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 Beneath the Vatican

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Beneath the Vatican   Mon 04 Mar 2013, 16:18

Life Magazine have republished 25 fascinating photographs (some of which have not been seen before) from the 1950s archaeological excavation beneath the Vatican.

In 1950, LIFE reported on a years-long effort undertaken beneath the
staggeringly ornate public realms of the Vatican, as teams of workers
meticulously excavated the myriad tombs and other long-sealed,
centuries-old chambers far underground. Nat Farbman’s color and black
and white images in this gallery — most of which never ran in LIFE —
were touted on the cover of the March 27, 1950, issue of the magazine as
“exclusive pictures” for the story titled “The Search for the Bones of
St. Peter,” which read:


Deep in the earth below the great
basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome the clink of pickaxes and the scrape of
shovels in the hands of workmen have been echoing dimly for 10 years. In
the utmost secrecy, they have penetrated into a pagan cemetery buried
for 16 centuries. Architects feared they might disturb the foundations
on which rests the world’s largest church. But the workmen, with careful
hands, pushed forward finally to the area where, according to a basic
tenet of the Catholic Church, the bones of St. peter were buried about
A.D. 66.




Read more: http://life.time.com/culture/the-vatican-unearthing-history-beneath-st-peters-1950-photos/#ixzz2MaXTN4Ar
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: Beneath the Vatican   Fri 17 Jan 2014, 23:53

The current fascinating debate on Saint Peter on the thread on the History of Ideas/Religion and superstition board has prompted a revisit of the above link.

Looking at picture #15 I'm trying to work out what the significance of the letters 'R.F.S.P.' are on the plaque on the wall giving the year 1942 and referring to Pius XII. I'm given to believe that they are the initials of something called Reverendae Fabricae Sancti Petri (the Reverend Fabric of St Peter) which is a congregational office of the Roman Curia charged with decorative and preservation issues relating to the Basilica.

2 questions.

Does anyone know anything more about 'RFSP' or why the year 1942 should be significant?

Also - can anyone translate the inscription in picture #17?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Beneath the Vatican   Sat 18 Jan 2014, 01:10

1942 was the year in which the disputed bones the church now attributes to Peter were removed from the tomb. The Reverend Fabric of St Peter is the authority which looks after the basilica's upkeep but as to why they should have placed a plaque there at the time is beyond me. It may have been placed there later when the notion that the bones removed were Peter's began to be promoted as fact?

The other inscription as far as I can make out is:
Siricius \ anorum  XXV. \mesorum  V, \ uxor fecit uirgi\nio suo cumque \ bene uicxit A / V / ILLI

Siricius, aged about 25. Farewell. His wife made it. Of himself pure, moreover he lived well. (The rest is unclear but could be an abbreviated version of "affinus viri illi" which would mean "and also a good/reputable man")

EDIT: I am told that "illi" more likely translates as "illustri(s)" which would mean "well regarded". This fits the tone of the inscription somewhat better. The case is dative so the transcription would best translate as "Dedicated to a man held in good regard".


Last edited by nordmann on Sat 18 Jan 2014, 10:23; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Beneath the Vatican   Sat 18 Jan 2014, 04:31

Thanks for unearthing this thread again Caro, I enjoyed looking through those fascinating photos again.

This is from the linked article

NOTE: In December 1950 Pope Pius XII announced that bones discovered during the excavation could not conclusively be said to be Peter’s. Two decades later, in 1968, Pope Paul VI announced that other bones unearthed beneath the basilica — discovered in a marble-lined repository, covered with a gold and purple cloth and belonging to a man around 5′ 6″ tall who had likely died between the ages of 65 and 70 — were, in the judgment of “the talented and prudent people” in charge of the dig, indeed St. Peter’s.

At the time of the Peter's burial, would he have been covered with a gold and purple cloth? Purple and gold cloth was a luxury very few could afford.
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PostSubject: Re: Beneath the Vatican   Sat 18 Jan 2014, 10:18

It was Vizzer who re-opened the thread, ID.

Traditionally the bones of St Peter, or at least bones believed to be his by early Christians, were translated on at least one and possibly more occasions. It is therefore quite plausible that venerated bones would in their final translation have been dignified with cloth of imperial importance as this would have occurred after Valerian's reign when the Christian church was again afforded recognition and even support from the ruling authorities. What was excavated in the middle of the 20th century was essentially a third to fourth century configuration, not one contemporary with the subject's alleged death.
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PostSubject: Re: Beneath the Vatican   Sat 18 Jan 2014, 11:02

Oops, sorry Viz. Can't think how I did that, 6am and without at least 2 cups of coffee more than likely.  Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Beneath the Vatican   Sat 18 Jan 2014, 12:50

Many thanks nordmann for that translation. I wanted to know if there were any clues in it as to its date. But it seems not. Only the age of the deceased Siricius is given. It certainly is a bit of a scrawl though. Thanks again.

As for the RFSP plaque - then it is a puzzling image. If the photo is from 1950 then the plaque could only then have been a maximum of 8 years old. Yet it looks as though it has been unearthed. Probably what has happened is that concrete or cement has been sprayed on the wall around the plaque as part of the restoration project. It's been sprayed literally in a slap-dash and messy manner and spattering the plaque which is ironic considering that it is RFSP's very own plaque.

P.S. Islanddawn - don't worry about the mistaken identity. I just asked mrs Vizzer and she assures me that I'm still Vizzer.

P.P.S Thanks for posting the link in the first place. I particularly like the picture of the 3 decorators/craftsmen at the bottom of the page. The solitary naked bulb. The brightness. The shadows. The contrast of the dry environment and the water in the bucket. The clean lines of the panels and stones. The debris and dust waiting to be swept up. It's a timeless image.
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PostSubject: Re: Beneath the Vatican   Sat 18 Jan 2014, 15:57

That's a relief that you are still Viz, Viz. I dare say it would have been a bit of a shock had you turned into a woman overnight.

In much the same way I love the first of the 25 photos, of the foreman inspecting the brickwork of his ancestors. Another timesless image, if it weren't for his watch and the zips in his clothes he could be from almost any era of the past.
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