Vatican doubts St Peter’s remains are in a forgotten tomb

St. Peter’s remains

St Peter’s remains may have been buried in catacombs under the Mausoleum of St Helena.

And they could still be there, according to a paper published recently by Italian researchers.

The claims were made in “The Search of St Peter’s Memory ad catacumbas in the Cemeterial Area ad Duos Lauros in Rome,” published in early March in the journal ‘Heritage’.

Labelling their conclusions as “conjecture,” the researchers suggested archaeologists could “validate” their findings with “excavation campaigns”.

However, a leading expert in Christian archaeology and a member of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology told Vatican News that the researchers’ hypothesis was “unacceptable.”

Emperor Constantine would never have gone through so much logistical trouble building St Peter’s Basilica in the early fourth century “if it had not been contingent upon the presence of the venerated remains” below, where the saint’s tomb had been venerated since early Christian times, Vincenzo Fiocchi Nicolai told Vatican News May 30.

“It is clear,” he said, “that St Peter’s remains were found in the place of the original burial site on the Vatican hill when the formidable Constantinian basilica was built. It is the biggest basilica ever established in the city,” he said.

He added that if later the remains had been moved “ad catacumbasto,” then that refers to a cemetery on the Appian Way, later called, the catacombs of St Sebastian.

The researchers highlighted the lengthy quest by archaeologists to prove where St Peter had been buried but added that the debate was still open as to where his remains could be found.

“The most accepted opinion is that St Peter’s remains were moved in one of the Roman catacombs,” they wrote.

They added that “archaeological evidence seems to exclude” the common hypothesis that St Peter’s remains were kept “for a certain period” in the catacombs on Via Appia.

St Paul VI announced in 1968 that the “relics” of St Peter had been “identified in a way which we can hold to be convincing”.

This came after bones were discovered following excavations of the necropolis under St Peter’s Basilica, near a monument erected in the fourth century to honour St Peter.

The pope had cases of the relics placed beneath the basilica’s main altar and in his private chapel in the Apostolic Palace.

According to Vatican News, scientists have confirmed the remains are those of a 60 – 70-year-old robust male.


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