From the Holy Grail to the Holy City

There is one way to make sure we are not on a wild goose chase: We must leave the Pyrenees behind and visit the Lion's Den, the Vatican, to find out if Peter's skull and a vessel with holy blood are missing there. A difficult task, it would seem, because there are no historical records of Peter's martyrdom and burial in Rome. Only a fool would search for facts in matters of faith, but it doesn't really matter for fools like us if these are Peter's bones, in the cave and at the Vatican, because we are after grail secrets! Foreign visitors to our website are reminded that Roman Catholics believe that St Peter's Basilica is built over his bones. It's the reason why the Vatican is in Rome not in Jerusalem. Here's the official explanation [1] in 2003:

"You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community" (Mt 16:18). Peter is the rock on which Christ established his Church...  In the Vatican Grottoes, on a perfect axis with the papal altar of the basilica above, lies the tomb of Peter. The tomb is itself a symbol of the Rock on which the Church is built, a Church symbolized by the basilica that rises above the Tomb of the Apostle and encloses it like a precious casket..."

Anyone familiar with the subject will notice how they downplay Peter's grave the entire basilica is now his "precious casket"! Is this the first clue that we are on the right track? Some may think it would be difficult to question the raison d'être of the Vatican, but it was surprisingly easy! By starting with Michael Winter's book St Peter and the Popes in the 1980s it took less than an hour at the library to get results, and it is googled in a few minutes today! Yes, we are free to do what used to guarantee the ultimate penalty! Take the unfortunate Giordano Bruno, for example, who was at the wrong place at the wrong time and suffered a fiery death at the stake in Rome on February 17, 1600.  Kepler's letters express his shock and Pujades got more motivated!

Today, the information is widely available that secret excavations were conducted under pope Pius XII at Peter's Basilica in the 1940's which he probably cherished as a distraction from the holocaust and WWII. But the results caused him some chagrin, because two British archeologists revealed in 1956 [2]:

Peter's tomb is empty!

But some "reburied bones" were found nearby, "of a person of

advanced age and a powerful physique... the skull is missing ".


The skull is missing? It looks like Pujades is right again, but it is strange that the Vatican would admit it openly! By the time WWII had broken out the "fishers of men" were "shepherds of their flocks" and dressed up in fancy garments to perform Latin rituals and chants. Their pope Pius XII faced a major challenge in the late 1930s, a blood-thirsty pagan cult with thousands of fanatics waving red flags in unison, worshiping an ancient cross during staged spectacles that threatened to replace Christianity. Perhaps the option that the reliquiae insignes of St Peter are no longer in Rome anticipated a move to another country? As odd as this seems today, it may have been something the pope had to consider when he negotiated with the Nazis. But that's for future historians to sort out! Because the news of the missing skull is a quote from a quote, we had to check the sources before getting too excited: We learn that while der Führer and Il Duce were collaborating above ground, the cheerful German Engelbert Kirschbaum S.J., pictured at left, and the Italian Antonio Ferrua S.J. worked in the Vatican's underground. The close-up of Peter's bones is from Kirschbaum's book Die Gräber der Apostelfürsten [3], which depicts the triangular niche in the Red Wall where he personally dug them up. His photo gives the wrong impression because some bones are exposed, although they were deep enough to remain hidden for centuries. Due to the sensational nature of this discovery, and because pope Paul VI will deny and cover it up in the early 1960s, we need to remember what this Jesuit priest experienced in 1941 and documented in a book in 1957:  

"The empty chamber, as it now is, is the setting of a grave, the material remains of which have disappeared. This bare burial place is all that is left to us of the grave of the apostle Peter...  A heap of bones was found, as if expressly concealed in the earth, beneath the Red Wall, at the spot where its foundations show a triangular break. They lay in a heap, and to a depth roughly, of 30 centimeters. These bones are not remains from different graves gathered together but, in the judgment of experts, they form the skeleton of a single man." (p 91)

But for our purposes it is less significant than the fact that the Saracens were not content with plundering the tomb and carrying off its treasures. They violently smashed the lower part, the tomb proper. They destroyed the right side of the heavy stone threshold, which supported the marble pillars of the Tropaion, demolished the corresponding part of tomb n and forced their way through the Red Wall, where in a senseless fury they hacked to pieces the right-hand portion of the marble decoration between the lower and central niches. The whole process can be clearly followed and reveals an abnormal hatred and destructive lust. There can be no doubt that these are the traces of the Saracen attack of 846." (p. 162)

It might be surmised that scattered remains had at one time been collected and placed beneath the Red Wall. In that case, an anatomical investigation would have showed that they belonged to different skeletons. Medical examination, however, gave the contrary verdict, i.e., that all bones belonged to one and the same person. That person was further described as an elderly and vigorous man. The skull is missing." (p. 195)

The translation is by John Murray, another Jesuit, but you should read the original from 1957 if you know German because Murray fails to capture Kirschbaum's eloquence and style [4]. The empty, ransacked tomb of St Peter is a shocking discovery because it would have shaken the foundations of the Church in the Middle Ages when it promoted the supremacy of the bishops of Rome. It could have prevented the Crusades, even the Albigensian Crusade against so-called "heretic" Christians, and the fiery death of Giordano Bruno. No wonder Nietzsche said Wissen ist Macht!

In the 20th century, the loss of Peter's relics had no longer an impact like a major earthquake, especially when some brilliant minds are used for debriefing and damage control. They were able to diffuse the problem to a minor aftershock. By that time, the Vatican had become a rich and powerful, and its community obedient and faithful: Good Catholics seek salvation in the word of God, the pope is their mediator and without fault, and the exact number of bones in or near the tomb is no longer relevant. It's the tomb itself, empty or not, that matters now! On the other hand, if we were to locate our cave in the Pyrenees and retrieve Peter's skull, the news would hit the Vatican like a bombshell and celebrations go on for weeks. A good idea to pursue that trail a bit longer! How did the Vatican achieve this amazing U-turn? We visited "Saint Peter and the Vatican, The Legacy of the Popes" in San Diego, California, in 2003 to catch up. Surprisingly, the advertised "recreation of St Peter's tomb" revealed nothing about Peter's remains and created the illusion that nothing has changed. A large, illustrated book with 521 pages of the exhibit in splendid colors was for sale – including great photos of the cap and cape of Pope Pius XII – but only one sentence on p. 187 mentions Peter's relics: 

"Within the graffiti wall was a cavity where, according to Margherita Guarducci, the relics of Peter were kept after they had been removed from the grave below."

It's no longer Kirschbaum's triangular gap in the Red Wall, but a cavity in a "graffiti wall," which implies lots of traffic and the simple Peter minimizes even further. There is the casual comment that the relics were kept there "after they had been removed" and no reference to the missing skull. Very interesting, it seems like double-talk! The bones were put by whom into a cavity? The Vatican quotes a woman, making sure it is her opinion. No Chauvinism here!

