Sunday, 13 November 2016


Restless Bones
Where Was Peter Buried?

By Antonio Lombatti
Università Popolare
Parma, Italy
December 2013

WE DON'T KNOW! My article could finish right here. However, we have a Christian church, the Roman Catholic church, which established its supremacy on the fact that the apostle Peter had founded Jesus’ church in Rome and that he was the first formally recognized bishop—i.e., pope—of this religious movement. So, despite the easy and very short expected answer, this matter is worth investigating. Last but not least, Pope Francis has recently authorized, for the first time, display of the presumed bones of Saint Peter: so, whose bones are they? The controversy on Peter’s tomb embraces two aspects: literary sources concerning his life, and the archaeological digs beneath the Vatican basilica. I’ll briefly try to discuss these two matters.
Even if their thesis has been erased from history, we know that the first Christians who doubted Peter’s presence in Rome were the Lombard Waldensians back in 1240. The Dominican inquisitor Moneta da Cremona accused them, in his Summa contra Catharos et Valdenses, of being skeptical about Peter having been in Rome, because, they said, the New Testament didn’t mention this event. Some years later, in 1326, Marsilio da Padova wrote (Defensor pacis) that, according to the Holy Scripture, it couldn’t be proved that Peter had been bishop in Rome and neither that he had ever been there. So, skepticism on this controversy had its roots in the Middle Ages.
In fact, not a single New Testament text refers to Peter as bishop of Rome. Not even an extrabiblical contemporary work. We must rely instead on later traditions. The same traditions which tell the story of Mary Magdalene arriving in southern France or of Joseph or Arimathea bringing the Holy Grail to Glastonbury or even of the apostle James’ bones being found in Compostela, Spain, despite his having been beheaded in Jerusalem!
I won’t deal here with the literary texts of the first and second centuries, which could prove or disprove that Peter was in Rome (1 Peter, Clementine writings, Letter to the Romans by Ignatius of Antioch, Shepherd of Hermas, Apocalypse of Peter, Gospel of Peter, Acts of Peter, Dionysius of Corinthus [quoted by Eusebius], Ascension of Isaiah, Against the heresies by Irenaeus). It’s hard to believe that an illiterate Aramaic-speaking fisherman from Galilee could have authored 1 Peter, which was written in high quality Greek by someone who was fluent in that language. Of course, it also possible that Peter, after Jesus’ resurrection, went back to school and took Greek classes and did some advanced work in Greek composition. But, it’s rather unlikely. Paul wrote that Peter was a pillar of the Jerusalem church, and a later tradition (Eusebius, Church History III, 36) tells us that he was the first bishop of Antioch. So, we’re left with extrabiblical and later accounts.
Was Peter the first bishop of Rome?
The news that Peter had been bishop of Rome for 25 years appeared for the first time only in the Catalogus Liberianus of 354. And this news seems to be confirmed by the Armenian version of the Chronicon by Eusebius. But if the canonical texts are silent about Peter’s bishopric in Rome, who started the Church there? The earliest evidence of a Roman church is a letter written by Paul to the Romans (about 55 AD). The epistle presupposes a congregation made up of Gentiles. It doesn’t appear to have been established by Peter, nor is that claim ever so much as made in the Letter. Moreover, Paul at the conclusion of the letter, greets a large number of members of that congregation, but he doesn’t mention Peter.
There is a later tradition, however, in the writings of Irenaeus, indicating that the church in Rome was founded and organized by Peter and Paul. This cannot be the case, because Paul’s letter shows that Peter wasn’t in Rome to establish a congregation of Jesus’ followers. Irenaeus was trying to make a point in a particular period of the Christian church, that is, in the latter part of the second century. The church of Rome was probably the predominant one, and Irenaeus was trying to make normative its views on faith, since so many gospels and interpretations were already circulating at that time. Paul, who was rejected by some communities as an apostle, needed to be associated with a true follower of Jesus: Peter. So, according to Irenaeus, the most important church had to be founded and organized by the most important apostles: Peter and Paul.
The Church Fathers were not quite sure about who had been the first bishops of Rome. According to Irenaeus a man named Linus was appointed by Peter as the first bishop. Eusebius thought that Linus had been the second bishop of Rome, but who appointed him was someone else, and not Peter. He was followed by a third bishop named Clement. The situation gets even more complicated, because, according to Tertullian, Clement was the first bishop appointed by Peter. I have to emphasize again that when Paul wrote to the Romans he gave no indications at all that there was a single leader for that church. Moreover, we can understand from his letters that in the 50s there were no single bishops leading the churches he was addressing.
There’s agreement among historians that a monarchist bishopric in Rome started only in the second half of the second century, about 90 years after Peter’s death. The strongest historical arguments for this are the following:
