Peter, apostle – February 22nd, June 29th
(Relics: Rome, Italy)
First Class Relics
St Peter’s Basilica
*Tradition holds that St Peter was crucified upside down in the middle of Nero’s Circus. The Altar of The Crucifixion located in the left transept of St Peter’s Basilica is very close to the actual site where this crucifixion took place.
*The bones of St Peter are in the confessio below the Papal Altar and his jawbone can be seen on the Scavi tour.
*Tradition holds that within the large bronze chair located above the Altar of the Chair in the apse of the church is a second smaller chair made out of wood. This second chair is said to consist of fragments from the original Episcopal chair that St Peter once sat in.
Basilica of St John Lateran
Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano 4
*Positioned above the Papal Altar of this church are two busts of St Peter and St Paul. According to tradition the skulls or parts of the skulls of St Peter and St Paul are within these busts. Also located within the Papal Altar is a wooden table that St Peter and many of the earliest popes are said to have celebrated the Eucharist upon.
*Located to the left of the Papal Altar is another very ancient table. This table rests above the altar where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. It is placed directly behind a bronze relief of the Last Supper. Tradition claims that it was upon this table that Jesus and the apostles celebrated the Last Supper.
Churches of Honor in Rome
Domine Quo Vadis (Lord, Where Are You Going?)
Via Appia Antica
*This church is southeast of the Aurelian Walls.
*This is the location where Christ allegedly appeared to St Peter as he was fleeing Rome. Upon seeing the Lord, St Peter asked, “Domine, Quo Vadis?” (Lord, where are you going?) to which Jesus replied, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Spurred on by this encounter St Peter returned to Rome where he became a martyr.
San Giuseppe dei Falegnami / Carcere Mamertino
(Saint Joseph of the Carpenters / Mamertine Prison)
Clivo Argentario 1
*This church is located in the Roman Forum above the Mamertine Prison. It was in this prison that the Romans incarcerated individuals of great importance. As a result a long standing tradition has placed St Peter’s imprisonment here. Such a high profile imprisonment would seem likely from today’s perspective, however, at the time of St Peter’s death his role as the leader of a little-known Jewish sect would have almost certainly been regarded as insignificant. As a result his imprisonment at this location is doubted. Nevertheless, this prison continues to actively promote tours. Within St Peter’s alleged cell is a raised ring that is believed to be the spot where a spring of water arose allowing St Peter to baptize two guards.
San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains)
Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli 4/a
*This church is near the Cavour metro stop.
*A tradition claims that St Peter was condemned and imprisoned near this site. This tradition is probably more credible than the one held at the Mamertine Prison.
*Venerated within the confessio of this church are the chains of St Peter. A tradition holds that these chains are a result of the chains from St Peter’s imprisonment in Jerusalem coming into contact with the chains from St Peter’s imprisonment in Rome. Miraculously these two chains were fused into the one inseparable chain that is now found in the confessio.
San Sebastiano Fuori Le Mura
(Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls)
Via Appia Antica 136
*This church is southeast of the Aurelian Walls.
*This church has an ancient tradition connecting it to St Peter and St Paul. The Depositio Martyrum shows that in the year 258 pilgrims came to San Sebastiano Fuori Le Mura on June 29th, the Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul, to honor these two great saints. Therefore, it is presumed that at one time this church housed the remains of both St Peter and St Paul.
*St Sebastian (d. 288) was originally buried in the catacombs located under this church. At some point, however, these remains were removed. Some of these remains are now located within an urn in a chapel on the left side of the nave. This is the chapel with the very impressive statue of St Sebastian created by Giuseppe Giorgetti.
*Directly across from this chapel on the right side of the nave is a reliquary chapel that contains the column to which St Sebastian was tied and an arrow that pierced his flesh. Also within this same reliquary chapel are some small relics said to be from St Peter, St Paul, St Andrew, and a number of other saints including the pope, St Fabian (d. 250). St Fabian was originally buried in the Catacombs of San Callisto but later his remains were moved to this church.
*Tradition also claims that within the catacombs located under this church St Philip Neri (d. 1595) experienced such an enlargement of his heart due to a supernatural infusion of God’s love that two of his ribs cracked.
Santa Pudenziana (Saint Pudentiana)
Via Urbana 160
*This church is near the Basilica of St Mary Major.
*It is believed that St Peter lodged here while he was in Rome. The house in which he stayed was owned and provided for by St Pudens, a Roman Senator. Since early Christians did not have public places for worship it is also presumed that St Peter celebrated Mass here. Remnants from the ancient wooden altar used for these Masses are said to be preserved in the chapel dedicated to him on the left side of the main sanctuary.
San Pietro in Montorio (Saint Peter in Montorio)
Piazza San Pietro in Montorio 2
*This church is located on the Janiculum hill.
*Within the main sanctuary of this church is a painting by Vincenzo Camuccini entitled the Crucifixion of St Peter. This is a copy of the original that was done by Guido Reni. This painting recalls a mistaken medieval tradition which placed the martyrdom of St Peter at the location of this church and not at St Peter’s Basilica. This tradition, which has in modern times been disproved, led to the construction of a small circular chapel within the cloister adjacent to this church. This chapel, called the Tempietto, is considered one of the best examples of Italian Renaissance architecture in Rome. It was designed by Bramante in the early part of the 16th century. Special permission is needed to access this chapel.
Santa Maria del Popolo (Our Lady of the People)
Piazza del Popolo 12
*This church is at Piazza del Popolo.
*In the Cerasi Chapel, to the left of the main altar, are two exceptional works by Caravaggio. The one to the left is entitled the Crucifixion of St Peter.
Santa Francesca Romana (Saint Frances of Rome)
Piazza di Santa Francesca Romana 4
*This church is next to the Roman Forum.
*Two flagstones within the right transept of the church are said to bear the imprints of the knees of St Peter. According to a legend the magician Simon Magus levitated in the Roman Forum to demonstrate that his powers were superior to those of Peter. In response Peter fell to the ground in prayer causing the knee imprints in the stone. Simon Magus then immediately fell to his death.
*Also the remains of St Frances of Rome (d. 1440) are in the crypt below the main sanctuary. Her skeleton is vested in the habit of the Oblate Sisters.