Difference Between Abbey and Cathedral (With Table)

Worldwide there are several religions. According to the Adherents, there are around four thousand and three hundred religions worldwide. These religions are centred around various things altogether. There are various relations like Sikhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and more.

They have their own places of worship that exist in the form of Churches, temples, monasteries, cultures, movements, faith groups, languages and communication variations etc. The beliefs, practices, rituals are different for each religion. To recognize these religions and celebrate this diversity, the 3rd Sunday in January every year is celebrated as World Religion Day.

Abbey vs Cathedral

The main difference between Abbey and Cathedral is that the Abbey is a place used for several religious things altogether, on the other hand, the cathedral is a word considered to be synonymous with churches all around the world. The Abbey is a huge complex that always contains churches in it whereas the Cathedrals are churches that are the capital of a diocese.

The term abbey implies to father. It is a sacred place resided in by religious fraternities. These religious fraternities, the monks and nuns, are led by the spiritual leader abbot or abbess, an abbot or abbess is a monastic who is equivalent to a bishop. The abbey is also called a monastery in various places in the world.

Cathedral is a word considered to be synonymous with churches all around the world. The aptest definition of a cathedral would be the principal church of a diocese with which the bishop is officially associated. The bishop or pop is the leader of the cathedral.  Since the cathedral is the seat of the bishop or pop, it is called the central church of a particular area.

Comparison Table Between Abbey and Cathderal

Parameters of comparisonAbbey Cathedral
 What is their Etymology?The word Abbey has been derived from the Latin word ‘Abbatia’The word Cathedral has been derived from the Latin word ‘Cathedra’
What is the meaning of the word?The word Abbey literally means father.The word Cathedral literally means seat.
What are they synonymous to?Abbey is considered synonymous with monasteries and is referred to similarly as well.Cathedral is considered synonymous with churches and is called church also in various parts of the world.
Who is the leader?The leader of an Abbey is the Abbot or Abbess.The leader of a Cathedral is the Bishop or Pop.
What is the purpose?An abbey serves various purposes like it is the residence of monks, nuns, abbot or abbess. Various functions are organised in an abbey.The Cathedral serves the purpose of worship for the devotees of Jesus. Sometimes, wedding ceremonies can be held in a cathedral as well.
ExamplesThe most famous Abbey is Westminster AbbeyThe most famous Cathedral is St. Peter’s Basilica, Italy

What is an Abbey?

The basic structure of an abbey is known as a monastery. A monastery officially becomes an abbey by the holy church of Italy. An abbey is a place where the Christian monks, nuns and their leader, the abbot, the leader of the monks or abbess, are the leader of the nuns’ lives. The status of the abbot is the same as the bishop. Sometimes, the Abbey is also referred to as a nunnery because the nuns live there as well.

Apart from leading the way of the Christian fraternities living in the abbey, the abbot or abbess also guide the common Christian residents of the area on how to go out practicing Christianism. So, an abbey can also be called the office of the abbot or abbess used to spread Christianity, and train young monks, nuns and priests. Thus, an abbey is a holy structure of Christianity.

What is a Cathedral?

The cathedral is very similar to the Christian church and thus these two are synonymously referred to each other often. The cathedral is the seat of the bishop or pop, but it is not compulsory for a cathedral to have a Bishop or pop, there are various cathedrals without Bishops globally. In ancient times, the pop or bishop sitting on a chair was taken to be a teacher, magistrate or the governing body of the Christian community of the whole neighbourhood.

So, cathedrals are the central church of a neighborhood and are responsible for fulfilling all the religious needs of that neighborhood. The main difference between a cathedral and a church is that there are many churches in a city or in a large neighborhood, whereas technically there is only one cathedral. The cathedral can be a small or large building that has the administrative unit of the Christian community.

Main Difference Between Abbey and Cathedral

  1. The word Abbey is derived from the Latin word ‘Abbatia’ whereas Cathedral is derived from the Latin word ‘Cathedra’
  2. The literal meaning of the word Abbey is Father whereas the same for Cathedral, is Seat.
  3. The word Abbey, is synonymous to monastery and if often also called a nunnery. The word Cathedral is synonymous to Churches all around the world.
  4. The leader of monks and nuns living in an abbey is an Abbot (for the monks) and Abbess (for the nuns), on the other hand, leader of the Cathedral is called a Bishop or Pop/
  5. An abbey serves various purposes together. It is a training centres for young monks and nuns, is the residence of religious fraternities and can be used to organise religious events. The cathedral is mainly used for only worship purposes but can be used for wedding ceremonies as well.


Both Abbey and Cathedrals these places are related to Christianity and are places of worship for the Catholics. These places full of divinity, serenity and peaceful atmosphere soothe the common people and help them in moving towards a righteous path. Even though these places serve similar purposes relating to each other they are widely varied as well. Both these places, thus are holy and sacred but are still different.