Difference Between Abbey and Cathedral (With Table)

Globally there are numerous religions practiced. The beliefs, rituals, practices, etc., are much more different from every other religion. Some of the popular religions known are – Hinduism, Muslim, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, and many more. These religions have their different worship places like temples, mosques, gurudwara, churches, etc. Even some of them have their own native or official language that helps them to communicate and have a better understanding of their holy books.

Abbey vs Cathedral

The difference between Abbey and Cathedral is that Abbey is a place where it serves many functions, while in a Cathedral, it is more often used for worship only. The leader of the Abbey is an abbot, while on the other hand, the leader of the cathedral is a bishop or pope.

Abbey is another kind of monastery where the leader is known as abbot or abbess. An abbey is a religious place where Christian monks and nuns live. They provide a space or building, or land for religious activities and work. The layout or the plan of the abbey is determined by the founding religious order.

Cathedral is used as a synonym for the church across the world. The leader of a cathedral is a bishop or a pop. And to be precisely defining a cathedral, it can be stated that a place with a set for bishop or pop is a cathedral. As a cathedral is said to be the seat of the bishop, that’s why it is referred to as the central church of the particular area.

Comparison Table Between Abbey and Cathedral

Parameters of ComparisonAbbeyCathedral
Etymology Latin word ‘abbatia’Latin word ‘cathedra’
MeaningMeans FatherMeans Seat
Leader AbbotBishop
More Like MonasteryChurch
PurposeServes various functionsWorship only

What is Abbey?

Abbey is a place where Christian monks and nuns used to live in. It is considered as same as monasteries. That is why they both are used synonymously. The word abbey was derived from the original Latin word name ‘abbatia,’ which means ‘father.’ But sometimes an abbey can be referred to as ‘nunnery’ this was done because the nuns were used to live in the abbey. Although now it has been stopped because of the huge confusion led by it as the place is not only for nuns but also for the Christian monks.

An abbey is a huge building comprising many other structures for different purposes. Some of them like have a separate monastery of its own, a convent, a place where all the gifts are received from the offerors, a separate place for worship, a place for religious activities and functions, and many more. The concept of the idea behind building the abbey was based on the living of men and women outside and isolated from the lay of society or community.

If the in charge of the place or abbey is a Christian monk is called abbot (spiritual father), but if by a nun, it is known as abbess (spiritual mother). The monks and nuns living their isolated lives from society are in charge and responsible for the food they eat and the clothes they wear. They grow their food and live by it. They also work for the betterment of society as they help needy people by giving them a place to live, food, medicines, education, and a lot more things.

What is Cathedral?

Cathedral is referred to as a Christian church that also has a seat for bishop or pop. The cathedrals are more often like a church. That is why they are synonymously used for one another. The word Cathedral was derived from the original Latin word that is ‘cathedra’ meaning ‘a seat.’ But it is not necessary to always have a seat of bishop or pop as there are many cathedrals without it globally.

The leader of the cathedral is known as a bishop or a pop. Also, a cathedral with a seat of bishop or pop is considered as the central church of the given particular area and is responsible for the fulfillment of the religious need. Around ancient times, the bishop or a pop sitting on the chair was considered as the teacher, magistrate, and governing body of the neighboring place with the Christian community.

Unlike the church, in a city, there is believed to be only one cathedral, and it can be a small or a large building. The difference between the church and a cathedral is just the administrative part, which is given to a cathedral, not to a church. King Henry VII started the culture of recognizing the dioceses as an independent city.

Main Differences Between Abbey and Cathedral

  1. The word Abbey was derived from a Latin word called ‘Abbatia’ while the word Cathedral is derived from the Latin word called ‘Cathedra.’ 
  2. The meaning of the word ‘abbey’ is ‘father’ while, on the other hand, the meaning of the Latin word ‘cathedra’ is the seat. 
  3. The leader of the abbey is an abbot or abbess, while the leader of the cathedral is a bishop or a pop. 
  4. An abbey is more referred to as a monastery, while the cathedral is more like a church.
  5. The purpose of the abbey is to serve many functions, while the cathedral is only used for worship. 


An abbey and the cathedral both are religious places for the Catholics. Sometimes even Catholics get confused between their religious buildings or place. These places are full of divine and serenity, which helps the common people to guide them towards the righteous path. Both the places are holy and sacred, and the buildings have a quite difference between them which has already been discussed.

An abbey is more often a place like a monastery that offers a residence to the nun and the Christian monks. While a cathedral does not offer such a thing, it is just a place for worship. Also, an abbey has different other structures along built for other purposes, while a cathedral is a small or a large building.


  1. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.2307/766867?journalCode=ges
  2. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/eb058206/full/html
  3. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.7208/9780226668208-005/html
  4. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00665983.1890.10852430?journalCode=raij20
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