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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. loltanstic

    There sure is a lot of hubbub about a fictional character from a low brow collection of fairy tales.

    June 22, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
    • GodIsForImbeciles

      Indeed.

      June 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  2. Viking6

    Drew: Thanks for what you wrote! May peace be in you all.

    June 22, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
  3. Hilarious

    Wow people. They show a few old fresco's and it starts a debate. You know.. these images are just that. Images. They do not portray in any detail any known features of any of the apostles. We know where they were born for the most part, and based on that we can gain an idea of what the "could" have looked like, but we will never know. Of course we could dig up some famly portrait from the first century, but that is HIGHLY unlikely. Chill out people and take it for what it is. A Christian crypt below Rome. Its historically awesome. No use in wasting each others time by attempting to show everyone you have no clue what you are talking about.

    June 22, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
  4. William

    It is obvious that the curators have made a mistake. These photos are actually of:

    3. Paul
    4. Ringo
    5. George
    6. John

    It's indisputable!

    June 22, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
  5. Jenny

    It doesn't matter to me who they are, I know by faith and Testimony that God and Jesus Christ are our Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ. They are two seperate beings, Jesus was the son of God who was born of Mary a virgin and she married Joseph...But his Heavenly Father our God created him to be our Savior.

    June 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
  6. Sand

    The bible is like tracks in the sand, just because your tracks are removed, doesn't mean you didn't walk through it. I mean really, what do you atheists want?

    Put yourself in that time, according to what is available to you during those times, what can you realistically do to PROVE ANYTHING happened according to any miracle that happened in the bible, to any occurrence that involved god, Jesus and/or any person that had to do with god?

    Face it, the ONLY thing they could do is WRITE, unless you can sit there and think of any form of evidence that would be credible in today's era.

    June 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
    • Sand

      Face it, the ONLY thing they could do is WRITE, unless you can sit there and think of any form of evidence that would be credible in today's era, then you can't say squat.

      June 22, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  7. CNN are gutless cowards

    This thread is full of deluded religious nuts. I noticed CNN deleted the rational atheist postings, but kept all the scripture babble all over this polluted page. Keep gripping your little security blankets, babies...

    June 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
    • dalis

      Yet, you neither reference the deluded atheist nuts nor the rational religious postings – or which there are both. It seems you have your axe to grind too.

      Anyway, CNN doesn't delete them. They have algorithms that search for expletives. Anything rational shouldn't have any problem staying up.

      June 22, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
    • atheist

      wrong. cnn has and does delete atheist statements that don't contain expletives. i had statements with responses that were posted for a couple hours...then...poof...all gone.

      June 22, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
  8. Todd

    Dull frescoes. Capture the spirit of Christianity though.

    The bible must be the only book promoted by illiterates.

    June 22, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  9. johnny orlando

    Glad to see that they kept their color all these years. Very nice discovery

    June 22, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  10. justavoice

    to understand how they came tp the conclusion that these are who they are claiming they are you have to have basic understanding of ancient Christian iconography. Icons are written in a specific code similar to an alphabet and each symbol means something specific. In every icon written today the apostles or other people in the image will look the same. Similar to what they probably looked like but perhaps with some prominent feature. For example every icon of St. Paul will have the same wrinkled brow and beard. That is how they knew that was an icon of Paul, that along with the way the pictures were positioned around Christ. The figures in icons will almost always be wearing the same clothes, have the same hair and brow line etc. What they are holding in their hands and how are also important. While these are the earliest depictions of these apostles it was easy to identify them as they look similar to the later depictions of them in icons (It is very important to remember that Iconography is not merely art and is as consistant as any alphabet. While the handwriting may vary slightly the symbols used are always the same and recognizable and dictated by church leadership and always have been.) If you would be interested in learning more about how to read an icon or what all the symbols mean I would recommend contacting a local Eastern Orthodox Parish (Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian, OCA, Antiochan e are the most likely ones in the US. ) and talking with the priest or if they have an in house iconographer even better. It is really hard to understand how they know who these people are or why they look like they do without understanding iconography.

    June 22, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  11. Thorrsman

    Eh, if these date back to the 4th century C.E., that means these lads had been dead for a good long time before the paintings were made. The artist simply imagined what they MIGHT have looked like, nothing more.

