monument erected above St Peter's tomb was in the shape
of an aedicule, set against a red plastered wall. There
was a niche in the wall, divided into two parts by a horizontal
travertine stone tablet, supported at the front by two white
marble columns. The aedicule had an opening at its base
onto the tomb of St Peter below.
was certainly one of the most important discoveries made
during the course of the excavations ordered by Pius XII.
In fact, a monument already know about in literary sources
had been discovered, the Trophy of Gaius.
confirmed the centuries-old Christian tradition that placed, from
200 AD on, the venerated tomb of Peter exactly on the spot covered
today by the Bernini canopy. The learned Roman presbyter, Gaius,
in fact refers to this construction during the pontificate of
pope Zephirinus (199-217), when, in reply to the heretic Proclo,
who boasted of the existence of famous tombs from the apostolic
era in Asia Minor, pronounced the following works handed down
by Eusebius di Caesarea: "I can show you the trophies of
the apostles. If, in fact, you go out towards the Vatican or along
Via Ostia, you will find the trophies of those who founded this
Church" (Storia Ecclesiastica, 2, 25, 6-7).
of the 'Trophy of Gaius'
Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano
Creating St Peter's. Knights of Columbus Museum, 2004
This model represents the funerary aedicula (shrine) erected
over the Tomb of St Peter a century after his death. Remains
of the monument, discovered during the pontificate of Pope
Pius XII (Pacelli, 1939-1958), are visible beneath the Papal
altar of the Vatican Basilica. The Roman Presbyter Gaius
mentioned the aedicula at the beginning of the 3rd century
by using the Greek term tropaion, meaning 'monuments of
victory,' symbol of the victory over death through the profession
of faith and martyrdom.
the right (north) side of the model, 'Wall G' is represented,
a structure with a surprise amount of Latin graffiti scratched
into the plaster by the faithful who visited the tomb of
St Peter between the end of the 3rd and the beginning of
the 4th century.
P. Zander. The Vatican Necropolis, in "Roma Sacra",
25, Roma 2003
Margherita Guarducci, The
Tomb of St Peter, Hawthorn Books, 1960
John Evangelist Walsh, The
Bones of St Peter, New York, 1982
J. Toynbee - J.W. Perkins. The Shrine of St Peter and the Vatican
Excavations, London 1956
Basso. Guide to the Vatican Necropolis, Fabbrica di S.
Pietro in Vaticano, 1986
P. Zander. Creating St Peter's. Knights of Columbus Museum,