Treasures of the Church- Holy Sites

Basilica Dedicated to the Apostle Peter in Rome, Italy

This Basilica is one of the “tituli,” one of a set number of Early Christian churches built round the edges of the city of Rome. It is known as the Titulus Eudoxiae o la Eudoxiana. It was constructed over the ruins of the imperial villa in the year 442 AD in order to serve as a home for the chains that bound St. Peter in the Jerusalem prison (Acts of Apostles, chapter 5 and 12). The priest Philip constructed the Church with the help of Eudoxia, wife of Emperor Valentinian III.

According to ancient tradition, St. Peter was condemned in a court that used to be in the same place as the current Basilica; in the 3rd century a chapel was constructed in the same place. Later in the 4th Century it was replaced by the church we see today. However, there is no concrete proof that supports this tradition, and the remains beneath the Basilica indicate that there existed a villa rather than a church.

It was restored by Pope Adrian I (772-995) and reconstructed by Popes Sixtus IV and Julian II (1471-1484) (1503-1513). Since 1970, it has been a property of Italy. The titular bishop of the Basilica is Cardinal Loius Marie Billé, Archbishop of Lyon, who was assigned there on February 21, 2001. The Feast of the Chains of St. Peter is celebrated with great solemnity on August 1st, and on June 29 they celebrate the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

St. Peter in Vincula

¨In vincula¨ means “in chains.” Peter was imprisoned by the order of Herod Agrippa in order to satisfy the demand of the town who asked for his head. Herod intended to execute Peter after the Passover, but the night before the execution, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Peter, arise quickly, dress yourself, and put on your sandals and cloak.” After hearing these words, the Apostle felt the chains come off him and fall to the floor, and the doors of the prison opened. He passed unseen through the midst of the guards and miraculously left the city. Where this took place is unknown. It is possible that after leaving the prison he returned to Rome where he wrote his first letter to the churches he had founded in Asia, manifesting in them his primacy in a more evident way.
The mother of Eudoxia (Eudocia, wife of Emperor Theodosius II) sent her daughter the chains that had held St. Peter and fell with the words of the angel. According to tradition, Eudocia had received them from Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem. In order to house and keep the chains, Eudoxia built a church that is known today as the Basilica of San Pietro en Vincula or Eudoxiana. The central area of the Basilica is divided by 20 columns, taken from an older, preexisting monument; some traditions tells us that they were taken from the court basilica where Peter was condemned to death.


On August 1st, the Holy Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the chains of the glorious Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter, who was liberated by the Lord from the imprisonment of Herod Agrippa. This cruel king, after cutting the head of James the Greater, patron and Apostle of Spain, ordered the arrest of St. Peter in order to kill him as well. Knowing this, the Church pleaded to the Good and Heavenly Shepherd that He not allow his flock to be abandoned. The Lord heard the voices of His servants and sent His angel to the prison to approach the holy Apostle and summon St. Peter to follow him. Free of his chains, the Apostle arose and went to give the good news to the faithful that were praying for him. Upon seeing him, they were overjoyed and gave great thanks to the Lord.

The Moses of Michelangelo

In the Basilica is found the famous statue of Moses, sculpted around 1515 by Michelangelo. It was originally built as part of the unfinished tomb of Pope Julian II. Originally meant to be comprised of 40 statues, the full project was never completed. The statue of Moses occupies a prominent place due to the beauty and greatness of the work. This entire work took Michelangelo no less than 40 years to complete – from April of 1505 until 1545. Art critics consider this large period to be a compendium of the Michelangelo’s artistic evolution that, together with his contemporary Leonardo de Vinci, is considered to be the paradigm of Renaissance genius. Michelangelo was 30 years when he was commissioned with the work by Pope Julian II.


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