bones belonged to at least three individuals: two males in their 50’s, and probably a female. Correnti completed his report in 1960, but Pope Pius XII had died in 1958 with the knowledge – one of the sharpest disappointments of his reign – that the bones found in St. Peter’s grave were almost certainly not those of St. Peter. (In early 1942 he had already seen that the bones from the central grave had belonged to more than one individual. But surely St. Peter’s bones had not been mixed up with others! From that day onwards, what a pall must have hung over the Vatican!) Had the Roman church really and forever lost its most precious and hitherto most carefully guarded treasure? Where in fact were the bones of St. Peter? 4
Directly next to the marble ‘trophy’ over St. Peter’s original grave stood the seemingly interfering bulk of a short wall jutting out from the Red Wall. This short wall had been built in the 250’s and, because of the mass of ancient ‘graffiti’ which covered it, was called the ‘Graffiti Wall’. These graffiti were the special object of study by Dr. Margherita Guarducci, a professor of Greek epigraphy (ancient inscriptions) at the University of Rome. Dr. Guarducci had first begun work under St. Peter’s in May 1952, but it was not until September 1953 that she began work at untangling and deciphering the mass of ancient scribble on the Graffiti Wall. Her special interest was to find any firm evidence of belief that St. Peter’s tomb was nearby. Dr. Guarducci first arranged a series of photographic enlargements of the whole Graffiti Wall. After every morning studying the Graffiti Wall itself, she spent every afternoon studying these enlargements. The weeks however passed and she remained as perplexed as ever in her efforts to untangle this mass of ancient scribble. 5
At last one morning, as she stood gazing at the Graffiti Wall, she looked yet again at the cavity low in that wall. Inside this cavity had been a marble-lined repository. According to the official report, all that had been found in this marble-lined repository had been a few bits of bone, some minor debris and a coin of c. 900 AD from Limoges in France. Working nearby was Giovanni Segoni, the foreman of the Sampietrini (the hereditary corps of Vatican workmen), and the two began to discuss the Graffiti Wall. Finally she pointed down at the cavity opening into the marblelined repository: “Tell me, Giovanni, do you remember what sorts of things were found inside that cavity?” “Yes, I emptied it myself,” Segoni replied after a moment’s thought, “when old Monsignor Kaas gave the order. I can show you the things if you want.” Dr. Guarducci was desperate for any clue she could find about the Graffiti Wall, so she accompanied Segoni to the small storeroom behind the Chapel of St. Columban. Here he ferreted out a wooden box labelled ‘Ossa – urna – graf.’ which he took to a less cluttered and better lit room nearby. The box’s label – ‘Ossa – urna – graf.’ – meant that its contents were ‘bones – repository – graffiti wall’. Yet when the box lay open on the table before her, Dr. Guarducci knew that the official report on the contents of the
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...