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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

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  210 ratings  ·  44 reviews
An exciting and fascinating account of the search for the remains of the world's first pope, none other than Peter, the apostle of Jesus.

In 1448 a team of architects and engineers brought Pope Nicholas V unhappy news: the 1100-year-old Basilica of St. Peter suffered from so many structural defects that it was beyond repair. The only solution was to pull down the old church
Paperback, 126 pages
Published January 14th 2014 by Image (first published December 7th 2013)
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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  210 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Sarah (Presto agitato)
According to the New Testament, St. Peter was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, the apostle that Jesus called the “rock” on which he would build his church. Church history holds that Peter travelled to Rome to spread Christianity after Jesus died. Peter was eventually martyred, probably while in his mid 60s, as part of the Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians after the Great Fire of Rome. According to legend, Peter was crucified upside down because he told his executioners he was not wort ...more
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for an advanced reading copy.

St. Peter, the first among the apostles of Christ, is universally acknowledged as the first Pope of the Catholic Church. According to tradition, he was crucified upside down in Rome and his bones eventually came to rest under the main altar of the Basilica of St. Peter's Church in Vatican City. This is the story of how bones were first discovered under the altar in the early days of World War II and how various clues have emerged
Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anna by: sheila l
Shelves: nf-history-bio
This story takes me back to my couple of visits St Peter's, but without the opportunity of visiting the grottoes. Walking through the immense space, admiring the incredible artworks, watching tourists with their cellphones and cameras mingle with the devout -- you look up into Michaelangelo's dome from the floor of the basilica and you see "Tu es Petrus" prominently displayed. At that point you realize the reason for this incredible palace built on an ancient cemetery. Before hearing an intervie ...more
David Williams
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 Apos ...more
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
For me, with a passion for history, faith, and mystery, St. Peter’s Bones was almost bound to be a hit. It was especially meaningful since I’ve been to Rome a couple times, and wandered through much of that city’s history, the layers of which are so marvelously visible.

Author Craughwell uses the bizarre story of the search for St. Peter’s bones to give a brief history of St. Peter and his basilica.

If you go to Rome, be sure to take the daily tour beneath the church, where more than 90 popes are
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
St. Peter's Bones is a brief book in which Thomas J. Craughwell leads the reader on a journey to find the bones of St. Peter. The book begins with Pope Pius XII's authorization of a thorough excavation of the area under St. Peter's Basilica know as the Vatican Grottoes. From there, the book rushes the reader off on a whirlwind adventure which details Biblical descriptions of Peter the man, historical accounts of St. Peter's bones being lost due to invasion, the dig that occurred in the Grottoes, ...more
Erin Cataldi
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a charming and informative little read. A must for fans of biblical history and/or archaeology. Thomas J. Craughwell explores the fascinating history of St. Peter's remains and gives a brief introduction to biblical archaeology in the process. This intriguing story of the discovery, then loss, then rediscovery of St. Peter's resting place is likely to be a big hint with any history fans, not just Catholics. Craughwell references, top scholars, scientists, ancient texts, and folklore to ...more
Melisende d'Outremer
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: papacy, religion, reviewed
Short retelling of the events leading up to and after the discovery of the "bones" of St Peter, and the controversy surrounding this saga.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have read a number of these St. Peter books in the last year or so, and this one impressed me more than most, because rather than being all about the archaeological dig concerning the search for his bones, the author also gave a lot of history on the first Pope himself and made me feel ass a reader, that I could gain a sense of who he was, beyond the basic things we all learn from the Bible.

The writing was clear and coherent and there was no sense that the author was trying to pad the book wi
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
I have been thinning down my to-read list and found this title. The premise of a search for the Apostle Peter's grave and bones is interesting. However, this book about the archeological work done during the 1940's is thin on evidence. I found the tale disorganized, padded with extraneous information that add little to the storyline. Did they find a grave where tradition states Apostle Peter's grave would be? The answer appears to be yes. The issue is regarding bones. And there you need to take ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very readable

