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Catacombs of St. Tecla
June 22nd, 2010
04:29 PM ET

Vatican: Oldest known images of apostles Andrew and John found

The oldest known image of the apostles Andrew and John have been discovered in catacombs under the city of Rome, dating back to the 4th century A.D., archaeologists announced Tuesday.

The paintings were found in the same location where the oldest known painting of St. Paul was discovered last year, the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology said Tuesday.

They are part of a group of paintings around an image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd on the ceiling of what is thought to have been a Roman noblewoman's tomb, experts said.

A painting of St. Peter makes up the fourth member of the group, but older images of him are thought to exist, Vatican experts said.

Their inclusion in the tomb shows the aristocrats were among the last Romans to convert to Christianity, archaeologist Fabrizio Bisconti said.

The Roman matron must have been very rich, he said, as the colors and richness of the decoration show.

The images of the apostles' heads and shoulders against a deep red background were uncovered after two years of work, Vatican experts said.

Archaeologists used a new laser technology to remove layers of white carbon calcium deposited on the frescoes over the centuries without disturbing the paintings.

They are located in the catacombs of St. Tecla, one of the 40 Roman catacombs under Rome. It sits under a modern eight-story building in a working-class neighborhood. It is closed to the public and its entrance is mostly hidden.

The Vatican spent about 60,000 euros (about $74,000) on the archaeological work, it said. The apostles were a group of a dozen men, according to Christian tradition, who spread the gospel of Jesus after his crucifixion.

- CNN.com Senior Producer

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Jesus

soundoff (342 Responses)
  1. new york

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    November 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
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    July 28, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
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    June 8, 2012 at 2:21 am |
  4. frank jakubowsky

    Parisa Cyrousi has drawn all twelve apostles. That was her inspired result of what they looked like.

    October 1, 2011 at 2:24 am |
  5. SquareRootOfMinusOne

    Let Truth prevail ! It's only a matter of time before truth-seeking Baptists make icons a part of their service.

    June 26, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  6. dalis

    @ Cory There are people posting on the Internet who want nothing short of the eradication of Christianity, just as the pseudo-scientific ideology of the Nazis called for the eradication of Jewry. And they will rewrite history to erase any reference that Christendom ever existed, just as the Nazis likewise sought to do to. Archaeological finds of this sort are threatening to the New Atheist.

    June 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • Kenn

      Archeological finds such as these are not threatening to the new Athiest. What is threatening is that fundamentalist believers of any stripe will get ahold of a weapon of mass destruction and make their dreams come true. Some nutball will think he/she sees a wink in the eye of Andrews portrait and take it as a sign to flip the switch.

      June 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
    • Cory

      True, very true. But why I refuse to equate this archeological find to the true nature and history of the Bible is simply because it doesn't make any sense. The Roman Empire had never agreed with the Jewish religion, even the whole people group itself. In AD 70 they conquered and looted the last temple and from then on they actually never stopped doing everything they can to destroy the middle eastern, Jewish influences in their land. For me, Constantine declaring Christianity to be the official religion in Rome is another attempt to eradicate the very Semitic origin of it. They made Christianity as European as possible (that even a lot of Asians refuse Christianity because they think it is another way for the "white people" to control their land), whereas if we really study the Bible, the Jews played the main part in God's plan for salvation.

      So, come on. The fresco just didn't register with me. The apostles were all Middle-eastern Jews. This only brings more confusion to the origins of God and Christianity.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:37 am |
    • Cory

      Hmm... let me rephrase the last sentence : This only brings more confusion ABOUT GOD AND CHRISTIANITY. Who can really tell about the origin of God? Unless he was with Him when created the Universe.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  7. Cory

    And I think it is stupid to start an unnecessary argument about beliefs here. It's an archeological find. Why not talk about archeology instead of just blaspheming God?

    To believe in God requires us to have faith. And faith comes through conviction and personal decision, therefore other people can't make that choice for you. You either believe or you don't, it's as simple as that. But there are still boundaries that we have to respect.

    June 24, 2010 at 2:51 am |
    • tallulah13

      When will christians learn to start respecting those boundaries? When will christians stop trying to legislate their beliefs into laws that harm others? When will christians learn that they have every right to believe what they want, but if they want to put their ideas into school books, they have to prove their god exists?

      July 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  8. Cory

    @ohiyya... Paul wasn't really european.. yes he was born and bred in Tarsus, Greece, but he was as Middle Eastern as the rest of the apostles... no he wasn't really of the original 12 apostles, rather he persecuted the early believers then became one after a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. I doubt that he has blond hair/blue eyes, though he was raised in Hellenist society and were more open-minded than the rest of the apostles in Jerusalem when it comes to religion, he was purely Jewish inside and out.

    June 24, 2010 at 2:41 am |
  9. Luke Myintthu

    @ Reality,

    Umm... Wow... Jesus was the leader of Universe, a big politician. But, he died for us... I kind of like this kind of politician though.

    Umm... his disciples secured money by telling the stories of Jesus. But, they all died for Jesus and humans in the world and peace, not for money. If they secured money for the world peace and humans, not for them... isn't it good though?

    Beauty is in the eyes of beholder
    Faith is in the soul of holy spirit dweller

    June 24, 2010 at 2:21 am |
  10. carre

    do you people ever listen to yourselves ?

    June 23, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  11. Gil T

    These and any relics mean nothing to me as a disciple of Jesus. Jesus did not leave relics, land or holy items to which disciples were to keep and take the lives of men if necessary to preserve any such things. Relics, land and other items are precisely what many fight over. The only "relic" Jesus instructed his disciples to keep is the living memorial of the Lord's Supper which is observed by believers every first day of the week as did the first century Christians. Consider who funded the archaelogical work ... step right up ... get your tickets to see the spec_

    June 23, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  12. richard

    Truly amazing.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  13. Yawn...

    We find a new species of dinosaur from bones in Canada...it's news, and no one whines about the philosophical impact of this discovery. If these were anything BUT icons of early Christianity, would we have this much argument? It's an amazing archeological find...it doesn't prove or disprove the existance of Yeshua bar Joseph as a living historical person nor does it prove or disprove Yeshua as Messiah/Redeemer/Son of an Almighty God. It is an amazing find of ancient art. It is history, not theology.

    June 23, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  14. InVestigator

    How do they know who these drawings are?????? Are they just surmising?

    June 23, 2010 at 10:03 am |
    • Etienne joubert

      Anyone that has studied Icongraphic art knows that they write the names in shortened forms right on the pictures.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.