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Holy Land boasts exact replica of Roman St. Peter’s statue


Yoav Dothan | Public Domain

John Burger - published on 12/05/19

Even the toes, rubbed by thousands of pilgrims, point to devotion to the Vicar of Christ.

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St. Peter. Yes, his bones lie beneath the high altar in the Roman basilica named for him. Yes, the Successor of St. Peter, the pope, lives in Rome. But Simon Peter was originally a fisherman from Galilee.

It’s appropriate, therefore, that he is memorialized in the Holy Land, and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has seen to it. In the Co-Cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate there is a perfectly faithful copy of the bronze statue of “St. Peter in Cathedra,” which is familiar to anyone who has been to St. Peter’s in Rome.

The statue depicts St. Peter seated on his chair, with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven in one hand and giving a blessing with the other. The statue in Rome was probably sculpted by Arnolfo di Cambio in the 13th century. The copy in Jerusalem is faithful to the original, down to the toes.

Yoav Dothan | Public Domain

“Tradition has it that it is a devout act to touch the right foot of the sculpture, now visibly worn by wear and tear due to the devotion of the numerous pilgrims,” says an article on the website of the Latin Patriarchate. That custom is emulated in Jerusalem, evidenced by the sheen on the feet. “Its presence testifies to the close relationship between ‘the Mother Church’ and ‘Mother Church,’ that is, between Rome and Jerusalem.”

“The presence of this statue in Jerusalem,” the article concludes, “testifies to the intimate bond that unites the Church of the Holy Land with that of Rome, seat of the successor of the Apostle Peter, who left Jerusalem to spread the Good News and in Rome died a martyr for his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

After paying homage to St. Peter here, the pilgrim can also visit the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter in Tabgha, Israel, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. While there, an appropriate meal would be a plate of St. Peter’s Fish, a dish named in honor of the Gospel account of Jesus instructing the Apostle to catch a fish, inside of which would be a coin.

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