Ignatius’s of Antioch letters, written around 110, were addressed to different Eastern churches, and he often quoted their bishops. However, when he wrote to the Romans he talks about a leading group. Therefore, he knows that there was a college of presbyters overseeing the church there; also The Shepherd of Hermas, written around 140, refers to leading presbyters in Rome; in 156 Anicetus—probably the real first monarchist bishop—debating with Polycarpus of Smyrna on the date of Easter, doesn’t recall the apostles or his predecessors but “the customs of those who had been presbyters in Rome before him”; again, in 160, Justin, in Rome, names “prohestos” the president of the college of Presbyters and not “episcopos”.
The first one to list the earliest bishops or presbyters in Rome was Hegesippus around 165 in his Upomnemata. He says the first bishop had been Linus, who had been consecrated by Peter. However, we don’t have his list but his work was preserved in Irenaeus’s writings around 180. Despite the discrepancies referred to above between Irenaeus, Tertullian and Eusebius, it was only in the third century that Peter was listed, with certainty, as the first bishop of Rome.
What about his tomb?
Around 210, a Roman presbyter named Caius, in his polemic against the Montanist Proclus, declares (according to Eusebius II,25): “But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church.” In my opinion, and also according to J.P. Meier (“Pietro: origini di un primato”, Il regno 14, 2004: 505), these “tropaia” were commemorative monuments and not actual tombs. It’s only from around the middle of the third century that we find news about the tomb of Peter and his relics. Not a single Christian remembered or named his burial place or his bones for about two hundred years after his purported death in Rome.
In 258 we have the earliest evidence of the feast of Peter and Paul (June 29th): “Peter’s celebration in the catacombs and Paul’s on the Ostian Way”. So says the Depositio martyrum in the Catalogus Liberianus written in 354. It is a trustworthy document since it is drawn from official Roman sources on their calendar and festivities. What strikes us is that there was no celebration for Peter in the Vatican. To this inconvenient truth someone tried to find a remedy, interpolating a passage in Martyrologium Hieronymianum after 431 with the sentence “commemoration of Peter in the Vatican, of Paul on the Ostian Way”.
Therefore, we know that the original Petrine cult took place around the middle of the third century in the catacombs on the Appian Way. Above these catacombs was built, in the fourth century, the Basilica of the Apostles (Peter and Paul) which was later renamed San Sebastiano Basilica. In 1917, during a dig beneath that church, there was unearthed an ancient Christian cult place, called Memoria Apostolorum. On those walls, there were several third century inscriptions naming the apostles Peter and Paul. This incredible archaeological discovery is unfortunately known only to a few people because, according to longstanding tradition, Peter’s tomb had to be located within the Vatican.
The excavations started in secrecy in 1948. Pope Pius XII affirmed, in his Christmas message in 1950, that the tomb of Peter had been found. Paul VI, in 1968, declared that his relics were identified in a convincing way. However, the official volumes on the excavations are much more careful and balanced. Beneath the Vatican Basilica a second century Roman necropolis with a “tomba riverita” with a modest edicule was unearthed. On this tomb not a single inscription or Christian symbol has ever been identified. Was this the tropaion remembered by Caius? It could have been, but there was nothing in the tomb: it was empty and there was nothing to associate that small building, in a pagan necropolis, with the earliest Christians.
The excavations moved in various directions and there was spotted an inscription on the so called “red wall”. It said PETR END, which was interpreted by the archaeologist Carcopino as “Petros endei” (Peter missing). Then, Margherita Guarducci took over the dig: she was already a supporter of the possibility of Peter’s tomb being beneath the Vatican. She found another inscription: PETR EN I (the wall is broken, it could have been much longer). She proposed “Petros en irene” (Peter in peace). Some years later, she reconstructed the text in such a way that the I was connected to EN, and advanced another reading: “Petros eni” (Peter is here). Her interpretation was contested by the Jesuit scholar E. Kirschenbaum, one of the former directors of the excavation, and also by J. Gnilka. Finally, in 1953, she learned that L. Kaas, a deceased archaeologist who had worked at the dig, had kept in his study a box containing some bones.
When the anthropologist V. Correnti examined those remains, he said that they belonged to three different individuals, and one of them was certainly a woman in her 70s (E. Dassmann, Ist Petrus wirklich darin?, 224, in E. Kirschbaum, Die Gräber der Apostelführsten, 1974). Several Catholic scholars challenged Guarducci’s identification (among them Karl Baus; and more recently see also the works of Otto Zwierlein, Fred Lapham, Winfried Weber, Michael Goulder). Last, but not least, not a single independent scholar (not appointed by the Vatican but coming from a public university) has been allowed to examine the bones or to take part in the excavation.