Because the quote confirmed in 2003 that Peter's relics were "removed", we had to find out in Rome what really happened to the skull and bones. We had a nice chat with the Swiss guard in German, at the entry to the tomb near Nero's circus where the obelisk from Heliopolis used to be before it was moved to Peter's square. Small, elect groups of 12 visitors assemble there for a private tour of the necropolis and a glimpse at Peter's bones behind plexiglas. Only if you have reservations will the guard let you pass to witness how the experts of the "ufficio scavi" debrief the faithful – underplaying their lines like New York method actors before they lead them underground. We acted like dumb tourists and threw Kirschbaum's "reburied bones" into the merry round and got a delayed reaction from the female guide, a shrug and dismissive hand gestures, followed by brief comments like: "The pope had the relics for a while – in his private chapel – they were taken home in paper bags by the German Kaas – the workers handled them daily – they included bones of a mouse and pigs – even of a women."

It was amazing! We expected this kind of talk in a Monty Python satire but here at the Vatican? Bones of animals and a woman? Did we come to the right place? Isn't this the Holiest of Holies, the venerated Shrine of Saint Peter, the sacred tomb of an Apostle upon whom the succession of every pope is based? The "rock" upon which Jesus built his Church? What ever happened to the Vatican's official report of 1951 about Kirschbaum's discovery?  

You can google Margherita Guarducci and visit this modern Inferno of fact and fiction yourself. A good start is her comprehensive study at this link, but you'll have to face some tough questions, most of which you must answer yourself. The Jesuits are soldiers of Christ who exchanged the sword for a pen, a noble idea basically that was born at Montserrat! But it also means that they will use a poisoned pen to protect their Lord and God!  (We had a good example with Burke-Gaffney's attacks on Kepler). Kirschbaum either "cleaned up" the archeological report with the best of intentions and plainly lied about everything – or he was the last to tell the truth! We know since O. J. Simpson how easily a crime scene is tainted. In the case of Peter's bones, every bit of information taints the excavations at the tomb: Several people handled the bones, carried them around and stored them in different places. The pope was personally involved, and his friend Mgr Ludwig Kaas on a daily basis. Then there is a confused worker who remembers white bones, like in our picture – yet some are dark now. Is this the "Kaaba effect" or were the Italians chain-smoking while handling the relics? Not to speak of too many male bones for one person, making him an "octopus", with bones of a female and animal bones that suddenly surfaced! A reputable archeologist would throw his arms up and run away. 

An update

Now that eighty years have passed, the disinformation campaign seems to have succeeded. The latest revisionist is John O'Neill who wrote in 2018 "The Fisherman's Tomb, the True Story of the Vatican's Secret Search".  He is a Roman Catholic lawyer in New York, a rarity there, and dying of cancer which he announces in the foreword to solicit compassion for himself and Pius XII. Allegedly, the pope couldn't pay for the secret excavations and a rich Texas oil man stepped in to finance the project, anonymously of course. O'Neill surprises even more with the claims that the inexperienced Kaas supervised the project while the equally inexperienced archeologist Ferrua "maneuvered his way onto the excavation team and soon assumed practical control of it." He dismisses Kirschbaum, although professor of Christian archeology, as too "good-natured" and features the "Ferrua team" from then on. O'Neill fails to mention that both archeologists were Jesuits, as it would weaken his case, and reduces the role of Kaas even more by claiming that the entire operation was run by an "outside team" headed by Montini, the future pope Paul VI, and assisted by two American priests who formed a trio he calls "The Three Amigos" over several chapters, which reads like a sick man's efforts to entertain. (More fun is "St. Peter's Bones, How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found... and Then Lost and Found Again" by Thomas J. Craughwell, who also wrote Saints Behaving Badly). O'Neill goes on to claim that "The Three Amigos" uncovered a rift between Kaas and Kirschbaum, which allows him to raise the "brilliant, real-life archeological genius" of Professor Margherita Guarducci above them – and helps him cover up that she recycled Peter's bones and got credited by Paul VI for their miraculous "rediscovery". 

Back to our report

One of the best sources for this foreign intrigue is an entertaining book by John E. Walsh [5], who deals with the controversies like a reporter, narrates Kirschbaum's role as leading archeologist like a novelist, and pretends to accept the Vatican's positions as he keeps dropping a few 'bomb shells' here and there. We learn that emperor Constantine "took a symbolic part in the work, going so far as to carry on his shoulders twelve baskets of earth-fill, one for each of the apostles," and Walsh goes on to ask: "Did Constantine have the grave opened, did he personally look on the body of Peter? Nothing of this is known with certainty, yet there is evidence disputed though it may be that he not only opened the grave but also provided a sumptuous new sarcophagus of bronze, probably lined with gold, for the remains..." This adds suspense to the Vatican's claim that Peter's relics remained allegedly hidden since the 4th century and suggests an immense treasure could be in his tomb. Walsh lets Guarducci usually speak for herself and remains neutral about the political career of Monsignor Kaas and intimate friendship with nuncio Pacelli, later pope Pius XII.

As a Catholic priest and active politician during the Weimar Republic, Kaas supported Pacelli and helped arrange the Reichskondordat which had the unexpected side effect to facilitate Hitler's rise to power. This picture shows three of our protagonists at the Vatican when the document was signed for pope Pius XI in 1933. Ludwig Kaas is in the foreground at the far left, Pacelli in the middle, and Giovanni Montini, the future pope Paul VI, waiting in the wings at right. If you google the event, you'll note the picture is rare because Montini is missing in most of them!

The Search for Peter's Tomb

As we follow the clues of Walsh, our detective story begins with an accident in 1594 "while some reconstruction was in progress near the high altar. A large piece of masonry broke from the top of a pillar, plummeted down, and smashed against an undetermined part of the shrine (the documents merely mention a vague 'floor'). The impact produced a jagged crack, and some workmen gazing in wonder through the slim opening were dazzled, as they later claimed, by the sight of a golden cross. Pope Clement, hastily informed of the damage to the shrine, immediately ordered the crack closed with cement. Further work in the vicinity was forbidden. No proof exists that the men actually saw a golden cross, but that the shrine once included such a rare ornament was a tradition well known to the excavators. When first erected in the fourth century, the monument received from St. Helena, mother of Constantine, a sumptuous gift consisting of a kingly crown and an oversize cross, both made of pure gold".

According to Walsh: "The second glimpse into the tomb took place at the end of the nineteenth century when the Jesuit Hartmann Grisar, prompted by the development of the electric light, was permitted to try an experiment." Grisar (1845-1932) had argued "if Peter's tomb existed, it would not have been forgotten, and if it didn't exist, it would not have been invented" [6], and is regarded as the Indiana Jones among the Jesuits. In the chapel of the Lateran, where the popes used to reside before moving to the Vatican, he discovered a hidden wooden chest and some shelves with ancient relics. As it is the Sancta Sanctorum where the skulls of Peter and Paul were allegedly kept at times, we can imagine what attracted him to Peter's grave.

Walsh continues that Grisar found in a little niche below the altar of St Peter Basilica a "tiny hinged door which opened on a small vertical shaft" and "let down a feeble electric light. At a depth of about fifteen feet the light stopped... No object was discernible in the dim circle of light, no gleam of metal. What the chamber might contain, what part of the original grave it represented, or if indeed it bore any connection with the grave at all, Grisar had found it impossible to say."

