Plywood throne designed for Pope's New York mass to reflect "simplicity and humility"

California-based designer Jim Lenahan – best known for his concert sets for musicians like Tom Petty and Korn – has designed a chair for Pope Francis' visit to New York today.

The Pope is in New York today as part of a three-city tour of the United States taking place this week.

Francis will sit on the large plywood throne, which features a curved back, mahogany trim, and white-cushioned seat and back, to deliver a mass at Madison Square Garden during his visit to the city.

The chair was designed by LA's Jim Lenahan Production Design, a company that has long worked on sets for Tom Petty.

Francis landed in Washington DC on September 22, and became the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress on September 24. Following his time in New York, the Pope will travel to Philadelphia for more public events and ministry.

Francis, an Argentinian who practices in the Jesuit tradition, advocates for the poor. He has cast off many of the luxurious trappings of his predecessors.

The plywood throne reflects the Pope's "emphasis on simplicity and humility," Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said during its unveiling.

"A chair is very important in the Catholic imagination, a chair represents unity, and a chair represents teaching authority," Cardinal Dolan said. "The man who occupies the chair of St Peter is our holy father the Pope, the bishop of Rome. So wherever he goes you want to have an important chair."


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"He wanted something very simple. He wanted something wooden. He didn't want any designs," Dolan said. "We're very grateful to the workers and proud of what it represents."

Not everyone sees the throne as an ode to values of thrift and charity. Writing on the technology and design website Gizmodo, writer Alyssa Walker called the throne "heinous", described it as a "design blasphemy" and said "New York should be ashamed."

Lenahan designed the throne with Madison Square Garden's arena in mind, including the stage lighting for a previously planned Billy Joel concert. "He was supposed to be in there that night but he moved his show so the Pope could have the room, and he's letting the Pope use his lights," Lenahan told Quartz.

Lenahan created the lighting, scenery, and projections for all Tom Petty's concerts from 1974 through to 2012. His firm has also worked with artists including Bob Dylan, Thirdeye Blind, Barenaked Ladies, and Korn.