Antonio Socci: The “Thriller” of the Burial of Saint Peter in Rome.
11 Giugno 20213 Commenti
Dear friends and enemies of Stilum Curiae, an American friend of our blog, passionate about the subject, sent us the English translation of the article published by Antonio Socci on his blog, in Libero. Enjoy reading it.
The “Thriller” of the Burial of Saint Peter in Rome
Three Scholars Reply to the Vatican’s Refutation of Their Hypothesis
First printed in Libero – 4 June 2021
Churchmen say – recalling a quip of Pius XI – that usually in the Vatican the only things that get denied are things that are actually true. And so the three scholars who published an article in the scientific review Heritage about the possible identification of the location of the tomb of Saint Peter (see my earlier article in Libero on May 23) should be quite content, because the Vatican has (unofficially) countered their article with an interview published at Vatican News by Professor Vincenzo Fiocchi Nicolai of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology.
We have therefore asked Liberato De Caro, Fernando La Greca and Emilio Matricciani, to respond to Nicolai’s objections.
Fiocchi Nicolai criticizes first of all the historical novelties of your study, which seem the most interesting.
The fundamental thesis of our work is based on the geometric analysis of the architectural peculiarities of the Mausoleum and Basilica complex in the cemeterial area of the catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter. The other elements indicated in our work – called cornerstones [capisaldi] by Professor Fiocchi Nicolai – are, in reality, only supporting elements to our principal discovery: the architectural and planimetric anomaly. It’s true, we are not archaeologists; however, we are researchers who are conscious of the methods of scientific investigation, including multi-disciplinary investigation, such as this one. Geometry and mathematics can and should be applied in research in every scientific discipline, including archaeology. The tangents to the external and internal circles of the Mausoleum and Basilica intersect on cubicle number 58, where the fresco of the Apostle Peter is found. The surface of the cubicle is approximately 10 square meters. The surface of the entire cemeterial area is approximately 3 hectares (7.5 acres, or 30,000 square meters).
Is this a significant fact?
The probability that the tangent lines intersect precisely on the only cubicle of the catacombs dedicated to the Apostle Peter is calculated by the relationship in size between the two areas, that is to say, about 0.03%. This is such a low probability that any serious researcher would rule out the case. The unexplained statistical anomaly is not the presence of a cubicle dedicated to the Apostle Peter, but the fact that the tangent lines from the circles of the Mausoleum and the Basilica intersect precisely on this cubicle.
Your interpretation of the phrase “in catacumbas” is contested to deny that it refers to Torpignattara.
The mortal remains of Saint Peter could have been moved more than once during the period of the persecutions, for fear of profanation. It cannot be excluded that they could have been temporarily kept in the catacombs at the third milestone of the Via Appia [San Sebastiano], and only later in the cemeterial area “ad duas lauros” [on the Via Labicana]. If in fact the expression “ad catacumbas” of the Depositio Martyrum can be associated with the cemetery of San Sebastiano on the Via Appia, it cannot be excluded that it could also be associated with another cemeterial area such as “ad duas lauros.”
Aren’t you giving an excessive importance to the hypothesis about the exact spot of the burial, to the detriment of the historical novelties you have found?
Our mathematical and geometrical analysis leads to the identification of a very small area that has not yet been fully explored, which is probably on the lowest level of the catacombs. If it is indeed an area that has not yet been explored, it cannot be excluded a priori that it does not date to the end of the 3rd or the beginning of the 4th century. It is not possible to date an excavated area before it has been dug out, and as we have already observed, the remains of Saint Peter could have been hidden at any time. We have a working theory, based on the pieces of evidence and above all on geometric analysis of the architectural peculiarities of the Mausoleum and Basilica complex. An appropriate scientific approach would require an experimental verification of our working theory, that is, an excavation to either corroborate or refute what we have proposed.
Your discovery is also contested, according to which – because of the use of the title “beatus” – the catacombs “ad duas lauros” were dedicated to Saint Peter [the Apostle] in antiquity.
Certainly it’s true that the term beatus is commonly used for all of the saints. But our contention – let’s cite it here verbatim: “Let us note that in the whole Liber Pontificalis, the expression ‘Beato Petro’ is only used to indicate St. Peter the Apostle, the first pope” – highlights how in the Liber Pontificalis the term “Beato Petro” is used only in reference to Peter the Apostle. This would seem to be an insignificant piece of information. But in the Liber Pontificalis (p. 65 of Mommsen, T. Gestorum Pontificum Romanorum, Libri Pontificalis, Pars Prior; Berolini-Apud Weidmannos: Berlin, Germany, 1898; Volume 1), when it is clarified to whom the basilica built in the cemeterial area “ad duas lauros” is dedicated, two versions are shown, side-by-side, in two different columns:
- Basilicam beatis martyribus Marcellino presbítero et Petro exorcistae – with a clear reference to the martyrs of the Diocletian period [early 4th century]
- Basilicam via Lavicana inter duos lauros beato Petro et Marcellino martyribus – associating the appellation of beato not with both martyrs but only with Peter. This is what allows us to deduce that the most ancient manuscripts refer to the Apostle Peter, who died as a martyr with Marcellinus, over which a later tradition of two martyrs of the 4th century was then superimposed.
But Pope Damasus even wrote a poem in praise of the two martyrs [Marcellinus and Peter] of the 4thcentury…
We are not so much interested in what Damasus says about the martyrs of the 4th century, Peter and Marcellinus, but rather in what Damasus says about the Apostles Peter and Paul in a famous epigram (ED 20), which was linked to their burial in catacumbas. The veneration of Peter and Paul by the faithful continued on the Via Appia, but the bodies were no longer there. And one understands that the prudent Pope Damasus could not speak clearly about the burial of the Apostle Peter, because the enemies of the Church were still great in number. In addition to these dangers, there was also the pretensions of the Emperor Theodosius, who seems to have requested the bodies to bring them to Constantinople, “new Rome”, while Damasus claimed Peter and Paul as citizens of Rome. These testimonies support the hypothesis of the repeated translation of the relics to different and hidden places.
Fiocchi Nicolai states: “As for the inscription, it may be considered to be the epitaph of someone named after the Apostle (the cognomen Petrus was very widespread), who died, coincidentally, on the same day as the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul [June 29].”
These are working hypotheses which we mentioned in our study. They are based on a series of curious coincidences: a certain man named Peter, who died precisely on June 29, who was given the appellation dominus, happened to have a burial marker engraved in his honor that was found exactly in the part of the catacomb where cubicle number 58 is located, the one which has the fresco dedicated to the Apostle Peter, in a cemeterial area of 3 hectares (7.5 acres)… this really seems like wanting to climb glass. The alternative hypothesis, proposed by us, is that this is precisely a burial marker which commemorates the deposition of the Apostle Peter, as the picture given by the data discussed thus far seems to indicate.
They also contest you for having written that the present Saint Peter’s Basilica is not Constantinian…
Contemporary historiography – see the essay of Alessandro Barbero cited in our article – is inclined to consider Saint Peter’s Basilica as a work not attributable to Constantine, but rather to one of his sons. It was probably built on the Vatican Hill because that was considered to be the place of the martyrdom of the Apostle Peter…If Constantine himself had constructed the Basilica, why do Eusebius and other Christian historians of the 4th century not speak of it, even though they recall the works he constructed in Constantinople? Would they have forgotten the most important thing he built?
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