The main difference between cathedral and basilica is that a cathedral is the principal church building of a diocese and the seat of the bishop, while a basilica is the highest permanent designation for a church building.
Cathedrals and basilicas are two names we use to describe important church buildings. They are different from churches and have religious significance.
Key Areas Covered
Cathedral, Basilica, Pro-cathedral
What is a Cathedral
A cathedral is the principal church building of a diocese. It’s the seat of the bishop and a center of worship. We can also describe it as an administrative unit of a larger church since a bishop preside over it. Cathedrals are large and impressive structures, visually suggesting the concept of power and glory. Cathedrals also tend to be the major landmarks in cities and are often tourist attractions. However, it’s important to note that all large church buildings are not cathedrals. The difference between a church and a cathedral is not the size of the building but the presence of the bishop. Hence, a church building can sometimes become a cathedral. A church building that serves temporarily as a cathedral is known as a pro-cathedral. Meanwhile, some buildings are originally built as cathedrals.
The system of cathedrals is not very simple in the Catholic Church. There are co-cathedrals sharing authority in some dioceses. There are also cathedrals with rising levels of authority, such as the primatial church, the metropolitical church, and the patriarchal church. These also govern cathedrals and churches in their jurisdiction that are lower in the hierarchy.
What is a Basilica
A basilica is a large Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox church building. The word comes from the Greek word ‘royal court.’ In Catholicism, it’s a church building that has been conferred special privileges by the Pope. In fact, only the Pope can confer the title of a basilica. Furthermore, there are two types of basilicas: major or papal basilicas and minor basilicas. The four papal basilicas are St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major. They are all found in Rome. Moreover, other basilicas found throughout the world are minor basilicas that have been given special ecclesiastical privileges. These basilicas are traditionally named due to their dignity, historical value, antiquity, architectural and artistic worth, and their role as centers of worship.
Furthermore, the three physical signs that differentiate a basilica and a church are conopaeum (a silk canopy designed in traditional papal colors), tintinnabulum (a bell), and papal symbol (the right to display it). In addition, papal visits, special ceremonies like national vigils and saint coronations take place in basilicas.
Difference Between Cathedral and Basilica
A cathedral is the principal church building of a diocese and the seat of the bishop, whereas a basilica is a large Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox church building.
A cathedral is the home church of the bishop of a Catholic diocese, whereas a basilica is the highest designation for a church building.
Even if a church is named a cathedral, it can later lose its status, but once it’s named a basilica, the status is permeant.
A cathedral is the principal church building of a diocese and the seat of the bishop, whereas a basilica is the highest permanent designation for a church building. Cathedral is not a permanent status, while a basilica is a permanent status. Thus, this is the main difference between cathedral and basilica.
1. “Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, West view 20150605 1” By DXR – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Petersdom von Engelsburg gesehen” By Giacomo della Porta – Wolfgang Stuck (Own work), September 2004 (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia