The Tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul

The Tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul

The Tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul

The Tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul

Excerpt

The excavations under the Confessio at St Peter's were not motivated by any doubt about the ancient tradition which here, and only here, honours the grave of the head of the apostles, Peter. For that there was no reason since no solid argument had ever been put forward as a basis for such doubt. If till our own time no Pope had ventured to start excavations at this spot, it was not from any fear that he would discover nothing, but from a sense of reverence, based precisely upon the conviction that this grave existed in the near neighbourhood. One of the many courageous changes of the pontificate of Pius XII was the break with this medieval tradition. Modern research is not content with illuminated manuscripts from archives; more and more is it coming to value the historical witness of monuments, as these are unearthed by the spades of archaeologists. We know from His Holiness's own statement that, even as Cardinal Secretary of State and Archpriest of St Peter's, he had already entertained the wish to initiate investigations with modern resources in St Peter's. After his election as Pope, he took the courageous and by no means light decision to commission the excavations under St Peter's. The opportunity was provided by the extension of St Peter's crypt or the so-called "Grottoes", carried through by Mgr Ludwig Kaas, then director of the Reverenda Fabbrica of St Peter's.

When the first stage of the work, the clearance of the pagan necropolis, had been for the most part successfully accomplished, the main task was taken in hand. The direction of the operations was in the hands of Mgr Kaas, and a large measure of the success of this difficult undertaking, especially during the war, is to be attributed to his remarkable adroitness and perseverance. As specialist advisers and collaborators he had the architects of St Peter's, Count Pietro Enrico Galeazzi and Professor Giuseppe Nicolosi; for the very delicate technical aspects of the work and for the scientific-archaeological aspect, a group of professors from the Papal Institute for . . .

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