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Free Pamphlet

  High Res. 

The Bones of St. Peter
 by John Evangelist Walsh, © 1982, 2011. 

An ancient legend stated that St. Peterís Basilica had been built on top of St. Peterís grave and that his bones could be found under its High or Main Altar. However, outside of this legend there was almost no evidence to support this startling claim. That is, until the relatively recent excavations which were completed in 1968 AD.

Writer John Evangelist Walsh sparks your interest in the opening chapter and grips your attention all the way through his best-selling book on The Bones of St. Peter. It reads like a mystery novel.

In mystery novels you know someone was murdered, but the question is how and by whom. Here we know the conclusion. St. Peterís bones were discovered and positively identified. However, many questions seem impossible to answer with certitude. How could we know with certainty that we truly had uncovered St. Peterís grave and found his bones. How could it ever be possible to prove this legend? If I had not read this book, I have to confess, I would have been most skeptical that such a legend could ever have been proved.

Mr. Walsh presents the facts and makes a solid case. Bones were discovered in the excavation underneath the High Altar in Saint Peterís Basilica in Vatican City. The bones had been undisturbed from the middle of the third century until the excavations that began in 1939 AD. But, how could their identity be proven? What facts were revealed in the excavations that enabled the Pope in 1968 to declare with certainty that St. Peter, the Apostleís bones had been discovered? Mr. Walsh lays out the facts, the discoveries, and the brilliant analysis in a most interesting way.
You will have to read this book to get the answers to all these questions, but in this pamphlet I want give you a hint of the fascinating discoveries that you will find there.

An early reference to St. Peter's gave was to the ďtrophyĒ built above it. The ďtrophyĒ or Greek Tropaion, was a monument built over the grave of St. Peterís body. It was referred to by the priest Gaius in about AD 200 . Read more about it in the book the Bones of St. Peter by John E Walsh.
Page 50 see drawing below,
pg. 70 its compromised symmetry,
pg. 134 its secrecy,
Also read pages 37, 55, 66-72. 75-77, 118-119, 131-46, 160, 176
Diagram below, a side veiw, from Bones of St. Peter by John E Walsh, page 55




For example, notice what is called the Niche of the Pillia above. It is located in what is now the basement area of St. Peterís Basilica underneath the main or High Altar. Look closely at the Icon of Jesus Christ and the grill above it.  Why is it so lopsided?  Or is it lopsided?  And why is the cross to the left upside down? You will have to read the book to get the answer to this and so many other questions.

Protestants will often claim that the bones found under St. Peterís were not his, but that of a woman. So, what is the whole story ?

The Holy Father realized that the validity of the Catholic faith would not rise or fall with this legend proven either way.  So, prudently he instructed all concerned not to make any assertions until the excavations had been completed and all the data had been thoroughly analyzed in a professional way.  Contrary to his wishes an enterprising Italian journalist presumptuously reported that some bones found near St. Peterís grave were indeed his.  And the New York Times on August 22, 1949 ran a headline on page one stating that Peterís bones had been found.  However, these were not St. Peterís.  What had been found were bones belonging to a woman and two men, neither of whom were St. Peter.  So, some Protestants focus exclusively on this blunder.

Actually St. Peterís grave turned out to be empty of bones except for that of a mouse.  And most interestingly that mouse had a role in confirming the other data which provides an overabundant proof of the identity of St. Peterís bones.  Not wanting to spoil the story, I will save the details for what will be a joyful experience in your reading the book.

One of the important details in the proof of the identity of the bones is the location of Saint Peterís Basilica.  It was built on the side of a large hill.  From an architectural  point of view this is the worst possible place to build such a large building.  The section below from the book gives you a hint as why this location had to be as it is.

Chapter  12

ďThe Ancient Silence

If the critics were right, if it was not Constantine who had Peterís bones removed from the central grave, wrapped in purple cloth, and Ö(sorry, this detail is omitted.  It is best read in context of the book.  I donít want to ruin the fun of reading it.)   

the one thing is clear: the transfer must have taken place before the Emperorís dramatic arrival on the scene. But who, in that case, did order the removal? And when was it done and for what possible reason? Instinct whispers that the answers to those tantalizing questions may well provide the key to much that is still, more than a dozen years after Pope Paulís announcement, at odds in the history of the relics.

Doubts about the grateful Emperor having arranged the transfer are not only legitimate, they are inescapable. The enormous physical effort that was expended in erecting the original basilica - oriented over one exact spot upon ruggedly uneven terrain - was necessary precisely because the intended focal point, the bones, could not be moved. This unarguable fact leaves no room at all for the claim that, just prior to the start of work on the basilica, the focal point was moved. Nor has a convincing reply been made to those critics who instinctively shake their heads in stubborn disbelief ...Ē

Saint Jerome writes the following about St. Peterís death

ďSimon Peter, the son of John, from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, brother of Andrew the apostle, and himself chief of the apostles, after having been bishop of the church of Antioch and having preached to the Dispersion . . . pushed on to Rome in the second year of Claudius to over-throw Simon Magus, and held the sacerdotal chair there for twenty-five years until the last, that is the fourteenth, year of Nero. At his hands he received the crown of martyrdom being nailed to the cross with his head towards the ground and his feet raised on high, asserting that he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his LordĒ      (Lives of Illustrious Men 1 A.D. 396).

When St. Peterís bones where found this fact was further attested to by the fact that although they found bones from every other part of his body, even some of his finger bones, none of the bones where found from his feet.  This suggests that his feet were separated from his body.  And this would have been the easiest way to take down a body that was attached to a cross upside down, that is by chopping off the feet.

Because the author relates the information as it was chronologically revealed, you will find yourself anxiously awaiting the newly discovered facts that come with the turning of each page.  You can read the full contents of this book, complete with pictures and illustrations.

The Bones of St. Peter
 by John Evangelist Walsh, © 1982, 2011.


Does the church possess the actual bones of St. Peter?  Fr. Saunders responds.

Also see  Relics

See Virtual Tour  of the Necropolis including St. Peter's grave at Vatican website

Video, 2 hour presentation on the building of St. Peter's in Italian Language

More articles on  Saint Peter


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St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican








The High Altar under the canopy.  Statue of  Saint Helena  who discovered the True Cross can be seen to the left.




Looking down on Berniniís bronze Canopy (Baldacchino) covering the Papal (High) Altar with chalices on top inside St. Peterís Basilica.  The Canopy was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1633). The Aspe is in the upper section of the picture and the staircase going down to the crypt and the Niche of the Pillia  is in the lower part of the picture. 




Holy Spirit window in background above the High Altar. The staircase in front of Altar goes down to Niche of the Pillia.
















In the far end of the Aspe is the Holy Spirit window.  Below it is the Chair of St. Peter.




The Chair of St. Peter is figuratively supported by two Western Fathers and two Eastern Fathers, each a Doctor of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, Athanasius, Chrysostom.)   See More Articles defending the Papacy.