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The Fisherman's Tomb: The True Story of the Vatican's Secret Search

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  959 ratings  ·  109 reviews

A Texas oilman. A brilliant female archaeologist. An unknown world underneath the Vatican.


In 1939, a team of workers beneath the Vatican unearthed an early Christian grave. This surprising discovery launched a secret quest that would last decades — a quest to discover the long-lost burial place of the Apostle Peter.


From earliest times, Christian tradition held that Peter —

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Kindle Edition, 181 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by Our Sunday Visitor
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Average rating 4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  959 ratings  ·  109 reviews


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Sarah
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-list
Author John O'Neill wasn't going to write another book. One bestseller was enough for him...and you really can't blame him.

However, when he was diagnosed with four distinct types of cancer and then contracted MRSA during treatment, he made a prayer and a promise that he would share the amazing story he had if he didn't die.

I can't help but say a prayer of thanksgiving, because when I picked up The Fisherman's Tomb, my free time was completely consumed with turning the pages.

O'Neill had a pretty
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Tracie Gutknecht
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, 2018
Firstly--This is a great read. If you love archeology, true-life mysteries, Roman history, or Christian history you must read it. For the rest of us, it's also a great read!

I am not a Catholic, but I am a Christian. I don't remember ever hearing about the discovery of Peter's remains under the basilica in Rome. The facts of this book might explain why.

Pope Pius XI dies February 10, 1939. "In the middle of the month, an excavation team begins to dig beneath the basilica for both a grave for the d
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Jill  M Caldwell
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good detail and fascinating proof that oral tradition is valuable to our faith and culture.
Vance J.
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This is not the book this story deserves.

I think the backstory is profoundly fascinating, but this book loops back and forth, and frankly loses its plot at several points. The errors are numerous, but they are on ancillary points, not really related to the story (ex: Galileo was never threatened with execution; besides having nothing to do with this story, this is a trite, oft-repeated legend that a high school student could have sorted out).

As the author writes that he was in a hurry to finish
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Claudia
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
O'Neill is a great storyteller; thus, this book does a great job of telling the quick and dirty version of the search for St. Peter's tomb. Nevertheless, it doesn't do a fantastic job of explaining that the Church does not claim that relics have "magical powers" or emphasizing the greatness of Margherita Guarducci's work. Margherita is a true "rockstar" of the 2oth century archeological world.
Mary Alice
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. It is fascinating. I just wish I had read it before I went to Rome last year. I would’ve loved to have taken the tour of the underground tombs.
Claudia
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
A rather incredible telling of a search that stretched back into ancient Roman history as well as that of the Catholic Church. Rumor and tradition said that St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City was built over the grave of Simon Peter, the Rock of early Christianity. But that was thousands of years ago and rumor can be more wistful desire than actual truth. But the Vatican wanted to know...and was willing to proceed, completely in secret.

The story has Peter's body thrown on a hill used as a trash
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William
Catholic oral tradition had long held that St. Peter was crucified (upside down) by Emperor Nero in Rome, and that St. Peter's Basilica was built over his bones. But that was just an article of faith until, in the 20th century, excavations beneath the Vatican turned up what are believed to be St. Peter's remains. You can now see the excavations (which are fascinating in their own right, due to the well-preserved ancient Roman mausoleums) and the gravesite on the Vatican's scavi tour.

