Two great apostles, Peter and Paul, are honored tomorrow in the ancient churches where they were buried. The Basilica of St. Paul and the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter were built in the fourth century, reminders of the apostles who are founders and protectors of the Roman church.
Rome’s Christians marked the places where the apostles were martyred with special care. Peter, early sources say, was crucified on the Vatican Hill in 64 near the obelisk not far from the circus of the emperors Caligula and Nero and was buried in a cemetery nearby. The Emperor Constantine erected a basilica over the burial site in 326, while Sylvester was pope. Later in 1626 the present basilica replaced it. Recent excavations have uncovered Peter’s burial place under the papal altar of this church.
Paul, according to tradition, was beheaded on the Ostian Way, outside the ancient city walls, in 67. Constantine built a large church over his grave in 386. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1823 according to its original measurements. The apostle’s grave lies before the main altar of the church.
“The company of the apostles praises you…From their place in heaven they guide us still.”
Defend your Church, O Lord,
by the protection of the holy Apostles,
that, as she received from them
the beginnings of her knowledge of things divine,
so through them she may receive,
even to the end of the world,
an increase in heavenly grace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen (Collect for the feast)