Hence, Grisar may have inspired Kaas and Pius XII, because Kirschbaum reveals in the introduction of his book that "no Pope had ever ventured to start excavations under the Confessio at St Peter's", and that "One of the many courageous changes of the pontificate of Pius XII was the break with this medieval tradition... We know from His Holiness's own statement that, even as Cardinal Secretary of State and Archpriest of St Peter's, he had already entertained the wish to initiate investigations with modern resources... The opportunity was provided by the extension of St Peter's crypt or the so-called 'Grottoes', carried through by Mgr Ludwig Kaas, then director of the Reverenda Fabbrica of St Peter's." He adds the praise: "The direction of the operations was in the hands of Mgr Kaas, and a large measure of the success of this difficult undertaking, especially during the war, is to be attributed to his remarkable adroitness and perseverance".

Kirschbaum became director of the Roman Institute of the Görres-Gesellschaft in 1949, which also published his vita. It reveals that Mgr Kaas had chosen him for the excavations because of their "close relationship" and that the work occurred "especially in 1941-1942" [7]. This early date is even confirmed by Guarducci, who writes that the tomb was found "about 1941" [8].

When Kirschbaum discovered that Peter's tomb had been plundered, Kaas brought Pius XII down to assess the situation. There was no golden cross or crown, not even a bronze casket lined with gold, only a heap of bones! To soften the impact for very pious readers, Kirschbaum covers the search for the tomb in the first part of his book until he gets to the "reburied bones" under the Red Wall on p. 91 without bringing up the missing skull. He postpones the violent destruction of the gravesite until p. 162, and the missing skull until p. 191 [9] after he has explained at length that Peter's and Paul's skulls were often separated from their bones. This indicates that the pope had to consider all kind of explanations for the ransacked tomb and may have only then decided to include Ferrua, Josi, and Apollonj-Ghetti. We also learn from Walsh [10] that Pius XII had his physician recruit a few medical experts to examine the bones and that they concluded after several months that they "belonged to one and the same person... elderly and vigorous," which he accepted as evidence that Peter's relics are found.

As WWII exploded around the Vatican, the excavators were preparing officially the tomb of pope Pius XI between 1939 and 1944. The secret search for Peter's remains started in 1940, after Hitler had taken Paris, and was probably suspended when Germany invaded the Soviet Union and the Allies began to bomb Rome. Because the discovery of "reburied bones" without Peter's skull would have been devastating news for all of Christendom, even after the war, Pius XII intended apparently to never make it public. But after seven years of silence, the secret was leaked to Camille Cianfarra [11], a correspondent of the New York Times, and made the headlines on Aug. 22, 1949:

The article is dated Rome, Aug. 7, which indicates that the editors gave the Vatican a couple of weeks to state its official position. According to Cianfarra, the bones of St Peter are found and the archeologists "have taken an oath of secrecy and are therefore forbidden to either confirm or deny the discovery", which officials describe "as the most important discovery yet made to the history of the origins of Christianity in the West". Mgr Kaas is identified as in charge of the project, and we learn on p. 3 (see link), aside from detailed diagrams, that the archeologists Enrico Josi, Antonio Ferrua, and Engelbert Kirschbaum were appointed by Pius XII to conduct the excavations. There is neither a reference to the reburied bones nor to the missing skull, only the (false) claim that Peter's remains were found in a "terra cotta urn" in 1947, which reduced the impact of the article. In addition to being off by 6 years, the Vatican claims that "The bones are being preserved in an urn closely guarded by Pope Pius XII himself, in the private chapel next to his study." Although it is strange that a pope would admit keeping St Peter's relics in his apartment, we will show below that he had a good reason because Giovanni Montini had other plans for them! Furthermore, the Vatican claims boldly in the article that Pius XII intended to submit a report of the excavations to a few leading international archeologists, and that this "neutral" committee will be enabled to investigate the findings on site, all of which the pontiff was expected to announce on Dec. 24, when he inaugurates the Holy Year of 1950.

The official Report was completed a year late in two volumes on Dec. 19, 1951, with a foreword by Kaas [12], and copies distributed to the "neutral committee" as promised. The British scholars Jocelyn Toynbee and John Ward Perkins [13], both eminent archeologists and historians, responded with a detailed evaluation in 1956. They note that the spot under the Red Wall, where the "reburied bones" were found, is the center of Peter's gravesite, the Aedicula (trophy), and less than a meter from the Graffiti Wall, but that its marble encased loculus (cavity) is almost two meters higher, of which almost a meter was originally above ground. They point out that "for reasons that are by no means clear, no detailed report has yet been issued about these bones, and all the information we have about them at present is the further statement by one of the excavators that a preliminary examination has shown them to be those of a person of advanced age and powerful physique; the sex, it seems, cannot be determined, and the skull is missing..." Toynbee-Perkins add in note 16: "In view of the importance of every scrap of evidence from a cite of this complexity, it seems strange that no authorative medical analysis of these bones has been published either in the official Report or during the four years that have elapsed since the work appeared." We learn also that the information about the missing skull comes from one of the excavators, which shows that it was excluded from the official Report.

Furthermore, the British experts note that it mentions a "box-like receptacle" in the Graffiti Wall, yet fails to discuss its purpose [14]. They add that it is "made up of thin slabs of marble let into the northern face of the buttressing-wall, g, about 80 centimetres above ground-level. It is later than the graffiti, which it cuts through, but earlier than the Constantine shrine, by the north wall of which it was sealed into place..." They point out that the graffiti on the wall "strangely fail... to mention St. Peter by name" and that the Chi-Rho monogram as an abbreviation of Christ's name is featured everywhere, and conclude:

"About the loculus we must be content to say that it must have been cut to contain some object which the builders of the Constantine shrine wished to preserve, in perpetuity, in close association with the remains of St. Peter. What that object was we shall probably never know." [15]


The Lost Cave

A good answer to the above question can be found at the monastery St Pere de Rodes, which is  located on Mont Verdera in the Pyrenees, because a sacred vessel would be the ideal object for the loculus [16]. It is claimed in the Latin chronicles of the monastery that pope Boniface IV sent churchmen with the skull of St Peter and a vessel with Christ's blood  to the Pyrenees in 608 CE and had them hidden in a cave because the Romans feared an attack of the Babylonians and Persians. (See link to our article).

When the churchmen returned and couldn't find the cave because of a landslide, as we will show below, they built a church and began to claim that the altar is built over the cave with the relics. Soon, the abbots were rewarded by half a dozen popes, beginning with Urban II, with "bulls" allowing them to dispense indulgences equal to St Peter in Rome. As a result, a monastery began to grow and became the wealthiest in north-eastern Spain, until it was destroyed during several wars with France. The Duke of Noailles removed most of its library in 1708, followed by sacks in 1726 and 1731, and its occupation in 1793 when the French destroyed its furniture and the remaining, religious objects in a bond fire. The ruin was abandoned by the monks in 1798, but treasure hunters continued the search for the cave and started using dynamite in the early 20th century. What was left of the monastery is depicted at right and was finally protected by the Spanish government. When an extensive restoration followed, a hidden Roman structure of 25 x 7 meters was discovered in the 1990's inside the monastery's eastern wall. The archeologists date the structure from artifacts to least the 6th century, which proves that the cave was never found because the crypt below the altar was built later and is less than 20 meters from the structure [17].