The catholic Church still shows visitors the Mamertino Prison, at the feet of the Campidoglio, and still asserts that it is where Peter and Paul were kept in jail; the “Quo Vadis” church, built on the site of the legendary event related by the author of the Acts of Peter; Peter’s Chair, in the Vatican Basilica, despite the fact that it’s a Carolingian monument; the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, in which Peter’s handcuffs are shown; and even his second house (after the one in Capernaum) on the Viminal, where a Roman senator gave him shelter during the persecution of Christians. Finally, Peter's skull, along with a fragment of the table of the Last Supper, is kept and shown in San Giovanni in Laterano. So, we needn’t be surprised that someone can, and will, claim that Peter’s tomb, and his bones, have been discovered. Despite the odd fact that it’s in the Vatican, where emperor Nero’s palace once stood. Here the notorious Roman first burned or crucified Peter, and then, if the tradition is to be believed, actually allowed some clandestine Christians to bury him and venerate his tomb on that very spot! Rather weird, isn’t it?
I find this article very interesting. 
There is NO PROOF that Peter is buried in The Vatican. In fact I think it is highly unlikely that St Peter's bones are there. 
Anyway - our Christian faith is not based on the bones of a human being who lived nearly 2,000 years ago. 
It is based on Jesus - God and man - whose was never buried permanently - according to our faith.


  1. This blog has become pathetic and has raised stupid topics. What happened Gaynooth, Vama, Turf Lodge, absolutely nothing! Total waste of time.

    1. The Blog predated Gaynooth, Vama, Turf Lodge, etc and desires to be far broader than those topics.

      BUT all those topics will continue to be featured.

  2. Pat, perhaps you'd like to read this article and comments on Lombatti and give us your perspective on it!

  3. I love the attempts to make out the broken inscription in various ways. This aspect of Catholicism is an exploitation of the history of Rome. I love the story of Cardinal Newman being given a martyr's body which was supposed to be of St Valentine. Poor St Valentine, there are several other of his bodies in other places!

  4. Its total crap now, you loosing the plot or what ?

  5. As far as I know Catholics are not asked to believe the bones in question are Peter's but what about Lourdes, Medjugorje and Knock? As far as I know we are not asked to believe in apparitions either but I have learned to keep my thoughts to myself. Anyone dare to share theirs?

  6. Medjugorie and Lourdes and knock....been there and Fatima
    Expensive , very expensive holidays
    Enjoyed the partying at night, didn't pray that I believe, not really, but sure whatever rocks everyone's boat.
    I believe all bones should be left I don't believe in relics or indulgences
    Just lead a hard working life, be kind to your neighbours.
    It's amazing how many people don't talk or say hello to their neighbour....yet they both go out to pray of a Sunday

  7. Interesting Pat. I always presumed that St Peters was the final resting place of Peter. A good read.

  8. Such matters are irrelevancies in the lives of most Christians!
    Love God, our neighbour, keep the commandments - live our Faith - nothing else matters very much?
    Plus eighteen centuries of tradition convince me that Peter died in Rome - as did Paul. Where they were buried is not really of essential interest.

  9. Lourdes, Fatima, Knock, Medjugorie,Turin Shroud etc,etc, all money making inventions whooped up by the Catholic Church to fill the coffers. Relics, bones, pails of blood. Complete nonsense for the sheep and the goats to believe !!
    No Fool Armagh.

  10. This blog is descending into sickening levels of anti-Catholicism.

    I don’t suppose that this post will be allowed, just as you blocked my post yesterday.

    However, I’ll write this anyway (on the off chance that you will allow it to be posted), as the truth should be known.