Meghan and I
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Callie Hornbuckle
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at an archaeological mystery which involves an unlikely mashup between a Texan oil baron and Vatican politics. I do have the impression that this was well researched, but the various players in the story are definitely painted with a biased brush. Still certainly worth a read!
Robert Johnson
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating and compelling history of the Vatican’s excavation in search of Peter’s tomb. Readers will get a whole new take on Pious XII, the context of the excavation during WWII and the challenges faced by Rome. The anonymous funding of the Apostles project by George Stake, a poor boy from St Louis made good and dear dear Margherita Guarducci, the genius epigrapher who made the greatest discoveries a decade after the excavation itself. This reads like an action novel and it’s all tr ...more
Alisa
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melody
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it
So the premise of this book is fascinating, unveiling some of the secret history of the excavation of the Necropolis beneath St. Peter’s basilica. I have two difficulties with it. First, it is not terribly well- written. Parts are repetitive, and there is one page where I think he uses the word “genius” ten times in three paragraphs. The story, which does indeed read like a “real-life Dan Brown novel” would have been far more compelling with better writing. The second difficulty I have is with t ...more
Lisa
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This isn't what I was hoping it would be. I found the book to be more of an apologist justification for the works of the church during World War II, while demonstrating the deplorable approach to investigating this potentially significant archaeological find. It shines a horrifying spotlight on some of the priests involved in the excavation and demonstrates why it would never be possible to know if this discovery is truly the grave of Peter.

Compound that with a Pope who, instead of releasing th
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Denise
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
My husband ran across this story somewhere in his web-surfing and said it sounded really interesting. So I loaded it on my kindle app for him to read. Then the friends who are planning my upcoming Italy trip sent me an email that we had tickets for the tour of the necropolis under the Vatican. Hmmm. Coincidence?

So I have to say, this is not the best-written history I've ever read. O'Neill jumps around between the discovery of the Conroe Oil Field in Texas, the priests who smuggled the Jews out o
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Katie
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give this book 3 stars because I love archaeology and the idea behind the story—that the tomb of St Peter lay forgotten for hundreds of years underneath St Peter’s Basilica. But I feel three stars is fairly generous, because writing leaves a lot to be desired. It’s poorly organized, full of hyperbole, repetitive, makes far too many movie references, and lacks direction. It’s a times a WWII spy story, a biography of too many characters, and a soap opera. The most compelling person to me was the ...more
Matt
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is an interesting, quick read. There is an abundant use of foreshadowing, frequently poorly constructed, that eliminates most of the suspense and intrigue. The archaeological investigation is presented in a concise summary, useful for extracting a Cliff's Notes version of the essentials but rather underwhelming in portraying the effort, challenges, and breakthroughs that comprised that investigation.
Crystal
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Could have been a airly interesting story line, but like others mentioned, it jumped around quite a bit and had many repetitions that became annoying after awhile. I also never understood why it was SO important to find St. Peter's body under the Bascilica.... it seems there are enough historical references to validate that he was the first pope. Maybe I am not getting it? Just didn't keep my interest.
Sarah Hui
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-books, catholic
My favorite part of this approachable and fascinating nonfiction work was O’Neill’s emphasis on the epigraphy of the ancient walls beneath St. Peter’s serving as proof that the basic tenets of our Catholic faith existed from the very beginning. The belief and faith that Jesus conquered death with the Cross and his Resurrection, and also the beautiful practice of praying to the Apostles and saints for their intercession and help. To backpedal, epigraphy is “the study and interpretation of ancient ...more
Bill Thompson
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This fascinating book is about the so-called bones of Peter, found in a crypt beneath the basilica at the Vatican. I was there three weeks ago and was fortunate enough to be one of the 250 per day allowed to tour the necropolis. We saw cities of the dead where Roman families had been buried around courtyards. And we saw what the Pope has proclaimed as the actual bones of St. Peter, the first Pope. Are they? No one knows for sure, but it makes a very interesting story.
Author O'Neill knows a lot a
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Helen
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book was very well written and very informative. Considering the botched work of Fr. Farrua and his excavators, it is a miracle there was anything of value left in the necropolis. If it had not been for Pope Paul VI bringing in Margherita Guarducci,in to head the dig, the whole excavation may have been a farce. At the the same time, Texan millionaire George Strake funded the entire dig. This began in 1940, the beginning of WWII. Fr Carroll was a close associate of Pope Pius X and is responsi ...more
Tara Gabor
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Must be the best non-fiction historical book I have ever read. This book is very readable, and the true story of the secret, top secret, archeological dig in the Vatican necropolis is fascinating! So the Pope wants to find Saint Peter's bones - in secrecy - during wartime - using no power tools; it's a fine goal to be sure. And voila! many decades later this book comes out, exploring in readable fashion Nero, Christian persecution, Archeological errors, truth-seekers, and faith. Great book for b ...more
Harry Dudley
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. John O’Neill is a great story teller and he found a way to share this historical account of the finding of the tomb and bones of St. Peter. What I most enjoyed was the intrigue and the revelations about characters I thought I knew such as Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI and the introductions to characters I plan to learn more about. I have had the privilege of visiting the Site in question along with my archeology trained wife twice. We both now appreciate how fort ...more
Jeremy Bonnette
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a quick, interesting read. My biggest "complaint" is that it was a little too short. I would have loved for this to have been about 30 to 40 pages longer to get a bit more detail out the story. I would have loved to have read more details about the excavation itself, about how Guarducci pieced things together, etc. Even without more details, this is still an enjoyable read. It makes me wish that I could go to Vatican Hill to visit the Necropolis and I suppose that if a book can hook me ...more
Gabriella Hoffman
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Book #5 of 35 ✅ // Slightly behind on my reading goals but making up for it. (Fun fact: The author of this book led up the Swift Boat Veterans efforts against John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election.) This is an interesting read about St. Peter and the fascinating context behind the discovery of his remains in the Vatican. A tale laced with bureaucracy, ties to American oil & gas, and archeology. Will have a thorough review at Resurgent soon! #QuestTo35 #GoodReads ...more
Charlene
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent Novel of history, archeology and mystery