The destruction of the monastery implies that the legends were taken seriously and our research confirms it. Peter's skull is indeed missing in Rome and a Latin chronicle claims that the skull and a vessel with Christ's blood were lost in the Pyrenees. The graffiti at Peter's tomb in Rome seems to support the inclusion of the vessel by showing that the early Christians celebrated at the tomb refrigerium [18] in memory of Jesus and the Last Supper.

We propose, therefore, that before Constantine had the site enclosed within his basilica, he added a loculus for the holy vessel, which would indeed be an "object which the builders of the Constantine shrine wished to preserve, in perpetuity, in close association with the remains of St. Peter." We should add that the two relics have always belonged together because it is confirmed by every representative of St Peter when he raises a cup to celebrate the Eucharist [19].

Pujades has been our reliable guide through the history of Catalonia, but because the Spanish Inquisition was still active in 1609 CE, he could only hint at these religious controversies. When he quotes from the chronicle (see link in Spanish), he adds 603 CE, which happens to be the year Gregory the Great was still alive. But the story starts later, with Boniface IV, who became pope in 608 when an invasion was no longer a threat, which allows Pujades to suggest "it is very possible that everything happened like this at different times."

He was a law professor and judge, and could have applied "different times" to either 603 or 608 if he had to defend himself. He may actually be giving his readers a secret signal like Kirschbaum, that hiding the relics and the search for the cave are separated by substantial time. Gregory was not only the first pope of monastic background  in 603, but also the mentor of his successors Boniface III and IV, both former monks. According to the Secret Report, Gregory ordered a major reconstruction of Peter's tomb to give pilgrims better access, as Kirschbaum's illustration shows at left. The circular crypt required "lowering the level of Constantine's floor so as to leave a passage free round the curving apse and beneath the raised presbyterium, from the centre of which a wide gallery led to the rear side of the former Memoria. This was the point closest to the apostolic tomb" [20]. Kirschbaum discusses at length how important it was, based on St Jerome, that mass must be celebrated right above the body of St Peter. He writes that for Gregory, Constantine's construction was no longer adequate "and he took measures which made it possible to say Mass over the apostle's tomb." This establishes rather clearly that Gregory's "measures" required an identification of Peter's remains, and this is when he would have discovered that they are missing. Our conjecture is supported by the fact that he threatened that "many and terrible signs" are protecting any disturbance of the sacred body of the blessed Apostle Peter [21], which kept the churchmen away for centuries.

Like Pujades, Kirschbaum could not address everything openly because his works are censured by the Jesuits [22]. To set up Gregory's dilemma for informed readers, he uses the Samagher ivory casket to illustrate his revisions of Constantine's construction for which Guarducci took the credit decades later [23]. This tiny reliquary of 18,5 x 20,5 x 16,01cm was carved around 440 CE and relates directly to the Sack of Rome in 410 CE because a side panel depicts Galla Placidia at Peter's tomb. Such a subtle connection to Barcelona and Pujades was familiar territory for the Jesuits. Ignatius of Loyola was inspired by the Black Madonna of Montserrat to found the Society of Jesus in 1522 and developed the "spiritual exercises" during a retreat to a cave in nearby Manresa. Many Jesuits visit Catalonia to study the origins of their society and, according to his vita, Kirschbaum was there in March and April, 1935, to do some research and would have been likely to encounter the works of Pujades.

It requires a detailed study of Kirschbaum's report to understand his wisdom to present Gregory's work on the tomb and connect it to the "reburied bones" in the form of a rhetorical puzzle. First, he dramatizes the destruction of Peter's tomb by the Saracens with their "senseless fury... abnormal hatred and destructive lust", to conclude "There can be no doubt that these are the traces of the Saracen attack of 846. Previous sacks of Rome do not come into the matter, because we have no report of damage to the apostolic tombs..." [24]. He makes us think about it, because angry Saracens would not remove Peter's skull and bury the rest of the bones under the Red Wall! Thus, we are taken straight to Alaric's Sack of Rome in 410, because he was an Arian Christian and the perfect suspect to rob the tomb of its gold without destroying it. This would also explain the fury of the Saracens, because the treasure they expected to find was gone. (See other conjectures about Alaric in the Appendix).

The cover-up of Kirschbaum's discovery

By the time Kirschbaum's findings reached the public, Ludwig Kaas was dead and the Vatican had changed course for damage control. Montini did no longer have to wait in the wings and could consult with the ailing pope every morning, which gave him substantial control: "It is true, my service to the pope was not limited to the political or extra-ordinary affairs according to Vatican language. The goodness of Pope Pius XII opened to me the opportunity to look into the thoughts even into the soul of this great pontiff" [25]. If we consider that "Montini was a longtime friend of the Guarducci family" and referred to Margherita Guarducci as his "old friend" [26], it is no surprise that Kaas died on cue and Montini had her replace the authors of the official Report in 1953 and put her in charge of Peter's tomb.

After we had completed our field research in Rome, it took us quite a while to realize that two different heaps of bones are being discussed and that the continuing "double-talk" has a rhetorical function. We knew from Kirschbaum that the "anatomical investigation" of the bones under the Red Wall confirmed that "all bones belonged to one and the same person. That person was further described as an elderly and vigorous man." According to Walsh (see link), the second heap of bones from the Graffiti Wall fell also "within the category of 'elderly,' between sixty and seventy years... of a single, elderly individual, about five feet seven inches tall, of heavy build, and almost certainly male." It seemed incomprehensible to us that two identical heaps of bones could be found at Peter's plundered gravesite and were neither compared nor mentioned together! We assumed, therefore, that there was only one heap of bones and Guarducci renamed the Red Wall because it had the most important graffito,  her controversial "Peter is within". 

However, when we studied the reactions of Toynbee-Perkins to the official Report, we realized that Guarducci is far from being the "brilliant, real-life archeological genius" O'Neill promotes. Although Kirschbaum treats her kindly, which was his style, the British experts don't hold back. At the end of chapter I, they dedicate three pages to her interpretations of the graffiti and write that "despite the high reputation enjoyed by Professor Guarducci and by those privileged persons whom she cites as having read the inscriptions under her guidance, her reading is, nevertheless, submitted to searching criticism". They even suggest that she wiped out some letters to support her interpretation of the "crude scribbles" [27]. How the Brits put it needs to be read a few times because they follow the academic rules, while history-detectives like us can state directly that Guarducci forged her findings and invented a second heap of bones. Thank to the research of Walsh, we can also show how she continues to stretch her scenario from 1941 to 1963 until she can legitimize her alleged "discovery" with pope Paul VI's blessings. It seems that a religious organization that practiced "the end justifies the means" for centuries appreciated Guarducci's sacrifice of morals and ethics because a debate about Peter's missing skull and the Holy Grail would have interfered with the Church reforms her old friend had on his mind, and actually went on to achieve as pope.  

Guarducci's scheme relies on the (false) claim that Peter's bones were inside the Graffiti Wall since Constantine built the basilica, which Toynbee-Perkins reject directly: "The suggestion that this loculus was cut by Constantine to receive the relics of St. Peter... disregards the cardinal fact that the focus of Constantine's shrine remained exactly what it had been before – the centre of the Aedicula. Even if we assume he had, in fact, to retranslate the relics, it is inconceivable that he would have placed them anywhere but at the central point of the shrine itself" [28]. Walsh adds a good question: "Was this poor, makeshift cavity the best that Constantine could do for the precious remains, when he had lavished so much effort and expense on the richly decorated housing shrine and magnificent basilica towering over it? For any logical mind, sensitive to the fitness of things, the disparity was glaring" [29].