Short, succinct description of the excavation in the World War II years under Saint Peter's Basilica and the discovery of Saint Peter's bones. Professor Marguerite Guarducci's investigation of where the bones were stored would make a wonderful movie if the movie respected the complete story of everything going on during World War II in the Vatican. Prof. Guarducci was a wonderful, talented and holy person whose sainthood cause should be investigated.
Nicholas Finch
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-reviewed
Excellent book filled with history in terms that are easy to understand and simple to follow. I learned a lot from this that I hadn't known before, and was very pleased to see mention of the awesome St. Vibiana, who's personal history and story are so slim anyway. This was great, and put the timeline of the archaeology below St. Peter's Basilica, into fuller perspective. Recommended reading!
An intriguing and engaging read on a fascinating subject
Patricia Mckenna
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am curious about religious relics since I have a protestant background and converted to Catholicism twenty plus years ago. What relics would be more prized than our first pope’s St. Peter? This is a mystery woven with history and integrated with archeology and technical advances. St. Peter’s Bones takes the reader on a journey to discover the relics of St. Peter and the difficulties that have arisen over the years in validation of these artifacts. Interwoven in these pages are stories of explo ...more
Julie Davis
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was interesting and well written as one would expect from Thomas J. Craughwell. However, it had a major structural flaw. What I was interested in was the discovery of St. Peter's bones by the archaeologists excavating the catacombs. Every time the action reached a peak moment the next chapter would stop and drag us back into Christian history, completely stopping the momentum and eventually frustrating me to the point where I just would skip the history in order to get back to the main ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: catholic
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 enjoy
Feb 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
St. Peter's bones is an interesting book tracing the path of St. Peter's relics from the time after he died to the present. The bones became a matter of interest in the 1940's when the Vatican excavated the area beneath the high altar in St. Peter's Basilica. An academic would probably have written a book of 700 pages, but this is only 120. The process of finding the bones and verifying their origin a almost a tale of Indiana Jones searching for holy relics. Are the bones really St. Peter's? Tha ...more
Tammy Buchli
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was interesting, although not at all unbiased. Also very poorly cited, with no footnotes or citations. I found one major editing error, when the author states that Dr. Venerando Correnti was the director of the University of Rome's Institute of Anthropology from 1991 - 1993 and, in the following sentence, that he died in 1991. At least I thought it was an editing error until I went to Wiki to check Dr. Correnti's dates and found the exact same error in his Wiki article.... I suppose the lac ...more
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I added this book to my library collection and then worried that it would not be respectful enough of the subject, but it is. This short presentation of the archaelogy excavations below St. Peter's Bascilica was informative enough without being tedious. I, as a Protestant, came away from the presentation with a basic belief that St. Peter is indeed buried where devout Catholics have always believed him to be. My disappointment with the book is the lack of any photographs--not even of the archael ...more
Dornel Cerro
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult
The modern world meets the ancient as religious leaders, scholars, and archaeologists attempt to find the earthly remains (relics) of the apostle Peter, believed by Catholics to be the first pope. What they discover in the process, shed much light on the both early Christian world and the Medieval Catholic church. Some of the early Christians' burial traditions are joyous and touching. The author jumps back and forth between the ancient world and the modern, which can be a bit confusing. Otherwi ...more
Laura McAlister
Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Better than I thought it would be! Craughwell is best in evoking the lives and deaths of the earliest Christians and weaving a great story through the archaeological finds. It's all there: sacred treasure, the devastating prospect of failure, personality clashes and more. The archaeological details are somewhat bewilderingly (some diagrams/maps might have helped!) but to his credit, the narrative holds together even when you have no idea which niche just got excavated!
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
On my first trip to Italy, I was fortunate enough to actually go on the Vatican Scavi. This book perfectly captures the grottoes, the early Christian drawings, the simple rock-hewn tomb, so at odds with the splendor above. I often find myself describing that Scavi to friends and family and now I have a book to recommend to them as well. This is such an excellent, concise history. Thesis one of those books that I will read again.
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Really enjoyed how this book covered more than the search for the bones of St. Peter. It was quite interesting how the author tied in the history of Peter with the search for his relics.

You can see the rest of my thoughts on St. Peter's Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found...and Then Lost and Found Again on my blog.
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Quick and fascinating read. I really like how the author crossed between the history of Rome and the Catholic Church, back to the progress of the excavations. The end was alittle disappointing. I feel like he shed a lot of negative light on Guarducci, trying to point the reader into not believing her theories. None the less- read it with an open mind. If nothing else, it helps me add to my list of future things to visit in Rome!
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-history
Very well written. It weaves together a number of stories. It retraces the path to the rediscovery of St. Peter's bones, and a winding path it is. Along the way, the author covers the story of Peter's life and death. The book also covers the history of St Peter's basilica.

Craughwell, held my interest throughout, both because he writes well, but also because he tells an interesting set of stories.

I highly recommend this book.
Kathryn Bergeron
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Summary: The story of the finding of St. Peter's bones under the altar at St. Peter's Basilica.

Why I Read This: I love St. Peter

Review: I love understanding more about the story, but I found the format of the book a little bit hard to follow -- jumping between time periods left me a little bit confused.
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Short read. I haven't verified any of the information in the book, but it's fascinating. If it really happened that way, it's freaky.
The bones were stolen (or discreetly taken) and recovered fortuitously. Really??? Enjoyable read regardless.

And the funny part if that my copy of the book disappeared in a very similar fashion.
Laura P.
Jul 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Though I am not an archaeologist, this book was rather interesting as I delved into the history of St. Peter's Bones. It was fairly short, and I felt like some of the details of St. Peter's life were just added to make it longer. But overall, it was interesting. A bit dry because of the subject matter, but interesting to see the history and learn of the first Christians!
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was given an ARC. From for review.

This book is about the finding of The bones of Saint Peter and how,there were lost and found more than once.

Really found this book extremely enjoyable is is fascinating to read and would be very happy to recommend to everyone.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read. Not my normal fare however for a non-fiction Craughwell tells the discovery of St. Peter's Bones in a wonderful style. Not a religious book but a marvelous telling of an archeological dig and treasure.
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“We do not worship, we do not adore [saints], for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are” 0 likes
“The inscriptions and the paintings in the catacombs showed the early Christians gathering around their bishop, priests, and deacons to celebrate Mass and the sacraments.” 0 likes
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