A cathedral is the home church for the bishop or archbishop of a Catholic diocese. It takes its name from the bishop’s chair, called a cathedra in Latin, which traditionally represents the seat of power and authority of the leader of the diocese.
A basilica is simply an important church building designated by the pope because it carries special spiritual, historical, and/or architectural significance. Basilica is the highest permanent designation for a church building, and once a church is named a basilica, it cannot lose its basilica status.
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A basilica may or may not also be the cathedral of the diocese. For example, the University of Notre Dame has the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on its campus, but it is not where the primary cathedral of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is located.
Here’s a short list of famous cathedrals around the world:
- Notre Dame de Paris in Paris, France
- Cathedral of Saint Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota
- Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy
- Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France
Here’s a short list of famous basilicas around the world:
- St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy
- St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy
- Las Lajas Cathedral in Ipiales, Colombia
- Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore, Maryland
Updated May 2017