Aside from the fact that she had the entire loculus dismantled so that no longer anything can be proven, Guarducci's other glaring disparity was how she "transfers" Peter's bones into it. To make it work, she has to turn two German friends, Kaas and Kirschbaum, into enemies with severe lapses of memory and judgment. No problem in 1963, because she was in charge and there was no one to disagree: Kaas had died in 1952, Cianfarra in 1956, and Pius XII in 1958. Kirschbaum was silenced by Paul VI because some Jesuits take the "fourth vow of obedience to the pope." But he was a man of wisdom and had nothing to add – everything is said in his book.

We know from a variety of sources, including Guarducci, that the excavations started in 1940 and that Peter's gravesite was reached in 1941. Kirschbaum does not offer any dates, only that the work started after June 27, 1940 [30]. With half the year gone, the tomb could have been reached in early 1941 because the pope wanted an answer as soon as possible. Not an easy task for excavators, to work in complete secrecy and avoid noise by using small hammers and sharp chisels. As Kirschbaum breaks through wall after wall with the Italian workers, the Sanpietrini, he reaches the Red Wall and notices some marble linings he takes for decorations of Peter's gravesite. He writes they "came finally upon another more ancient wall, roughly 90 centimeters in length and 45 in breadth. This wall provided us with a new surprise. It was covered with scratched inscriptions (graffiti)" [31]. This is precisely where Guarducci's scam begins and Kirschbaum's narration needs to be studied carefully:

"We met with a surprise at the lower end of the graffiti wall. Through a slit-like aperture in the wall we were able to peer into a box-shaped space. We cautiously widened the aperture to find a chest constructed of thin marble slabs, 77 centimeters long, 29 centimeters broad and 31.5 in height. It was empty except for some slight remains of earth mingled with bone splinters, a little lead, a few silver threads and a coin of the Counts of Limoges, of uncertain date between the tenth and twelfth centuries. The chest had never apparently possessed a lid... But what had been preserved in the chest? Unfortunately, it had been emptied later. This had probably been done from the narrow East side of the wall, where the slab of the chest had been caved inwards" [32].

Kirschbaum took the left picture of the Graffiti Wall with the small slit, which we cropped to match the one at right to show how much it was enlarged to measure the chest. According to Guarducci's scenario, Kirschbaum peered into the slit, saw the box-shaped space inside, and although there was no lid he allegedly overlooked a large heap of bones in spite of being praised for an "amazing visual memory" in his vita [33]. This was the most dramatic moment of the excavations, to be near Peter's tomb at last, yet he supposedly left for the night and had the worker enlarge the slit without his supervision. According to Guarducci, this was "perhaps the most regrettable and egregious blunder in archaeological history" because Kaas came allegedly down and discovered a heap of bones in the chest. He betrayed his friend Pius XII and the archeologists next by having the worker remove the bones to the storage room. 

Because an Italian worker is her only witness twenty years later, Guarducci can turn her scenario into a farce: The next morning, when Kirschbaum reaches supposedly the loculus, she must claim that the worker fails to mention that Kaas had him remove a large heap of bones. A few days later, when Kirschbaum finds reburied bones under the Red Wall and Pius XII comes down and they try to find an explanation for the ransacked tomb, Kaas forgets to console the pope with the news he had another heap of bones. Ten years later, when the pope has to release the official Report and asks his friend Kaas to write the foreword [34], Guarducci's scheme requires he forgot the other bones again and took the secret to his grave a few months later. To repeat the words of Walsh "For any logical mind, sensitive to the fitness of things, the disparity was glaring."

But everything could make sense if the worker forgot a couple of details: He was probably a good chiseler, but may not have remembered after twelve years which priest with a German accent had told him to clean out the loculus, Kaas or Kirschbaum? After collecting bones for months everywhere and store them in a room near the tomb, he might have forgotten what he removed from the Graffiti wall, a few fragments or a large heap of bones? However, when Guarducci mentioned how important this is for Montini, and that he could become a foreman if his memory improves a little, it apparently helped a lot because he signed an affidavit to confirm it!

The role of Guarducci's only other eye witness matches the worker's conflict rather nicely: Prof. Venerando Correnti is introduced as "one of Europe's most distinguished anthropologists" and it goes without saying that his study of the bones includes their provenance. In reality, however, Correnti was brought in from the University of Palermo in Sicily, where he was only a professor since 1954 and had too little published to deserve the introduction (see link). His first name indicates a Catholic upbringing and he probably appreciated the invitation to work at St Peter's basilica, even in secret and under unprofessional conditions. His research was limited to a bare room and portable instruments, and to the study of non-descript bones Guarducci would place before him. She explains in an article that Correnti "examined blindly" three sets of bones marked T, K, and VMG (Graffiti Wall) "without any archeological or topographic information" [35]. Hence, it may be simple to figure out how Guarducci's tightly wrapped package VMG had finally Peter's bones and a few fragments of a skull, as this illustration in Walsh's book shows:

There are several riddles here because if Correnti had been told that the VMG bones come from a cavity inside the Graffiti Wall and were supposedly untouched since the time of Constantine, he would have tried to find out how and when the skull could have been crushed into tiny fragments and why most of it is missing? That these bones should have been in a fancy urn is another unsolved question, because Guarducci surprised with her conclusions in June, 1963   just when Montini had become pope Paul VI.

That the official Report was a year late implies there could have been an internal power struggle if Montini was against disclosing that the skull is missing. When Toynbee-Perkins wrote in 1956 that not even the gender of the bones has been determined and that only an excavator mentioned the missing skull, they added that it "is strange that no authorative medical analysis of these bones has been published." We propose that because of this critique, the ailing Pius XII ordered another examination in 1956 and allowed Kirschbaum to write a book and defend his position. How else could the additional information in 1957 be explained, as we repeat below once again?

"These bones are not remains from different graves gathered together but, in the judgment of experts, they form the skeleton of a single man (p. 91)... It might be surmised that scattered remains had at one time been collected and placed beneath the Red Wall. In that case, an anatomical investigation would have showed that they belonged to different skeletons. Medical examination, however, gave the contrary verdict, i.e., that all bones belonged to one and the same person. That person was further described as an elderly and vigorous man. The skull is missing." (p. 195)

According to Guarducci, the bones Kirschbaum describes above are the same ones Correnti examined for several years and concluded they are from three human skeletons, and a quarter are darker bones from cows, horses, goats and sheep. Although we find it ridiculous to suggest that medical experts conducted an anatomical investigation over several months and overlook the fragments of 6 tibias and a large number of animal bones, we fortunately have solid proof of Guarducci's bone switch, thanks to the detailed report of Walsh:

When Correnti opened box VMG he discovered a mouse among the bones and because the skeleton was intact he found it unlikely "that all the tiny pieces would still be present if they had been transferred by hand". Therefore, it can't have been the same box Kaas allegedly locked up because Guarducci checked and handled the bones in front of the worker. She then wrapped the box in heavy, brown paper, tied a strong cord around it, and took it to the basilica's main office in 1953 and supposedly forgot about it for several years. With the original box VMG wrapped up tight, the mouse could only have entered and died in a box at the pope's apartment where Kirschbaum's bones from the Red Wall were kept since 1941. Consequently, on a day in the early 1960s when Correnti was out of town, Guarducci must have taken these bones to his work room and added skull fragments of an old man from the heaps Correnti had identified and marked. When she wrapped up this box to look like the original VMG, she was obviously oblivious of the fact that this mousetrap could disprove her entire scenario.

