Saint Peter the Apostle
(Greek: petra, rock)
Peter, originally Simon, son of Jona, was a fisherman of Bethsaida, a town on Lake Genesareth.
He was a disciple of Saint John the Baptist, at whose bidding he followed Jesus from the beginning of His ministry.
Because of his faith, fidelity, enthusiasm, and love, although he was somewhat irresolute of character, Jesus showered him with many favors; He gave him the name Peter, cured his mother-in-law, appointed him chief of the Apostolic band, made him head of the Church, chose him as one of the witnesses of the raising of Jairus's daughter from the dead, and of the Transfiguration, and of the Agony in the Garden; and after the Resurrection, lest Peter's denial make him lose prestige, Our Lord renewed his commission as chief pastor of the flock.
After the Ascension Peter, by virtue of this commission, repeatedly acted as spokesman and head of the infant Church.
After his deliverance from prison by an angel he left Jerusalem and began his Apostolic journeys.
His first see was at Antioch.
Just when he established himself at Rome is disputed, but that be did go to Rome and make it the center of the Church is too evident from tradition, from his first Epistle (1 Peter 5), and from data found in the catacombs and ancient churches of Rome, to bear successful contradiction.
He died a martyr's death at Rome during the persecution of Nero by being crucified head downwards, according to legend.
He was buried at the foot of the Vatican Hill near the Via Cornelia; at the beginning of the Valerian persecution (c.258) his remains were placed with those of Saint Paul in a catacomb on the Appian Way, where the Church of Saint Sebastian now stands; they were restored to their original place of burial by Constantine the Great, who built a basilica over the grave at the foot of the Vatican Hill; this basilica was replaced by the present Saint Peter's, where one half of his body now rests; the other half is in the Church of Saint Paul on the Ostian Way; his head is in the Lateran Church.
Patron of Rome.
Emblems: a boat, keys, and a cock.
Feast, 29 June.
The dedication of his chair at Rome is celebrated 18 January; at Antioch, 22 February.
Representations of Saint Peter are found in Christian art as early as the 2nd century.
He is shown as a man of energy, with short curly hair. and beard, receiving the scroll of the Law, with veiled hands.
He is the only Apostle represented with a wand or staff, and in the 5th century he is shown wIth the keys, which afterward became customary.
The famous bronze statue in Rome is not earlier than the 5th or 6th century.
New Catholic Dictionary