St. Peter’s bones: Are they real?
Are St. Peter’s bones really in the St. Peter’s Basilica?
No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica. It is truly a remarkable place AND named for St. Peter. Supposedly St. Peter’s bones are actually there!
St. Peter’s bones: the jeweled box
Pope Francis unveiled a box, November 24, 2013, which holds the bones of St. Peter. This would be the very first time St. Peter’s bones have ever been on display for the public. There has been much debate, as you can imagine, as to whether these are really the bones of St. Peter’s. Pope Francis has said that the bones were ‘identified in a way that we can consider convincing’ and to a lot of people that is enough.
Kids are naturally curious about all things creepy like bones and love this part of the history of St. Peter’s Basilica. Inside that box is a beautifully jeweled box which holds 9 small pieces of bones.
St. Peter’s bones: How were they found?
The area was excavated and many bones were found. But were they St. Peter’s? There are clues to indicate, yes, they are the bones of St. Peter.
Greek graffiti around the grave said, “Peter is within”. Other graffiti was for St. Peter asking for prayers.
The bones were wrapped in purple fabric with gold threads. This fabric was really expensive and would have been saved for only very special circumstances like for the first pope. After studying the fabric and the weaving technique, reseachers determined it was dated to ancient Roman times.
Bones pieces were studied and the man was determined to be between 60-70 years old, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, and a strong person. This matched the description of St. Peter, who had been a fisherman.
There were no feet bones. St. Peter was crucified, but did not think he was worthy to die in the same way that Christ died, so, he was crucified upside down. Since he was hung upside down like a criminal, he was not allowed a proper burial. Researchers believe that his body was cut down leaving the feet still attached to the cross and given to his faithful.
St. Peter’s bones: DNA testing
Your kids might be savvy enough to wonder why we haven’t scientifically tested the bones. Be sure to tell them that the reason we aren’t sure if those are the real bones of St. Peter is because they have never been scientifically studied. Why? There is a 1,000 year curse which threatens anyone who disturbs the peace of St. Peter’s tomb with a horrible disaster. So, no pope has ever allowed the study.
Margherita Garuducci, the Greek antiquities scholar who decipher the engravings on and near the casket where the bones were found wrote,
“No pope had ever permitted an exhaustive study, partly because a 1,000-year-old curse attested by secret and apocalyptic documents, threatened anyone who disturbed the peace of Peter’s tomb with the worst possible misfortune,”
Bones and curses…..kids will LOVE and that is exactly the type of information that makes a vacation easy with the kids. Get them interested, spike their curiosity and get them thinking. It makes travel with kids oh, so much easier when you have interested and enthusiastic kiddos.
You can find information like this about all the cool stuff in Rome, written just for an elementary school aged kiddo in The Kids’ Travel Guide to Rome. You can see what’s in this fun and easy book here.
Italy is a fantastic destination for families! Read more about visiting Vatican City with the kids.
Natalie, The Educational Tourist