Rome and the tomb of St. Peter

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http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/necropoli/scavi_english.html

The link is a view of the tombs hope you visit it.

I would like to share with you one of the most moving experiences of my life. In the Holy Year 2000 we were lucky enough to travel to Rome and experience it first hand. This is a photo of the Porto Santa that is only open during the holy years. We visited every one of them while in Rome and also the Porto Santa in St Patricks Cathedral here in New York City.

While in Rome we were privileged to be able to visit the Necropolis under the Vatican Basilica which was discovered between 1939 and 1949 under the Vatican archeological team led by Monsignor Ludwig Kaas. He had discovered a complex of Pagan mausoleums under the foundations of St. Peter’s basilica. These dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The construction of the Old St. Peters and the building of the Baldacchino had destroyed them. When Constantine built the basilica he built it over the tomb of the apostle and first pope St. Peter who it is said was crucified upside down because he felt not worthy to be crucified as was Christ. For many years people thought this was just a myth. When the excavations were started under the basilica a Roman cemetery from the same period was found. The Vatican hill was used as burials could not take place in the city. After St. Peter was crucified many Christians chose to be buried in that holy place.

The site includes several graves and a tomb that is said to memorialize the grave of St. Peter. It is in a complex of other mausoleums that date to between AD 130 and AD 300.  This complex was destroyed and filled in to build the foundation for the first St. Peter’s Basilica during the reign of Constantine I about AD 330.

In the holy year December of 1950 Pius XII stated that the remains of St. Peter could not be confirmed. In 1953, after these initial archeological investigations were done a set of bones had been removed from the niche (loculus) in the north side of a a wall. This was the  graffiti wall that abuts the red wall. Testing indicated that these were the bones of a 60-70 year old man. These have been argued to be the remains of St. Peter and had been moved from the grave at the time of Constantine AD 313.

Following the discovery of further bones and an  inscription on June 26, 1968 Pope Paul VI announce that the remains of St. Peter had been found.

We had heard about this Scalvi and got tickets for myself and my friends. I am by no means a religious Catholic. I am interested in all religions. My friends are practicing Catholics however. My interests were really more in the Roman archaeology. So off we go down three stories under the basilica. There we found a city of the dead. Tombs with heart breaking epitaphs to long dead wives, children and husbands we went from ancient Roman tomb to the next. Our guide was a wonderful very well informed seminarian. At last we came to the tomb of St. Peter with it’s graffitti from the past. It is very strange but there is an emotional response that even to this day I cannot explain. The tears flowed freely. A feeling of connection to the past opened up. That feeling is with me today. The excavations have continued and from what I understand these new excavations are even more spectacular. I however will always remember a little red chink in a wall that is the tomb of the apostle Peter and it’s affect on me.