It’s a pretty big deal to be asked to build a chair for the pope, but nothing new for Tom Moser’s firm. The Maine-based woodworker’s furniture company has built and designed chairs for Pope Benedict XVI and other luminaries, including President George W. Bush.
Next month, when Pope Francis speaks in Philadelphia as part of his first trip to the United States, he’ll sit before a crowd of thousands on a Windsor-style Catena chair built by Thos. Moser Handmade American Furniture in Freeport.
“The people who were assigned to build the pieces were thrilled to do it,” said Moser, a Chicago native. “It’s not often you make something that 30,000 people will look at live, and possibly one million people will see from all over the world.”
Thos. Moser Handmade American Furniture was founded by Moser in 1972 after he decided to leave a 12-year career as a college professor. The company has showrooms all over the country, including Boston, New York, and Freeport.
The Catena chairs for the pope and his cardinals are made from black cherry from the forests of Pennsylvania, to “reflect American heritage and sustainability,” the handmade furniture company said in a statement.
“They picked [the Catena chair] because it’s very representative of a certain plainness, a much more common form and an elegant form,” Moser said. “The pope says he’s a very ordinary man, and he certainly didn’t want to sit in anything like a throne.”
A true challenge came when Moser was also asked to stabilize a historic podium for Francis. When he speaks, he will do so from a 152-year-old lectern used by Abraham Lincoln to deliver the Gettysburg Address.
Without compromising the integrity of the original structure, Moser built wooden bracing to secure it and make it safe for the pope to use.
“The natural elegance that defines the furniture made by Thos. Moser is what drove our selection of the company to design and craft the papal chairs for Pope Francis’ remarks at Independence Hall,” said Donna Farrell, executive director of World Meeting of Families and organizer of the pope’s Philadelphia visit.
The event will be televised worldwide and is expected to draw an audience of over one million people, the statement said.
It is not clear where the chairs will end up after Pope Francis leaves, but Moser is happy to have the opportunity to display his craft on a world stage once again.
“The more you attend to something, the more meaningful it becomes,” Moser said. “That meaning comes when we create something for ourselves; it doesn’t fall from the heavens. And if we get good at it, we create it even stronger.”