    Using an atheist, Antonio Lombatti, just shows how desperate you are to prove your own anti-catholic views. Lombatti’s shabby research has already been torn apart by others

    But if you truly believed in his batty claims, then you would not remain in any form of Christianity, let alone Catholicism (as your blog title makes it out that you are – despite that you’re clearly not Catholic in any true sense – the faith is not à la carte).

    What Lombatti and Pat are ‘’really’’ getting at with this post, is not about the resting place of Saint Peter, but to dismiss the authority of Saint Peter.

    By trying to imply that because the body of St Peter is not buried under St Peter’s (which it is. see an interactive tour here:'s_tomb , but this is a secondary point), they try to claim that St Peter is not the foundation of the Church. But he is – it is not based on his bones, but on who he was: the first leader of the Church. We call this person the Pope / the Bishop of Rome – but from pride they don’t like to acknowledge this.
    Using ridiculous arguments to attack this truth, like the letters of St Peter in the Bible, as if they could not be written by him. This atheist’s arguments are so ridiculous they should be laughed at.

    Using his logic then many books of the Bible should be ignored, as they couldn’t have come from the claimed sources. However, just because we do not find Aramaic originals that does not mean that they did not exist.

    This post itself is a proof against his argument.
    Because I do not speak a language, something in another language could not be written by me right? Wrong. Just like how the Italian atheist with batty scholarship has shown, we can read his article in English. Magic, right? It’s called having a transcriber OR a translator and/or a ghost-writer. We see his name as the author of the article, not the translator, as the ideas belong to the atheist and this is what is being attributed to him.

    Pat ends with the fact that the faith is based on Jesus.
    Yes, that is right – so we should then believe Him and His words. Especially what Jesus said to St Peter:
    Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.


    If you believe Jesus, you will humble yourself and not leave the Church which He founded.

    If this blog does not return to trying to fix problems (primarily with Maynooth), rather than create them (with attempts to create apostasy) then people will go elsewhere.

    Despite what you’re trying to do Pat, even the gates of hell won’t prevail against the Church that He gave us. Thank God

  11. Peter = Cephas = Rock = Church. There was a Peter who at some point became a focus for church cohesion/unity. Humans being human need a focal point. Marks of catholicity are now recognised as a base line most Christians can agree about. Scripture Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. Apostolic Succession (laying on of hands) and creeds. Humanity evolves so leave relics indulgences and mass cards in the past. However with all this modern enlightenment please dont throw out the baby with the bath water

    1. Mr Page, it says it all really when you crossed over to Anglicanism! A church built on rot. Don't pontificate to us, your views are so clearly built on bitterness and hurt, please get over it. We get a little sick sore and tired of you trying to preach to us. Do us a favour and whist for a change.

    2. Keep going Sean. I like reading your comments. I think you are very sensible.

    3. Urghhh 19.45. Your 'us' and 'we' does not include me. I too enjoy Sean's input having seen both sides as I have with one Catholic parent and one Anglican parent. Both have faults and both have strengths. It would be a mistake to assume one is better than the other. Your tone is bullying, your words offensive. So what sort of Christian does that make you?

  12. 10 comments today, wow!

    1. As someone once wisely said:




    2. It's a good thing that we have Pat here to correct Jesus. The Lord must have just gotten confused when He said:
      Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

      Perhaps Pat could create a new version of the Bible for us, without all those mistakes that Jesus made.
      Such as when He inspired St Paul to write:
      the Church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of the truth.

      As someone wisely said:
      Little did he know that the blog of the living Pat was the pillar and foundation of the truth instead.

      Why is there any wonder that there are only about 10 replies today....

      Stick to helping fix Maynooth, Pat, and lay off with the anti-catholic rhetoric, please.

    3. So Jesus WILLED a wealthy Vatican, murdering popes, the Vatican Museum, the Crusades, the Counter Reformation, etc?

      Is it not the RC institution that has rewritten Jesus?

  13. Thank you Jane. 1945. I have never written bitterness on here. However the amount of emotion portrayed in your post causes me to wonder. I am still on a long journey and have a measure of piece I did not know before. This is nobody's fault. Just life

  14. Replies
    1. Sean is doing his best.

  15. You can veer off the beaten track and choose your own path. This could be fine---for a while. .But there's always the danger that you wander so far that there's no way back. You waken up one morning and realise that you're so completely lost that not even your friends recognise the person you've become - - Everything has its price.