We owe it to Guarducci's successful swindle that the cave legend lost it's credibility in 1963 when a new set of Peter's bones surfaced at the Vatican with a few pieces of a skull. Perfect timing, because Montini had just become pope Paul VI and could announce Guarducci's miraculous "rediscovery" to the world. For obvious reasons, he has Peter's bones displayed in several boxes under glass and the (bogus) skull fragments in a separate box. Today, even the Jesuits are happy that the skull is back and St Pere de Rodes eliminated because Pope Francis used to be a Jesuit and probably knows the whole story. He celebrated Peter's bones in 2013 in public, canonized Paul VI in 2018, and donated nine of Peter's bone fragments to the Eastern Orthodox Church in 2019, which closed the case for good.



Loss of the Roman treasure

Encouraged by our findings at the Vatican as investigative reporters or "history detectives", we tried to figure out where St Pere de Rodes fits in and used our imagination to connect the dots whenever records are either missing or unknown to us. Our story begins when the Western Roman Empire was nearing its demise, the imperial residence transferred to Ravenna, and the legion in Britain withdrawn. The most powerful force were the  foederat at the time, irregular troops under Roman command, which included Vandals, Alans and Huns. In command was Stilicho, a Roman general of Vandal origin. He stopped the advance of the Visigoths under his former ally Alaric in 402, but united with him again in 405. Stilicho made him the magister militum of Illyricum for the Romans, and even negotiated on his behalf with the Roman Senate. Their powerful alliance threatened emperor Honorius and he had Stilicho beheaded after trapping him with a promise of safe conduct. His chief ministers were also killed, including  most women and children of the foederati.

Consequently, Stilicho's foederati joined Alaric, which increased his forces to 30 000 angry warriors when he besieged Rome and stopped all food supplies from the barges on the Tiber. After extensive bargaining, the famine-stricken citizens paid out a ransom, which included 5,000 pounds of gold and 30,000 pounds of silver [36]. All slaves were freed and swelled the ranks of Alaric's warriors to over 40 000 men. We should keep in mind that this was a large human migration and his following included twice as many women and children.

Another treachery of Honorius led to a second siege of Rome in 409, and faced with the return of starvation and disease, the Senate met with Alaric. He demanded that they appoint one of their own as an emperor to rival Honorius, to which they complied. When Alaric was named magister utriusque militiae in the rival goverment, and his brother-in-law Ataulf comes domesticurum equitum, he lifted the siege again.

But during a meeting with Honorius outside of Ravenna in 410, Alaric was almost killed by a small Roman unit, and outraged by another treachery ordered a full attack of Rome. Most of the great buildings were sacked and all moveable goods removed. From the Lateran Palace a 2,025-pound silver ciborium was taken, the Basilica Aemilia and the Basilica Julia were burned, and every nun in town is said to have been raped. Many Romans were taken captive, including the emperor's young sister, Galla Placidia, as Alaric's personal hostage. Some citizens were ransomed, others sold into slavery, and many raped or killed. It is claimed that Alaric limited the sack to three days and nights because he "had no wish to destroy Rome. He wanted to use it as a bargaining chip to help him get a homeland within the Roman Empire for his people", see link. Scholars agree unanimously that Alaric's booty was the greatest treasure ever taken in history, and that it included artifacts from Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem like the Menorah of pure gold the Jewish captives had to parade through the streets of Rome in AD 60. (We took this picture of the procession at the Arch of Titus where the precious marble relief deteriorates in Roman air pollution.)

Based on the historical fact that Alaric took Galla Placidia hostage to control the emperor, we propose that the "reburied bones" at the Vatican and the chronicle of Sant Pere de Rodes indicate that he also removed some relics as bargaining chips to control the papacy. We don't know if he was religious, but as an Arian would have rejected the divinity of Christ and the relics cult. It is likely, therefore, that he removed the entire treasure, including Peter's skull, and buried the rest of the bones under the Red Wall to create the impression all is gone. As to the loculus in the Graffiti wall, he could have removed the holy vessel "from the narrow East side of the wall, where the slab of the chest had been caved inward" [37]. It would be naive to assume Alaric besieged Rome for years and stayed away from Peter's basilica, which was outside the city walls and defenseless. Although some Christian writers claim he declared the holy places, and particularly the basilicas of Peter and Paul, as sanctuaries for Roman citizens [38], we contend that these tales were made to cover up the loss. 

Alaric died shortly after the sack of Rome from a fever and the Visigoths elected his brother-in-law Ataulf as their king. He led them to their new territory in South-western Gaul where it took him several years to defeat and execute two rival Western Roman emperors (see link) and extend his control over the territories between Narbo (Narbonne) and Barcino (Barcelona). His defeat of the usurpers and control of Galla Placidia and the relics would explain why Honorius and the Church supported the marriage to his hostage on January 1, 414 in Narbonne. According to the chronicles, the nuptials were celebrated lavishly with high Roman festivities and gifts from the Roman booty. Some items from the sack were displayed publically, which would not have pleased Honorius [39].

Constantius, a brilliant Roman general, managed to turn Honorius against Ataulf and began a blockade of the Mediterranean ports in Gaul. As a security precaution, Ataulf left his foederati to face Constantius and withdrew with the Goths to the safety of Barcelona in 415. This seems to have been the last time the Gothic treasure is mentioned, because Jordanes writes "Ataulf left at Barcelona his treasures and the men who were unfit for war, and entered the interior of Spain with a few faithful followers" (XXXI, 163), which may have been the official version because the treasure was already in a safe place. It is about a hundred kilometers from Narbonne to the Pyrenees, and another hundred to Barcelona. In those days, the famous Via Augusta used to cross the Pyrenees near today's Le Perthus and passed about 20 km West of Mont Verdera. It is the lowest pass through the mountains and offers today the easiest access to Spain with a multi-lane highway and a spectacular high-speed rail line. There is also a coastal road which runs today past Port Bou at the French border, near an old railroad line that used to be the only Eastern access to Spain by train. Road and railway leave the coast at the foot of Mont Verdera and pass a canyon from Llancà to Vilajuïga where portions of the ancient road are still visible which used to lead to the Roman structure inside the monastery. 

