Year of St. Paul ends with revelations…

Saint Paul mosaic.jpgFirst, Benedict XVI confirms that tests done on bone fragments from a tomb venerated as that of the Apostle–but often considered more legend than fact–belonged to a man who lived between the first and second century.

“This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul,” the pope said during an evening prayer service June 28 at Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, according to the CNS report.


The basilica has long been held to be the burial site of St. Paul, but because of the destruction and rebuilding of the basilica, the exact location of the tomb was unknown for centuries. Vatican officials announced in December 2006 that several feet below the basilica’s main altar and behind a smaller altar, they had found a roughly cut marble sarcophagus beneath an inscription that reads: “Paul Apostle Martyr.”

Because part of the sarcophagus is buried beneath building material, Vatican officials determined they could not dig it out to open and examine the contents. Initially they tried to X-ray it to see what was inside, but the marble was too thick.

Pope Benedict said a “very tiny perforation” was drilled into the marble so that a small probe could be inserted in order to withdraw fragments of what was inside.In addition to traces of purple linen, a blue fabric with linen threads and grains of red incense, he said they found bone fragments.


The bone fragments “underwent a carbon-14 analysis carried out by experts who did not know their place of origin,” the pope said, adding that the results “indicate they belong to a person who lived between the first and second century.”

Just as remarkable is the news that Vatican archaeologists have found what is likely the oldest known portrait of St Paul–a fourth-century mosaic (shown above, from the London Times story) that shows the Apostle to the Gentiles much as he has been portrayed down through the centuries.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, which devoted two pages to the discovery, said that the oval portrait, dated to the 4th century, had been found in the catacombs of St Thecla, not far from the Basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, where the apostle is buried. The find was “an extraordinary event”, said Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Barbara Mazzei, a restorer, said that centuries of grime had been removed with a laser. Fabrizio Bisconti, Professor of Christian Iconography at Rome University and a member of the team that made the discovery, said that it appeared to have decorated the tomb of a nobleman or high church official.


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Charles Cosimano

posted June 29, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Well, lacking any other DNA from St. Paul all they can honestly say is that they found found some old bones. Of course there are old bones all over under Rome…

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posted June 30, 2009 at 9:23 am

The Pope is engaging in wishful thinking.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 10:03 am

I am always frustrated by how negative people here are about their own Pope (assuming most of the posters on Pontifications are Catholic).
They didn’t just find old bones they were old bones in a tomb marked “Paul Apostle Martyr.” The bones are from the correct era. It seems that it’s a pretty good bet that they belong to St. Paul.
I’m not insisting that these are St. Paul’s remains, but why take every opportunity to attack the Holy Father and accuse him of engaging in wishful thinking. It’s childish, annoying and not very becoming of a Catholic.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 10:53 am

How in the world can they prove the bones are of the mighty St. Paul? They can’t. I’m sure Paul didn’t leave any hair (with the root attached) or spit or anything so it could be tested for DNA in 2009. Hasn’t the church claimed some of the “relics” of the past are those of holy folks? No proof there either. Old bones are old bones. The ID of those from that long ago is at the very least, questionable. But if some folks want those bones to be Paul…and it floats their boats…why not? Doesn’t hurt anyone.

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Lone Star Vanguard

posted June 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm

These types of claims are made all the time. Reminds me of a trip to Jerusalem and the religious, tourist sites. Reality – Roman Empire conquered and leveled Jerusalem a number of times after the death of Jesus. Yet, during the reign of Constantine (est. 300 AD) he sent his wife to Jerusalem. During her visit, she supposedly had mystical sightings of where the real Jesus was born; worked miracles, had the last supper, and was buried. To commemorate her mystical experiences, each of these identified events/spots had a church built. Now, centuries later, tour guides tell you that this is the “ACTUAL” spot where Jesus did, said, etc.
Yeah, just like the city of Rome.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 6:44 pm

And my question is? Did JC even live and die as mentioned in the Bible? Really no proof of that either. I contend he was a good Jewish man and married and had kids, as was expected in those days. :o)

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Dave Miller

posted June 30, 2009 at 7:10 pm

I contend he was a good Jewish man and married and had kids, as was expected in those days.

Uhh…nice try, Pagansister. Even less proof of that.

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Your Name

posted June 30, 2009 at 7:16 pm

JF I have to agree with your comments. I am not Roman Catholic, but let’s set the record straight. The Vatican exists today in part because of the conversion of Constantine and the making of Christianinty to be the legitimate religion in Rome. (Sorry Pagansister, but the pagans lost out at this time and I am sure you good folks were not treated well). However, the fact remains that there was a concerted effort on the part of Constantine and his Queen (wife), to find legitimate holy sites and artifacts to substantiate the claims of this new religion. It is reasonable to believe that the early christians who were being persecuted knew the site where Paul was buried after he was executed and would have passed that knowledge on to others. Later, when Constantine came on to the scene, the church would have built it’s dedication and removed the bones from the gravesite and placed them in a sarcophagus. At this point in time, the church had no reason to hide or give out misinformation, and it always amazes me that people start from the position that anytime the RCC opens it’s mouth, they must be lying! No, it is the other way around people! There were and are many good priests and nuns who were devoted to protecting what was true and not interested in perjuring themselves before God at this early a date in the history of Christianity.

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Frank Clyburn

posted June 30, 2009 at 7:30 pm

I think the find is wonderful and I have no reason to doubt it. If it wasn’t for St. Paul, many would not have been saved through Christ. Wonderful news!!

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posted July 1, 2009 at 2:59 pm

I agree, Dave Miller. There is no proof that JC did marry and have kids. However to me there really is no proof that he did what the Bible claims either. It was written to promote Christianity, and after 2000 years the stories are even less accurate than they were originally. They were written many, many years after JC was supposed to have been hung up. (oh, and brought back to life).
Yes, Your Name, Pagans were not treated well, however as one can see, not extinct.

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posted July 1, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Dear Pagansister,
Seriously, I am curious as to why you invest so much time and creative energy to this blog when you think that the Christian faith and specifically the RC religion is just nonsense…
I hope that you find what you are searching for.
BTW, You don’t have to like or agree with the pope… but when you consistantly refer to him as “Benny” … it lowers the conversation level.

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posted July 3, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Seriously, why shouldn’t I write on this blog? And I found what I was looking for a long time ago. Thanks for the concern.
Benny hasn’t, IMO earned the title given him by whoever does those things.(college of Cardinals?). thus “Benny”. Calling him Pope requires respect for him. He and our fortunately former President, “W” are/were on the same level. Respect for the position of Pope (sometimes) and always respect for the office of President, but in both cases,not for the person in that position.

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