    1. I suppose everyone has their exodus journey. Some start by choice some are thrown into it. The challenge is to venture on. There is no retreat. I can only wish everyone well. The price Jesus paid was the Cross

  16. It doesn't matter a damn where St Peter's bones are lying. Like most of these early saints / St Patrick and St Brigid too, for example, their graves are lost in the mists of time.

    It makes no differ. What you cannot explain away is Peter's Primacy among the Apostles - the position given him by Jesus Himself.

    And it is churlishness and childishness to attempt to say that the Catholic Church is built on Peter (the Popes) and not Jesus. Jesus is the Head of the Catholic Church- but He has appointed a Vicar to represent Him.

    only to Peter did the Lord say "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church ....." He did not say those words to James, Philip or John - ONLY TO PETER!!

    He did not say to Bartholomew or James - "feed my lambs, feed my sheep". He said it to PETER!

    Pat, you really need to take a rain check. Jesus did not found a perfect Church - there were scandals and disputes from the word "GO". You need to get over your own bias and prejudice and stop using the silly arguments of Protestant extremists against the Pope that have been answered and refuted a million times.

    We are all sinners. Every human venture gets tainted by our sinfulness. But the Church belongs to God and despite the sins of its members and leaders, God's Grace always wins over and through.

    1. Thats the kind of thinking that excused child abuse, the Magdalen laundries etc.

      Jesus lived and died a Jew.

      NOWHERE in scripture does Jesus use the word VICAR or POPE.

      Initially the popes called themselves the Vicar of Peter. Then they changed that to the Vicar of Christ.

      Will some future pope declare that God is the pope's Vicar in Heaven :-)

      Let us seperate what comes frim Jesus and what has been created by men.


      Your arguments are weak and dictated by an agenda of prejudice. So what that "NOWHERE in Scripture does Jesus use the word VICAR or POPE"!!! Big deal. We are not biblical literalists. We are not players of bible bingo! There are plenty of Christian truths, believed by Catholics and Protestants, that are not explicitly laid out and formulated in the Bible. "Sola Scriptura" is an invention of the "reformers".

      You cannot get away from the reality of Peter and his successors. Jesus did bot found his Church upon Zwingli, Calvin or Luther. And certainly not upon Pat Buckley.

    3. Pat Buckley, unlike the pope, does not claim that Jesus founded his church on him :-)

      Nor does he proclaim Sola Scriptura.

      Nor does he believe that Jesus was represented by people lije the Medici popes.

      Nor does he believe that Jesus WILLED a wealthy Vatican run by people like Card Pell the Australian fugutive.

      What a contrast between the early Christian Community in Jerusalem / Antioch and the Vatican City State.

      Had Jesus not risen He would have spent the last 1700 years turning in His grave.

    4. Silly, petulant arguments totally lacking in substance - more befitting a surly adolescent, Pat. Wise up. You've more brains than that!

      The Pope does not believe that Jesus founded the Church upon him. He does, however,believes Jesus' words: "You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven....". There is no getting away from those words and, try as they might, using every conceivable mental gymnastic twist, those who seek to undermine the Petrine office, cannot explain those words of Jesus away.

      The Church is infinitely more than the Medici popes and all the other scandals throughout history. The gates of hell SHALL NOT prevail.

    5. "It is by their fruits that ye shall know them".

    6. There is plenty of good fruit as well as bad. Weeds among the wheat. Examine the fruits of your own life, Pat.

  17. Pat it's interesting how when you post an article which doesn't mention Maynooth, the bitchiness really ramps up in the comments!

  18. The evidence that Peter's remains are in Jerusalem is better. The evidence that they have been found in the Vatican is too far-fetched and riddled with lies that no pope including Francis cares to refute.

    1. We DO NOT KNOW where Peter was buried.

      Some of the bones in Rome belonged to a woman and an animal.

    2. Maybe those bones were the bones of Peter's wife and their pet rabbit?

      The RC could mean Rabbit Catholics?

      Just wondering?

      Recovering Catholic.

  19. I just wish popes and bishops would let the dead rest in peace
    What a carry on...bones
    Ps what is a recovering Catholic
    If you no longer a catholic, I'm wondering why you would want to post here.
    Pat on the other hand is a real Catholic
    Not afraid to question the ins and outs of this so called religion.