Our conjecture that Ataulf stored tons of gold and silver in a cave on Mont Verdera, right between Narbonne and Barcelona, is based on the legend Pujades has documented. The circumstantial evidence suggests that Ataulf knew about the cave's existence for years and decided to hide the main treasure there until a permanent homeland for the Visigoths is established. This means that there were two treasures, the king's own and the larger treasure in the cave, including the relics as bargaining chips against the Church. That the treasure is never mentioned again and seems to have vanished without a trace is supported by the fact that Ataulf enjoyed a few happy months in Barcino with Galla [40], and by the tragedies that followed. Their infant son died in 415, perhaps by poison, and Ataulf was murdered next, which implies he didn't reveal the cave's location. What could relate is that his successor Sigeric had all six of Ataulf's children from a former marriage killed, as blackmail perhaps, and that he abused Galla Placidia publically. But after a bloody reign of only seven days, Sigeric was also assassinated and replaced by Wallia, a relative of Ataulf. He was an able negotiator because he made an alliance with Honorius with Aquitaine as reward, and reduced Galla back to hostage status and set her free for 52,400 hectoliters of wheat [41]. In return, she may have kept what she knew about the treasure to herself – even after Honorius forced her to marry Ataulf's archenemy Constantius.

If pope Boniface, a former protégé of Gregory the Great, really sent a ship down the Tiber in 608, as claimed in the Latin chronicle of St Pere de Rodes, the timing and destination suggest rather strongly that the churchmen left Rome with the mission to recover the relics. The Visigoths of Hispania were ruled by the great king Liuvigild from c. 519 until 586, when his son Reccared converted from the Arian "heresy" to a Chalcedonian Christianity. As a reward, pope Gregory sent him in 599 "a piece of the True Cross, fragments of the chains of St Peter, and some hairs of St John the Baptist" (Epp. ix. 61, 121), which also opened a dialog about relics. If we understand Kirschbaum's hint correctly, Gregory had his monks search for references to the lost treasure in Galla Placidia's documents, which took until after his death in 604. That there is some truth to the cave legend was discovered in the 1990s when the archeologists could date a crack in the hidden Roman structure and attribute it to an "earth movement" in the 6th century [42]. This is where Pujades confirms our research again, because major earthquakes were recorded at the end of Liuvigild's reign in the 580s. Quoting from a dozen historians, he writes that the quakes started in France and moved into Spain where huge boulders broke from mountains in the Pyrenees, "desprendiéndose de los montes Pirinéos grandes peñascos"[43].

Even if those pious Romans had a precise treasure map in 608, the entry to the cave could have been crushed by a large boulder or buried under rubble. Obviously, the cave was not next to the existing structure and artesian spring, where the churchman found shelter during their endless search and eventually built a monastery. Hence, this is also great stuff for a Monty Python sketch: If Roman churchmen keep climbing up and down a mountain until they die of old age, intensely digging for something they can't find, the locals would have noticed their odd behavior. Passing knights, shepherds and hunters would have asked questions and the seekers had to respond somehow. Simple and naive, as most early Christians were, they could neither be dishonest nor reveal the truth, which didn't leave many options. They would not have brought up the treasure – only the loss of reliquiae insignes perhaps, some bones and a gradalis, a vessel without value. Instead of admitting a search for Petrus, they would have simply referred to him as a fisherman, and when pressed, to a "special" fisherman! Soon, the locals made him a "rich fisher" and even a "Fisherking," and when some poets heard of the "quest" grail romance was born.


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Brief summary, which scholars can use as abstract.

1.  Allen Duston, O.P., and Roberto Zagnoli, Saint Peter and the Vatican, (Virginia, 2003), p. 92.  

2.  Jocelyn Toynbee, John Ward Perkins, The Shrine of Saint Peter and the Vatican Excavations, (London, 1956), p. 154  

3.  Engelbert Kirschbaum S.J., The Tombs of St Peter and St Paul, tr. John Murray S.J., (London, 1959), based on Die Gräber der Apostelfürsten (Frankfurt, 1957).

4.  ibid., The first example is on p. 20, where Murray translates "ergriffen" with "enthusiastically," although it really means "deeply moved". Why would anyone describe Kirschbaum as enthusiastic when he reaches on the feastday of Christian martyrs the very spot where they lost their lives? 

5.  John Evangelist Walsh, The Bones of St. Peter, The First Full Account of the Search for the Apostle's Body, (Doubleday, New York - 1982), see link.

6.  Hartmann Grisar S.J., Rom beim Ausgraben der antiken Welt, (Paderborn, 2015), Nachdruck from 1901 original, p. 234: "Hätte man die geschichtliche Frage stets ruhig betrachtet so würde man sich schon vor den kritischen Verhandlungen neurer Zeit gesagt haben: Ein Grab Petri in Rom konnte, wenn es vorhanden war, nicht vergessen werden, und wenn es nicht vorhanden war, nicht erfunden werden." There is also the English version History of Rome and the popes in the Middle Ages, tr. Luigi Cappadelta, (New York, 1975). 

7. The Görres-Gesellschaft states in his vita in German, see pdf : "Kirschbaum, der in engem persönlichen Kontakt zu Ludwig Kaas stand, wurde seit seiner Ankunft in Rom in die Überlegungen zu den Grabungen in St. Peter einbezogen. Er war maßgeblich zusammen mit Antonio Ferrua S.J., Enrico Josi u. Bruno Maria Apollonj-Ghetti 1940-1949 (insbesondere 1941-1942) an ihnen beteiligt, und hier zeigten sich „son étonnante mémoire visuelle, ses qualités et ses dons d’observation et de critique“ (V. Saxer)

8. Margherita Guarducci, The Remains of St. Peter, (see link), where she claims: "4. The loculus was never broken into from the age of Constantine until the time of the excavations (about 1941). 5. From this loculus come the bones which were removed at the beginning of the excavations, kept without interruption in a nearby spot in the Vatican Grottoes and recovered from this spot in 1953."

9. Kirschbaum, (see above, n. 3).

10. Walsh, (see above, n. 5), end of chap. 4 Peter's Grave.

11. Camille M. Cianfarra, The Vatican and the war, (New York, 1944), pp. 209-10. He revealed a secret meeting of Pius XII and Ribbentrop a few years earlier to make a deal with the Nazis, see link, which became the source of Hochhuts play "The Deputy". Furthermore, he witnessed the funeral of pope Pius XI and noticed a skull and crossbones on his casket. It would be interesting if scholars establish some day that the momento mori of funeral rites is based on Peter's lost relics.

12. Esplorazioni sotto la confessione di San Pietro in Vaticano eseguite negli anni 1940-1949: relazione a cura di B.M. Apollonj-Ghetti, A. Ferrua, S.J., E. Josi, E. Kirschbaum, S.J., prefazione di Mons. L. Kaas, Segretario-Economo della Rev. Fabbrica di San Pietro, appendice numismatica di C. Serafini, vol. i, testo; vol. ii, tavole, (Città del Vaticano, 1951). Please note that most authors omit in their references that Kaas wrote the foreword, which we underlined. This could be part of Montini's plot because Kaas died on April 15, 1952, four months after the report's release.

13. Toynbee-Perkins, (see above, n. 2), p. 154. Note 16 is on p. 184.

14. ibid., p. 166

15. ibid., pp. 165-167.

