religious (monks and the like) dwell. In this place, there are lots of them, at least a dozen.

Abbeys, as a structure or place, is a group of infrastructures that comprises many minor buildings like a separate monastery, convent, place to receive gifts from offerers from the outside, and of course a place of worship amongst other specialized centers. Abbeys are therefore complexes with varied centers. Each center is designed for a particular purpose like grooming, living, community gathering, praying and other functions.

Derived from the Latin word that literally means father ‘Abbatia,’ an abbey can also be called as a nunnery. But this term is usually not used for it gives some confusion to the technical definition of an abbey by describing it as a place for nuns only.

Cathedral is more closely likened to a typical church. But unlike most churches, the cathedral is considered as the principal church (the major) religious establishment in a certain diocese. It may not be the biggest church in the city but it does house the throne of the bishop. And unlike abbeys, cathedrals are led by the bishops.

Taken from the Latin word ‘cathedra’ that literally means seat, the word cathedral was originally an adjective that describes a church as in the cathedral church. Nowadays, it is widely accepted as a noun pertaining to a structure or place of worship. Although the cathedral is also a center for many functions both civic and social, the main purpose for erecting a cathedral is to serve as a place for worship.

It has a hierarchy guided by the Episcopal denomination like the Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. Being the central church of the diocese, cathedrals are often designed or constructed as remarkable edifices.

In another sense (non-episcopal), cathedrals can also pertain to the churches that are revered because of their significance and great importance. This definition is however discouraged from being used for it brings confusion in distinguishing a cathedral from an ordinary church.

1. An abbey is headed by the Abbot and or the Abbess while the cathedral is led by the bishop.

2. An abbey is more of a monastery while a cathedral is more of a church.

3. An abbey is built to serve varied functions compared to cathedrals that are primarily for worshipping only.

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1 Comment

  1. I happened to visit your site looking for the exact meaning of the term “cathedral” and thank you for the help. However, allow me to make a comment concerning the term “cathedra”. It is not a latin one but a greek. It is the greek word “καθέδρα”. (see OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY). Thank you.

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