Difference between Abbey and Cathedral

Difference between Abbey and Cathedral

A religion can be defined as community-based beliefs and practices that usually stem from the belief of a higher power. Most religious people try to read into the meaning of life. They believe that there’s more to life than just the ordinary meeting biological needs, and a higher power influences some of the experiences that occur.

Since it is based on beliefs and practices, it has fostered the growth of different religions. They include Hinduism, Muslims, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, among others. All these religions have a central point where they meet to worship. Some of these areas of worship include Gurudwara, Churches, mosques, temples and so forth. There are some that have gone further to create languages so that they can understand their holy book better.

Abbey Vs. Cathedral

The distinguishing factors about Abbey and Cathedral are many. The Abbey is designed to carry out many religious activities, while the Cathedral is used for worship only. The leader overseeing things in Abbey is Abbot, while in the Cathedral is the Bishop or Pope. Before looking further into the differences, let’s define these religious buildings first.

An Abbey is a type of monastery that is supervised by a leader called Abbot or Abbess. Christian monks and nuns are known to live in the abbey building. The place provides a space where various religious functions can take place. The founding religious order usually determines the functions that happen in the Abbey.

A Cathedral (may also be referred to as a church) is a worship place with a set of bishops or popes. It’s a central point to various churches in a particular area. It’s no wonder some refer to it as the seat of a bishop or pope.

What is an Abbey?

An Abbey, also known as a monastery, is a religious building that hosts Christian monks and nuns. The word Abbey is derived from the Latin word ‘Abbatia,’ which means father. True to this word, the religious building is headed by a spiritual father who oversees all religious functions.

Previously, the Abbey was also referred to as a nunnery. This is because nuns lived alongside monks there. It brought a lot of confusion as people thought the place was exclusive for nuns only. It, therefore, had to be reverted back to Abbey.

The area has multiple structures that perform specific functions. Facilities like a convent, a worship area, an area to receive gifts, a place for religious functions or activities. You can even get other abbeys that have a separate monastery in them.

The reason behind its creation was to have men and women live in a secluded area without the interference of societal vices. The nuns and monks in the monastery are given daily responsibilities to accomplish. For instance, they are responsible for the food and clothing they eat and wear. They plant crops and eat off of them when they grow.

They also help other people that are in need. They better their lives by providing food, shelter, clothing, medicines, and even education.

What is a Cathedral?

Cathedral is a Christian worship center with a seat for a pope or bishop. They are the same as a church; therefore, mostly also referred to as the church.

The word Cathedral was derived from a Latin word ‘cathedra’ which means a seat. King Henry VII started the diocese’s culture, where a bishop supervises a couple of churches in a particular region. They are more like a central meeting point for various churches in a particular region. Its function is to perform all religious needs of that region. The head of the Cathedral is the Pope or Bishop.

Most Cathedrals today do not necessarily have the bishop’s seat. But the one that is in that particular region is the one that would meet all religious functions. The bishop’s seat symbolized a teacher, magistrate, or governor that oversaw the neighboring Christian bodies in a region in ancient times.

The Cathedral is different from churches in the city when it comes to the administrative part, and that there’s usually one Cathedral. Other than that, they have a lot of similarities.

Difference between Abbey and Cathedral

  1. Their names were both derived from the Latin word, which has different meanings. Abbey was derived from ‘Abbatia,’ meaning father, while Cathedral was derived from ‘Cathedra’ meaning seat.
  2. The leader of the Abbey is known as Abbot if he’s male, Abbess if she’s a lady, on the other hand, the head of a Cathedral is a Bishop or Pope.
  3. The Abbey is more like a monastery, while a Cathedral is more like a church.
  4. The Abbey performs many religious functions while the Cathedral only meets worshipping needs.


The Abbey and Cathedral are Catholic divine structures. They are holy grounds that help people walk in faith and on a religious path. But you can easily get confused as to which building performs which function as they are both holy and sacred places to Catholics.

A few aspects can help you distinguish them well, as stated above. Abbey, for one, performs various religious functions and offers Christian monks and nuns a home to live in. On the other hand, Cathedral is a central meeting point of churches in a particular region. Its only function is meeting your worship needs.

Additionally, another distinguishing factor about these religious structures is that when you see an Abbey, you see other additional structures alongside the monastery, like a convent. At the same time, the Cathedral is a single structure- it could be small or big but a single structure. However, they are all religious buildings that have different functions but all are streamlined in search away that they can meet the needs of different religions.

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