Miscellany: Devotion to Ss. Peter and Paul as seen in Liturgical Art

"More than their wont do the people flock hither today; my friend, pray tell me: why do they hurry through Rome rejoicing?

'Once more has come round the triumphal feast day of two apostles; by the blood of Peter and of Paul made sacred.'"

So wrote the fourth century Roman Christian poet, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (to us known simply as Prudentius) in his poem, "The Passion of the Apostles Peter and Paul," found in a collection of his poems titled the Liber Peristephanon.  To many a modern, seeing such a familiar, popular devotion already by the time of the Prudentius is the 300's might well seem amazing, but we might well go back even earlier than this for by at least  225 A.D. the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul celebrated on this same day, June 29th 

The apostles intimate connection with Rome comes from the fact that both suffered martyrdom under the Emperor Nero while they were in Rome -- at that time that effective capital city of the known world. St. Peter was famously crucified upside down in Nero's circus on the Vatican hill and buried in the adjacent Roman cemetery -- which is of course located beside and beneath what is now St. Peter's Basilica -- and St. Paul, a Roman citizen (who thus couldn't be crucified), was beheaded near the Via Ostiensis (Ostian Way) by which is now located the basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura.  Two locations, then on the peripheries of the great city, ever since then turned into the beating heart of it. 

This digital reconstruction shows the ancient Circus of Nero as well as the adjacent Roman cemetery and then shows how St. Peter's basilica, both old and new, were situated in relation to them. 

The importance of Ss. Peter and Paul, especially within Rome, cannot be over-stated, and this importance and the corresponding devotion to them is witnessed through the many instances of the two saints appearing within liturgical and ecclesiastical art and the splendour put around their liturgical commemoration. In fact, on this day at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the doors of the basilica were traditionally hung with festal greenery (bay leaves/laurel) -- a Roman tradition we have discussed before -- as for example seen here where it came in the symbolic form of a fisherman's net:

In previous articles we have considered their presence in Roman apsidal mosaics, in reliquary form and today I thought we'd take a more general view and consider some of the other places we can see devotion to Ss. Peter and Paul manifest -- which is pretty well everywhere, ranging from altar missal art to commemorative papal medals.   Ss, Peter and Paul, pray for us and for your Church. 



Second half of the 16th century

A preaching stole from the 19th or early 20th century

A missal cover from 1852
A missal cover from 19th century

A processional banner from 1819

A processional banner from 18th century

A Pax tablet from 1690-1710

Central altar card frame from the 18th century

Central altar card frame from 1820

A wax "Agnus Dei" from 1707

A lesser seen item. This would have been attached to a staff and borne in procession,. It dates to the 18th century

A 19th century antepnedium. 

Another 19th century antependium.

Tabernacle from 1916

A tabernacle from 1725-1731

A commemorative medal from 1770

A commemorative medal from the 18th century

A chalice from 1830

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