Have New Relics of St. Peter Been Discovered in Rome?

Source: FSSPX News

Following Pope Paul VI authenticating relics of St. Peter in 1968, interest for the relics of St. Peter has been rekindled by a discovery that was just made public.

The discovery was made during the restoration of the church of Santa Maria in Cappella, in Trastevere. In the hollow of a medieval altar, two small pots were found; they could contain the relics of the first martyred popes, including the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter. If the discovery is authenticated, these bone fragments will be added to those kept under the altar of the Vatican Basilica.

The story was told by Barbara Carfagna on the TV program Codice, broadcasted on Rai Uno on September 1, 2017.

The church where the relics were found

The church of Santa Maria in Cappella, owned by the Doria Pamphilj family, was consecrated on March 25, 1090, by two bishops, Ubaldo from the diocese of Sabina-Poggia Mirteto, and John, bishop of Tusculo. An inscription in the stone that was studied by archeologist Cristiano Mengarelli confirms that important relics were contained there: the list includes a fragment of the Blessed Virgin’s dress (which was not found inside the altar) and bone fragments belonging to St. Peter, St. Cornelius, St. Callixtus, and St. Felix, all popes, whose bodies were all buried in different places. Other martyrs such as Hippolytus and Anastasius are also mentioned.

“This complex of relics appears, with different combinations, in other consecrations documented for this period for other churches,” observes the archeologist, which seems to support the authenticity of the discovery.

Although the cavity just under the marble altar where the relics were has not always been sealed – two certificates from the 17th and 19th centuries testify to their presence – the knowledge of its existence had been long lost.

The edifice has been closed to the public since 1982 and has been subject of renovation works in recent years. An eyewitness of the discovery, Massimiliano Floridi, husband of Princess Gesine Pogson Doria Pamphilj, tells that the relics were discovered “by chance”, thanks to a worker who moved the altar slab.

In doing so, he uncovered two small ceramic pots covered in lead , with matching lead caps topped by the engraved names of the saints, which are then repeated, with a different handwriting, in lead-alloy plaques placed inside the two urns.

According to Cristiano Mengarelli, these objects do indeed date back to the time when the church was consecrated. The relics were placed in new urns and handed over to the Vicariate of Rome, where they were sealed until the investigation is continued.

How did the relics end up here?

The church of Santa Maria in Cappella is linked to the story of the pontificate of Urban II, a French pope who reigned from 1088 to 1099, and who spent part of his life on Tiberina Island. At the time an antipope, Clement III (1080-1100) was living in Rome, after usurping the Palace of the Lateran with the support of Emperor Henry IV.

The hypothesis is that the church of the Trastevere may have been used as a papal chapel by the legitimate pope when he stayed in the City. In this case, it is not unthinkable that Urban II may have wished to celebrate Mass on the relics of the Prince of the Apostles and his successors as head of the Church, at a time when his authority was being openly flouted by the German emperor’s candidate.

While the relics of the first pope found in the Vatican basilica under the Confession altar have already been identified for certain, the scientific investigation must continue in order to confirm where the new relics came from and to declare them authentic. Comparison with other bone fragments belonging to St. Peter the Apostle should shed light on the mystery.