In , the Vatican published a report by Guarducci disclosing the new finding. From his position as rector of the Pontifical Institute for Christian Archaeology, Ferrua was able to marginalize Guarducci and remove the bones from the Graffiti Wall. As a result, the truth about St. Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable.
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The First Full Account of the Discovery of the Apostle's Tomb
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Alessia Giuliani CPP. Pope Francis kisses the relics of the Apostle Peter on the altar during a mass at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Share Stephen Beale Oct 29, It all started with an accident. Since you are here…. Become an Aleteia Patron Today. Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here. Yes, I would like to receive information from Aleteia partners.
The Bones of St. Peter
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Marzena Devoud. In order to transform the site into a flat surface, capable of taking such a building, the builders had first to bury a necropolis still in use and, what is more, cut into the Vatican hill. The Emperor, using his full powers, ordered all this to be done. Thus the necropolis was buried and robust foundation walls were dug deep within it […]. The very scale of the work to be undertaken and the enormous obstacles to be surmounted for it to succeed, tell us of the exceptional importance attributed to this Vatican site, for it was regarded as the exact place where the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles lay.
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Plan of the Vatican site throughout the centuries. That is where they were found, in a loculus , situated outside the monument, in the course of the first excavation work , but unknown to the workers, amidst other groups of bones. Collected in boxes specially prepared to hold the separate sets of bones found in the course of this work, they fell into oblivion for many a long year. The merit and the glory for having identified them falls to Margherita Guarducci. One May morning in , she went down for the first time beneath the Vatican basilica to visit the excavations. For the first time, there was a mention of his body, a certain allusion to his bones, which strangely had never been found.
Without the slightest hesitation, he took the archaeologist to a recess where there were stacked some boxes of various sizes. After a brief search, he stopped in front of a small wooden box, closed by a lid fixed with two nails. The idea that these fragile, light, milky coloured bones could be those of the Prince of the Apostles was so far from her mind, that these bones waited nearly ten years for the necessary anthropological examination. Now, he knew nothing at all of the archaeological and topographical data.
In your little wooden box, I found the bones of a single individual and not of several, as in group T and group K. I answered. And were you able to establish the sex? Then he continued by pointing out to me that all the different parts of the skeleton, with the exception of the feet, were more or less represented. There were fragments from the top of the skull and from the jaws, a canine tooth, fragments of ribs, vertebrae and the pelvis, the almost entire left hand and significant fragments of the lower limbs.
The Bones of St. Peter | Sophia Institute Press
Furthermore, on some of the bones, on those parts that were most prominent, reddish stains could be seen, and on all there was — I had noticed this myself — an abundance of earth. Out of habit, my thoughts immediately went back to the opening of the recess on the east side, to the mediaeval coins and the dog bone found among the human remains. There were also animal bones among group T and group K. Do you know that in the little wooden box there were also tiny mouse bones? I found several and I think they are all from one single little mouse.
Then I agreed with Professor Correnti that it was very odd to see these pieces of bone belonging to one single individual. Whereupon, the conversation came to an end. At least two days, I think. And Peter was indeed an individual of masculine sex who had died at an advanced age. As a fisherman used to hard tiring work, he also had a very strong constitution.
What about the bones abundantly encrusted with earth? What about the fact that some of the bones, as Professor Correnti had pointed out to me, contained reddish stains?
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Well, I myself had found in the midst of the bone fragments small remains of a reddish cloth interlaced with threads of gold. I then began to understand how things must have happened. He had then had them wrapped in a precious cloth of purple and gold and placed in the loculus of the monumental tomb which he had erected in honour of the Martyr.
The purple and gold were — and no one could deny it — admirably suited to the dignity of a martyr who was at the same time the Prince of the Apostles. At first, I thought it referred to the primitive tomb dug beneath the small chamber.
They have been found in the most unexpected places. Thereupon, the difficulty was transformed for me into a positive proof. We had in fact been obliged to go back to the age when this area of the Vatican was still a rural district where sheep grazed and peasants lived. He wanted all the photographs and drawings to be shown and explained to him, and he asked me for information about epigraphy in general and about deciphering techniques in particular.
He showed a remarkably fine instinct, an amazing memory and an astonishing capacity to familiarise himself with a science with which he had hitherto been totally unacquainted. On the 5 th of that month, I took a copy to the Pope before his departure for Castelgandolfo. It was the last time I saw him. He had let me know of his intention to come down personally to wall G in order to read at first hand. Not only did he show that he knew little about them, but at least this was my impression he showed no desire to want to know any more.
To have insisted would have been inopportune. I had been led to the room immediately adjacent to the private library. My audience, therefore, was to be the first of the special audiences. On the marble top of a gilded piece of furniture, my six little volumes were already there, standing in their case. After offering my present with a few brief words, I had to tell the Sovereign Pontiff of the great news burning my lips. I then saw people crossing the room and passing quite close to me. I did not feel at ease. The Pope noticed and ordered the door to be closed. Only then did I decide to speak and to say that in all probability the relics of Saint Peter had been identified.
The Pope made a little gesture of surprise. A light shone in his eyes. In a voice affected by emotion, he expressed his joy and asked me who else already knew the news. I listed a few names and declared that I was ready to present proofs of what I had just told him. But it was not a favourable moment and my account was deferred to another occasion.