After hearing our priest speak on this book, I bought it. This was a fascinating read on the search for and finding the bones of St. Peter. The female archeologist, Margherita was an amazing,brilliant woman who rose above a male dominated politico in the Vatican to make a discovery of the ages. Great historical information as well as the mystery solved.
Dan Dwyer
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
In depth account of the discovery of Peter's bones

The author brings a lot of detail of men and a woman in pursuit of Peter's remains to this compelling story. You will discover the role of the three amigos and a persistent nun. The pipes play an important part too. You may find yourself a little annoyed at the repetition, but other than that you should enjoy this book whether you are a believer or not.
Dick
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a book my brother recommended to me a week ago. I ordered it and read it n a matter of two days. Yes, it is about the search for St. Peter’s bones and the recovery of those bones. The intrigue within the Vatican – and yes the politics – is pretty interesting.

This starts with a Texas oilman, of all people, in this kind of historical and archeological search. Then add to that a very smart woman archaeologist and you have the makings of a very interesting investigation

To most of us, we are
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Lallen
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent

Though not a huge fan of non fiction, this book was recorded by a colleague. I’m glad I read it. A very succinct description of the excavation of the Necropolis and the discovery of Peters final burial site. It is well written, with just enough facts to make the characters interesting. I am Christian,but not Catholic. I found my self researching history myself as I read the book.
Jeffrey Irwin
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Relics

Pretty good. I like the idea that the basilica is built on the bones of Christians and others who were discarded. Is it Peter? We will never know. Even first century Christians write and tell important and powerful myths to edify their faith. This is an easy read as the story is compelling, but the writing needs some editing for style. Some background on the importance of relics and faith would be helpful and how their use has been misused at times.
Thomas Begley
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Fisherman's Tomb is an extremely good detail of the finding of St. Peter's remains. It weaves in historical detail from the time of Christ as well as the periods of the 20th Century in which the searches took place. In a fascinating manner, it educates how the nuances of archaeological searches. I would recommend this book to anyone and especially to Christians who seek to learn more about the historical foundations of their faith.
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“There were crudely drawn pictures of Christ and Peter bearing the partial inscription: “Peter pray Christ Jesus for the holy….” The remainder of the inscription was missing.82 These inscriptions, written in the middle of a second-century pagan cemetery in Rome, would have been the ancient world equivalent of Isis graffiti on the White House today, or a cross drawn on the Shrine of Khomeini in Teheran.” 0 likes
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