St. Paul, Apostle – new finds

In December of 2006 I attended a presser on the unearthing, but not opening, of the tomb of St. Paul, Apostle, in the Basilica of St. Paul outside-the-walls.

At that time questions were raised about the opening of the tomb, but answers were dodgy.  We knew it was going to happen but didn’t know when.

The Pope gave permission in 2007.

I find this now, in the pages of the Nicole Winfield of AP.

My emphases and comments.

Pope: Scientific analysis done on St. Paul’s bones

By NICOLE WINFIELD
The Associated Press
Sunday, June 28, 2009 8:31 PM

ROME — The first-ever scientific test on what are believed to be the remains of the Apostle Paul "seems to confirm" that they do indeed belong to the Roman Catholic saint, Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday.

It was the second major discovery concerning St. Paul announced by the Vatican in as many days.   [second]

On Saturday, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano announced the June 19 discovery of a fresco inside another tomb depicting St. Paul, which Vatican officials said represented the oldest known icon of the apostle.

Benedict [Pope since 2005] said archaeologists recently unearthed and opened the white marble sarcophagus located under the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome, which for some 2,000 years has been believed by the faithful to be the tomb of St. Paul.

Benedict said scientists had conducted carbon dating tests on bone fragments found inside the sarcophagus and confirmed that they date from the first or second century.

"This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul," Benedict said, announcing the findings at a service in the basilica to mark the end of the Vatican’s Paoline year, in honor of the apostle.

Paul and Peter are the two main figures known for spreading the Christian faith after the death of Christ.

According to tradition, St. Paul, also known as the apostle of the Gentiles, was beheaded in Rome in the 1st century during the persecution of early Christians by Roman emperors. Popular belief holds that bone fragments from his head are in another Rome basilica, St. John Lateran, with his other remains inside the sarcophagus.

The pope said that when archaeologists opened the sarcophagus, they discovered alongside the bone fragments some grains of incense, a "precious" piece of purple linen with gold sequins and a blue fabric with linen filaments[I believe that purple imperial cloth was found in the tomb of Peter under the Vatican Basilica, probably from the time of Constantine.]

On Saturday, the Vatican newspaper announced that a round fresco edged in gold featuring the emaciated face of St. Paul had been discovered in excavations of the tombs of St. Tecla in Rome. It was believed to have been dated from the end of the fourth century, making it the oldest known icon of St. Paul, meaning it was an image designed for prayer, not just art, L’Osservatore Romano said.

Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, presidente of the Vatican’s culture department, said the discovery was an "extraordinary event" that was an "eloquent testimony" to the Christianity of the first centuries, L’Osservatore said.

Vatican archaeologists in 2002 began excavating the 8-foot(2.4-meter)-long tomb of St. Paul, which dates from at least A.D. 390 and was buried under the basilica’s main altar. The decision to unearth it was made after pilgrims who came to Rome during the Roman Catholic Church’s 2000 Jubilee year expressed disappointment at finding that the saint’s tomb – buried under layers of plaster and further hidden by an iron grate – could not be visited or touched.

The top of the coffin has small openings – subsequently covered with mortar – because in ancient times Christians would insert offerings or try to touch the remains.

The basilica stands at the site of two 4th-century churches – including one destroyed by a fire in 1823 that had left the tomb visible, first above ground and later in a crypt. After the fire, the crypt was filled with earth and covered by a new altar. A slab of cracked marble with the words "Paul apostle martyr" in Latin was also found embedded in the floor above the tomb.

Monday is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, a major feast day for the Roman Catholic Church, during which the pope will bestow a woolen pallium, or scarf, on all the new archbishops he has recently named. The pallium is a band of white wool decorated with black crosses that is a sign of pastoral authority and a symbol of the archbishops’ bond with the pope.

At the end of Sunday’s service in the warm basilica, the 82-year-old Benedict lost his balance slightly as he slipped on a step on the altar, and was steadied by one of his assistants who was by his side.

I caught some articles in L’Osservatore before they scrolled off.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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12 Responses to St. Paul, Apostle – new finds

  1. Geoffrey says:

    How fascinating! Thank you for alerting us, Father!

  2. Rellis says:

    See–these MCs do some good after all! They’re slipping-preventers.

    Take that, Cardinal Deacon-only purists!

  3. Jack says:

    broken link Fr

  4. Yet Another Matt says:

    -covered with mortar – because in ancient times Christians would insert offerings or try to touch the remains.

    -was buried under the basilica’s main altar

    -destroyed by a fire in 1823 that had left the tomb visible, first above ground and later in a crypt

    -slab of cracked marble with the words “Paul apostle martyr” in Latin was also found embedded in the floor above the tomb.

    -archaeologists recently unearthed and opened the white marble sarcophagus

    I can’t tell… Either people just won’t leave Paul alone, or nobody can keep him down. :D

  5. Matt Q says:

    I believe! I believe! Of course, I’ve never DISbelieved.

    I did feel a little chill at this part. “At the end of Sunday’s service in the warm basilica, the 82-year-old Benedict lost his balance slightly as he slipped on a step on the altar, and was steadied by one of his assistants who was by his side.”

    If the Holy Father just happened to have a misstep, fine. A lot of marble in those places. What does the “warm basilica” have to do with anything unless the ceremony was tediously long and it was hot in there. The issue though is that it reminded me of John Paul when he slipped and fell down the steps of the throne in the Throne Room. That sort of set the beginning of his decline.

  6. Matt Q says:

    I like this. “Yet Another Matt.” This makes four of us now, I think. There’s a Matthew, a Matt V, Moi, and now you. Yep, 4… unless I missed somebody else.

    HA. The anti-spam word for this entry is Identity. What a hoot. :P

  7. John Enright says:

    Well, this is “proof in the pudding’” although I confess that I have no idea exactly what that phrase means!

  8. irishgirl says:

    There should be central air conditioners inside St. Peter’s!

  9. Ohio Annie says:

    John, the original expression was “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” It was corrupted to “the proof is in the pudding.” Oh, this is funny, my anti-spam word is hermeneutic. The Hermeneutic of Pudding Expression Continuity!

  10. StMichael says:

    What I wonder is what the nature of the grains of incense and the cloth are. Are they liturgical items from the early church? Are the two fragments of cloth what remains of vestments? THAT would be an interesting find, especially if we were able to carbon date them to a contemporaneous date with Paul himself.

  11. Maureen says:

    He’s a little round pope. It’s easy to slip. And if slipping on stairs is a sign of decline, I’ve been in my dotage since 2nd grade. :)

    That’s one heck of a nice early mosaic. Piercing eyes!

    A very fitting announcement for the close of the Pauline year. Thank you, St. Paul, and so long from all the fish!

  12. Gail F says:

    I like the part where she says the icon was for prayer, “not just art.” Ha ha, there is something really funny about that phrase…