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The bones of St Peter are to be unveiled to the public for the first time, Vatican reveals

// News
  • Found during excavations under St. Peter's Basilica in the 1940s
  • They have been kept out of public view since
  • St Peter is a Catholic martyr who is believed to have been crucified on the spot now marked by Clementine Chapel

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 07:21 EST, 13 November 2013 | UPDATED: 08:40 EST, 13 November 2013

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Display: Artist impression of Saint Peter. The Vatican is to display the remains of St Peter for the first time since they were discovered in the 1940s

The Vatican is to display the remains of St Peter for the first time since they were discovered in the 1940s.

The bones of the Christian martyr were found during excavations of the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica decades ago, but have since stayed below ground.

But Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization made the announcement in Monday’s editions of L’Osservatore Romano.

He said that the Catholic faithful making a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb to mark the end of the Year of Faith will enjoy 'the exposition … of the relics traditionally recognized as those of the apostle who gave his life for the Lord on this spot, reported the Religious News Service.

It is the Catholic belief that Peter was crucified upside down and died in either A.D. 64 or 67 on the spot now marked by the Clementine Chapel inside the basilica that bears his name.

The remains were found during a 1940s excavation of mausoleums under the foundations of St. Peter's Basilica.

The current basilica that now stands in the centre of Vatican City was built to replace the original structure built by Constantine, the first Christian emperor - he had built it because he believed it was where Peter was buried.

Then in 1939 routine alterations under the floor of St Peter's unearthed an incredible find, reported the BBC.

Archaeologists discovered a whole street of Roman mausoleums and ornate family tombs of both pagans and Christians dating to the early centuries AD.

Buried:

Discovery: The remains were found during a 1940s excavation of mausoleums under the foundations of St. Peter's Basilica (pictured)

They asked for papal permission to dig towards the high altar and when it was and there they found a simple, shallow grave and some bones.

Claim: Pope Paul VI announced the bones belong to St Peter

Claim: Pope Paul VI announced the bones belong to St Peter

APeter's original tomb empty and in disarray.

But after years of analysis it became apparent the bones were three different people and several animals.

But it emerged years earlier one of the Vatican officials overseeing the dig had removed some bones from a niche above the grave for safe keeping.

The Vatican Insider reported the bones had been inside a box.

'They were encrusted with earth and wrapped inside a piece of purple woollen cloth with golden thread – a particularly opulent burial. Fragments of all bones were found except those of the feet.'

The bones were handed over and tests showed they were the remains of a man in his 60s or 70s and of stocky build.

Written on the graffiti-covered plaster next to the bones were the words: petros emi, which means 'Peter is within'.

It was Pope Paul VI who announced that the bones of St. Peter had been found during a General Audience on 26 June 1968: 'New investigations, most patient and accurate, were subsequently carried out with the results that we, comforted by the judgment of qualified, prudent and competent people, believe are positive. The relics of Saint Peter have been identified in a way we believe convincing.'

Fisichella said the veneration of the relics at the Vatican was a fitting way to conclude the Year of Faith on November 24.


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