The tomb of St. Paul identified

Source: FSSPX News


Archeologists from the Vatican identified the tomb of St. Paul under the Basilica of St.-Paul-Outside-the-Walls. Interviewed by APIC, Giorgio Filipi, head of the epigraphy department of the Vatican Museums said the discovery goes back to 2002-2003 during excavations inside the basilica. This discovery will soon be publicly announced by the Holy See.

“The tomb we have uncovered is the one that the popes and the Emperor Theodosius (379-395) maintained and presented to the entire world as that of the apostle. Regarding the part we can see, there is no inscription; we’ve only unearthed one side of the sarcophagus, fifty centimeters, although it probably measures two meters.”

The discovery, realized by a modest team of experts from the Vatican Museums, was made during two digs at the request of the pontifical administrator of the basilica, Msgr. Francesco Gioia, after the Jubilee of 2000. This was done at the insistence of pilgrims to verify the presence of the tomb of the apostle. These precise excavations were undertaken on the basis of topographical findings from the mid-nineteenth century, sketches made during the reconstruction of the basilica after the terrible fire which destroyed it in 1823.

The first excavation brought about the discovery of traces of the apse of the ancient Constantinian basilica (first half of the fourth century), under the steps of the altar dedicated to St. Timothy next to the main altar. The second excavation, undertaken under the main altar of the basilica, inside the Confessio, allows access to the sarcophagus, at ground level of the basilica constructed by the Emperor Theodosius at the end of the forth century.

Under the current main altar, a marble plaque from the forth century, which has always been visible, carries the inscription Paulo apostolo mart (Paul Apostle martyr). According to Giorgio Filippi, “no one has ever looked to see what was behind this plaque”.

It was the basilica administration which had to decide now if the excavations would continue. The existence of an orifice of ten centimeters in diameter in the sarcophagus could allow going further. The Vatican Museum team will try to make the parts which have already been inspected more accessible, with a view to future excavations. Msgr. Francesco Gioia said he was “open to science” and affirmed that the Church has the duty to make known the figure of St. Paul and the truth about science.

Along the via Ostiense, a memorial was said to have been raised over the tomb of the Apostle Paul, after his martyrdom. As with St. Peter, the Emperor Constantine then started the construction of a basilica to shelter the tomb at the dawn of the forth century. Then in 386, half a century after the death of Constantine, faced with an increase in pilgrims, a larger basilica was constructed at the request of Emperors Valentinian II, Theodosius and Arcadius.

At St. Peter’s in Rome the digs under the altar of the Confessio were begun in June, 1939. These aimed at locating the tomb of the Apostle Peter. Requested by Pope Pius XII, they lasted ten years and found, in 1941, bones in the interior of a red wall finished with marble at the time of Constantine. It was necessary to wait 35 years before the Church officially confirmed the presence of the relics. “We have been given the grace of certitude that the tomb of St. Peter is here, in this venerable place where this solemn basilica was constructed”, declared Paul VI, on June 29, 1976.