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(Artwork by Sallie A. Forrester) St. Peter’s Basilica stands over the ruins of a fourth century church built by Constantine. Catholic tradition had long held that Constantine built the church over the tomb of St. Peter. Years of archaeological excavations and research have examined this tradition. Interestingly, the evidence found supported the tradition. It was concluded that a tomb discovered beneath the present-day altar - was the tomb of St. Peter himself. An ancient graffiti wall was discovered at the tomb’s entrance. The symbol on the cover of this book was found on the wall. The symbol contains a triple reference to Christ, Peter, and Mary. The Greek letters chi-rho designate Christ. But the rho was also interpreted as a P and an E was added to the base. The result was a dual meaning; chi-rho for Christ and PE for Peter. The placement of the E at the base of the P also created the symbol of a key, the ancient symbol for the authority of Peter, the keys to the kingdom. Lines drawn from the top of the chi form an M. The letters ARIA followed to spell Maria or Mary. Scripture records that Jesus designated Peter as head of His Church, saying, “You are Peter (Kepha) and upon this rock (kepha), I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mat 16:18) The sight of St. Peter’s basilica alone can create an overwhelming sense of the permanence and profound influence of the Catholic Church. It is an irony of history that not only was the Church founded upon Peter, but the foundation of the basilica itself also rests upon his very bones.

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