16. Gerónimo (Jeroni) Pujades, Crónica Universal del Principado de Cataluña, (Barcelona, 1829), vol. IV, pp. 186-190. See also vol. VIII (1832), p. 123, where he refers to "el grande libro del numero 223 llamado Registro que es del órden del P. San Benito" and folio 17, dated July 1, 1097, which indicates that the first 16 pages of the chronicle reach many centuries back. A comparison with the first edition of the Coronica vniversal... (Barcelona, 1609) and f. 316v. in Paris shows that both mention an "ampolla" with the blood of Christ. But in his Paris version, Pujades expanded the line to "un vaso, o ampolla" which includes the Catalan "grala" for cups and common bowls. In the famous Romanesque Art of Catalonia, the sacred vessel would not have looked like the fancy chalices of today, but rather like the simple Holy Grail at right from St Climent de Taüll.

17.  Immaculada Lorés, Carles Mancho, Sergi Vidal, El monestir de Sant Pere de Rodes, (Barcelona, 2002), pp.19-20: "Dos murs paral-lels i molt regulars, construïts amb grans carreus rectangulars de granit que constructivament difereixen de la resta de construccions del monastir, delimiten un gran edifici rectangular, de 25 x 7 m, l'aparell del qual va fer pensar que es tractava d'una edificació d'epoca romana (Mataró i Pladelasala 1992: 35, Mataró et al. 1992-1993: 149; Burch et al. 1994: 166; Mataró i Riu i Barrera 1994: 81)

18. Toynbee-Perkins, (see above, n. 2), p. 172

19. These cups are about 24 cm (9.5") tall today and may haver been smaller in the First Century. Even wrapped up or encased, they would have easily fit into the loculus. A scientific study of the box is no longer possible because Guarducci had it removed. Hence, we can't even date when the Eastern slab was caved inward, by Alaric in 410 or the Sarazens in 846? 

20. Kirschbaum, (see above n. 3), p. 161. Also p. 158, and p. 234, note 66, "Lib. Pont., 312: 'Hic (Gregorius) fecit, ut super sorpus beati Petri missae celebrarentur."

21. Toynbee-Perkins, (see above, n. 2), pp. 194, 220.

22. Kirschbaum, (see above n. 3), see left page after title, which identifies Paulus Muños Vega, S. J. and Dr. Höhle, Generalvikar. (The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral errror. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed).

23. Margherita Guarducci, La capsella eburnea di Samagher: un cimelio di arte paleocristiana nella storia del tardo impero, ed. Società istriana di archeologia e storia patria, (Trieste, 1978).

24. Kirschbaum, (see above, n. 3), p. 162: "The Saracens... violently smashed the lower part, the tomb proper. They destroyed the right side of the heavy threshold, which supported the marble pillars of the Tropaion, demolished the corresponding partof tomb n and forced their way through the Red Wall, where in senseless fury they hacked to pieces the right-hand portion of the marble decoration between the lower and central niches. The whole process can still be clearly followed and reveals an abnormal hatred and destructive lust. There can be no doubt that these are the traces of the Saracen attack of 846. Previous sacks of Rome do not come into the matter, because we have no report of damage to the apostolic tombs..." 

25. Andrea Lazzarini, Paolo VI, Profilo di Montini, (Roma, 1964), quoted from Papst Paul VI, (Freiburg, 1964), p. 58.

26. Thomas J. Craughwell, St. Peter's Bones, How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found... and Then Lost and Found Again, (New York, 2013), pp. 86-7.

27. Toynbee-Perkins, (see above, n. 2), pp. 14-17, and pp. 22 - 23, note 39: "When viewed by the present writers, through the courtesy of Professor Guarducci, in April 1953 (J.M.C.T.) and in January 1954 (J.B.W.P.), a great deal of what had been read by her early in 1953 had already faded into invisibility, and it would be presumption to comment in detail on the accuracy of a reading which one had had no opportunity of checking under better conditions. There are, however, two general queries that may legitimatly be raised. The drawings and inscriptions have undoubtedly faded since they were first photographed in 1943 (Guarducci, Pl. 15) and in 1947 (ibid., Pl. 16), and the deterioration has been accelerated recently by the brilliant lighting to which they have been subjected. Nevertheless, those parts of the complex that are visible in the early photographs are still clearly visible. How is it that the rest has faded so rapidly and completely? The other question is that of the extent to which it is possible to distinguish the faded traces of lettering from the accidental configuration on this much marked and damp-stained wall. The danger is not that of reading too little but of reading too much. As regards the inscription in large letters associated with the lower head (the only one of importance in the present context), the word Petrus can still be clearly read, and it was almost certainy followed by the word roga; the rest is now so much faded that one can do little more than say that there may be very well have been two or three further lines of text, beginning with the words pro s... For criticism of Professor Guarducci's methods of establishing the authenticity of the text that she purports to read, see R. North, S.J., in Verbum Domini

28. ibid., p. 166.

29. Walsh, (see above, n. 5), 11. Decision. see link.

30. Kirschbaum, (see above n. 3), p. 19.

31. Toynbee-Perkins, (see above, n. 2), p. 220. 

32. Kirschbaum, (see above n. 3), p. 71

33. See above n. 7, translated from Kirschbaum's vita.

34. Esplorazioni, (see above, n. 12).

35. Walsh, (see above, n. 5), Appendix B, "St. Pierre Retrouvé, (Paris, 1974), p. 112. Guarducci admits: "Ce professeur travailla 'à l'aveugle'. On lui donna plusieurs groupes d'ossements, respectivement siglés T, K, VMG (du mur g)... il ignorait tout des données archéologiques et topographiques... Sur le troisième groupe, le travail du professeur dura d'octobre 1962 à juin 1963." Thanks to the excellent research of Walsh, we also know that the French translation is the only surviving proof of the Italian article, which speaks for itself!

36. John Julius Norwich, Byzantium, The Early Centuries, (New York, 1989), p. 134. "Ultimately, the city was forced to give the Goths 5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, 4,000 silken tunics, 3,000 hides dyed scarlet, and 3,000 pounds of pepper in exchange for lifting the siege". For other details, Wikipedia is a basic start.

37. Kirschbaum. (see above n. 3), p.71.

38. Toynbee-Perkins, (see above, n. 2), tr. of Orosius, Hist. 7, 39, (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, V, pp. 544-5), p. 238.

39. R. C. Blockley, The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire: Eunapius, Olympiodoris, Priscus and Malchus, (Liverpool, 1983), 1: pp. 187-188.

40.  Pujades, (see above, n. 16), vol. IV, pp. 14-15. According to Pujades, all historians mention Ataulf's great love for Galla and her desire to make peace with Honorius, which divided the Goths and eventually led to his assassination.

41. Hermann Schreiber, Auf den Spuren der Goten, (München, 1977), 271.

42. Lorés et al, (see n. 17), "També es va poder comprovar de l'edifici estigué en ús com a mínim fins al segle XVII, moment en qué as va eixamplar cap a llevant, segurament a causa d'algun moviment de terra que ses va afectar i del qual encara en queda una esquerda en el mur sud. Els materials trobats en els dos estrats inferiors que recolzaven sobre la part interior dels murs s'han datat en el segle VI, la qual cosa informa que la cronologia de l'edifici ha de ser contemporània o anterior i, per tant, tardoromana (Llinàs et al. 1996: 272-273; Mataró i Pladelasala 1999), cosa que rectifica suposicions precedents a la intervenció d'una datació anterior (Mataró i Pladelasala 1992: 35; Mataró et al. 1992-1993: 149).

43. Pujades, (see above, n. 16), vol. IV, pp. 159-60.



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