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St. Peter's Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found . . . and Then Lost and Found Again

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  • Posted January 15, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    In 1940, as part of a construction project at the Vatican, Pope

    In 1940, as part of a construction project at the Vatican, Pope Pius XII authorized a team of excavators to work under the Basilica of St. Peter. As the work progressed remains of an ancient Roman necropolis was discovered. As the excavators dug down layer after layer, they found many tombs from the first centuries of the Roman Empire. Among these tombs and mausoleums they found evidence of early Christian burials. Tradition holds that the Basilica of St. Peter is built over the site of the Apostle’s tomb. The excavators finally reached the location and what they found there is the subject of this short book.

    St. Peter’s Bones tells the story of this excavation and also covers stories from the early church period. The book is not so much a work of history as a devout believer’s look at an important moment in the Church. The author’s own faith is very apparent in the first few pages. He does a very good job of explaining what relics are and why they are important. There is a nice summary of the ancient tradition of preserving the relics of martyrs.I won't give away too much since the author tries to lay the book out as a discovery. You will have to read it for yourself to find out what happens.

    This book has many good qualities, but alas it also contains some flaws. I will look at the flaws first because the book is good and I want to leave you with the good points. First of all this is not a work by a historian or a even a popular historian. The narrative is a little disjointed. The style works, but it made this reader wish that the author would stop bouncing around and stay on topic. More than anything else the style resembles the writing on a television show like NOVA or National Geographic. This is not a bad thing, but the style certainly works better on television than in print. As stated earlier this is not designed to be a straight forward work of history, much less a scholarly text, but it would have been nice if the author had included at least one source for his statements. He often makes assertions and moves on. There was not a single footnote or endnote to cite the source. There were some other quibbling points, I would love to see any source that states the primary language of Rome in the first century was Greek, and that they only reverted to back to Latin later.

    On the positive side this book gives a nice introductory look at the subject. The author makes it very easy for someone with no knowledge at all of the period to at least get their toes wet. I had not read anything on this particular subject, so it was interesting to read about the excavations and the findings. I did enjoy the book and I hope that more will be written on this fascinating topic. This book is worth the money and the short amount of time it will take to read it. I hope that the author is able to find someone in television, like PBS or the History Channel, to make a show out of this. I believe that this book will appeal primarily to lay Catholics, though anyone approaching this subject for the first time will find a lot to learn here as well. The book is short, 144 pages, and the author does a good job of making the subject accessible.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2014

    Very interesting read. The author presents an excellent archaeol

    Very interesting read. The author presents an excellent archaeological account of rediscovery of St. Peter's final resting place and quest for St. Peter’s remains.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2014

    While no definitive claim about the identity of bones found bene

    While no definitive claim about the identity of bones found beneath the Basilica of St. Peter is made, the author presents an excellent archaeological account of rediscovery of St. Peter's final resting place and quest for St. Peter’s remains.

    This book is fast reading through 120 pages.  Scripture, tradition, church fathers, and modern scholars are succinctly presented for the general reader.

    Visual aids would be a great addition to this book, and I wonder why they were not included as the subject matter would be greatly enhanced by photographs, visuals, charts, tables, and time lines, etc.

    Highly recommended for ages 14 and up.

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  • Posted July 26, 2014

    Interesting

    If you are interested in the archeology and history of St. Peter's tomb, you'll find this book interesting. You are introduced to the problems of deciphering inscriptions and their meanings as well as the problem of well-meaning amateurs moving artifacts from their original location. It is a short and easy to read book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2014

    This is a short book (only 102 pages) that contains a lot of inf

    This is a short book (only 102 pages) that contains a lot of information about the bones of St Peter- how they were lost and found and lost and found again.  I really like how the story is written - it switches between the archeological digs to the history of St Peter's life and other more modern information.  I think it if were organized differently - with all the information on the archeological dig, it might get a tad bit boring.  But with it woven together the way it is, it really works.

    I enjoyed the book and learned a lot along the way.  I think it was the perfect length and contained the right amount of detail. 

    This is the second book I've read by Thomas Craughwell.  The first was Saints Behaving Badly, which is another great book!

    Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Posted May 12, 2014

    The account of the excavations that occurred under the Basilica

    The account of the excavations that occurred under the Basilica of St. Peter were fascinating and totally captivating. I am a bit disappointed at how short the book is, however it did provide a good synopsis on the history of St. Peter's Basilica. Unfortunately, neither DNA nor carbon dating, if ever conducted, will ever provide any absolute scientific proof that the remains found are that of St. Peter, so it will remain an issue of faith that what is entombed beneath the main alter is indeed the bones of St. Peter.

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