The Bones of Saint Peter

The Bones of Saint Peter

Curran, John (The Queen’s University Belfast)

Classics Ireland, Volume 3 (1996)


On Wednesday 26th June 1968, Pope Paul VI, conducting an audience in the basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, departed from his normal routine to issue a statement of enormous significance to the Holy See, Roman Catholics and Christians throughout the world: the Pope declared that the mortal remains of Peter, foremost of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, had been found beneath the great church in which he was speaking. The statement marked the culmination of one of the most famous and important archaeological investigations of recent times; a vast undertaking which had engaged the talents of scientists, historians and linguists for a quarter of a century. But more than fifty years after the beginning of the excavations, the data, methods and conclusions of the investigators can still be viewed as controversial. The purpose of this paper is to offer an introduction to the debate on one of Rome’s most important (and least frequented) ancient sites.

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