    June 22, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  12. Barbara

    OK, I have never posted one one of these sites but I do read the comments often. I could not let this discussion go by without pointing out some things to some of the "Wise" people on this site. For everyone that claims that the bible is full of conflicting verses I have a message for you, your understanding comes from ignorance, and I mean that in the most literal way. You have to consider the fact that each author of each book in the Bible had a certain audience that they were trying to reach, and depending on the audience it would determine which language it was written in. When the Bible was translated into English there was not always an exact word at the time to translate it into so they picked the next closet word to it. The word slave in english was taken from an Hebrew word that had a meaning closer to an indentured servant (ephesians) and in Exodus it was talking about the word slave as we know it. What was being said in Ephesians was that since an individual offered himself for a term of seven or so years, he should accept the terms of his contract to receive the land or whatever he would earn fors his tenure (sometimes a wife), but the master should not treat the slave (indentured servant) in ways that were not fair and give him what was promised. Before you criticize the scriptures educate yourself. Every soul knows God exists, I'm certain because the Bible says so and If you don't believe then way are you so against something you don't belive in whith such hatred. Things I don't believe in I tend to ignore because I know they don't exist like vampires, scooby-doo tec..would you argue constantly who claimed scooby do and shaggy were real? The reason people are upset with Christians is that our light shows their own darkness and because you'd rather be idolaters of self and other things you don't want to see Christ, but that will not change the fact that he does exist and it will not help you when you meet him face to face. Please repent, and turn to Christ and accept Him, you too can have a personal relationship with Christ the savior who will open up your eyes, as of now your hearts are hardened and you are blinded. What about this, what if you are wrong and have been warned what will be your defense, not one will be able to stand aginst Him.

    June 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm |
    • W247

      Thank you.

      June 22, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
    • The LORD

      Barbara, grow up. It is hilarious that you, as a christian, call people "idolaters." Do you have a crucifex or picture of jesus in your home or church? Guess what that is? If you guessed "idol" then you are correct!
      Your bible is garbage, face it. Some people like to say it was inspired by God and it all has to be true, but then someone like you breaks out the "but it was written by a bunch of different people..." line. Don't you think your all powerful all knowing god would be able to guide their hands a little better? Because if that book was actually inspired by your god, then your god is an idiot and I would do a much better job of Godding than your inconsistent, absentee, so-called god.
      Get a clue and wake up. You've been brainwashed. There is no heaven. There is no hell. Everyone you've ever loved who died is simply dead and lives on only in your memories of them.
      Your light shows someone else's darkness? That doesn't even make sense. Your god sucks:)

      June 22, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • The LORD

      Barbara, grow up. It is hilarious that you, as a christian, call people "idolaters." Do you have a crucifex or picture of jesus in your home or church? Guess what that is? If you guessed "idol" then you are correct!
      Your bible is garbage, face it. Some people like to say it was inspired by God and it all has to be true, but then someone like you breaks out the "but it was written by a bunch of different people..." line. Don't you think your all powerful all knowing god would be able to guide their hands a little better? Because if that book was actually inspired by your god, then your god is an idiot and I would do a much better job of Godding than your inconsistent, absentee, so-called god.
      Get a clue and wake up. You've been brainwashed. There is no heaven. There is no hell. Everyone you've ever loved who died is simply dead and lives on only in your memories of them.
      Your god sucks:)

      June 22, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
    • W247

      You are kind of throwing terms around loosely with no basis. Simply having a picture or a crucifix up does not mean it is an "idol". It is a reminder of the sacrifice that was given for us. I am so sorry you seem bitter and cannot seem to communicate without being berating or without being condescending, I really do hope and pray you find some joy in your life.

      June 22, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      Thank you barbara for giving us so much insight into Bible, Bible is truly a book inspired by God.

      June 22, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • The LORD

      W247 – Idol – 1.
      a. An image used as an object of worship.
      b. A false god.
      2. One that is adored, often blindly or excessively.
      3. Something visible but without substance.
      1. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) a material object, esp a carved image, that is worshipped as a god
      2. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) Christianity Judaism any being (other than the one God) to which divine honour is paid
      3. a person who is revered, admired, or highly loved

      Learn to read for comprehension and ask questions. If you have a crucifix hanging in your home, you are an idol worshipper. If you kneel before an image of Mary, you are an idol worshipper. I didn't make the rules, your bible did...

      June 23, 2010 at 11:46 am |
  13. Dream

    It really does not matter what the apostles looked like or where they were from. They believed in something good and tried to instill this in others. If everyone tried to do this just think of how our world would be!

    June 22, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  14. A Christian

    I am very glad that God gave us all a will and a mind of our own.....each of us has the opportunity to make our own decisions when it comes to " the big guy upstairs"....be careful, choose wisely, listen and wait.....God loves you, just let him guide you – it's really easy.....no one has to be right in the above conversations – the time will come and it will be known. Don't let it be to late. In the end, does it really matter who looked like what? Everyday life and choices you make are what matters. Peace to all.

    June 22, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
  15. W247

    I don't understand how people can be so mean to each other, some of these comments are downright disrespectful and cruel. What is the problem with allowing people to believe what they want to believe? It isn't affecting your life is it? If they want to believe these are portrayals of the apostles, great! No harm, no foul to you. It's only your ill-temper and meanness that makes you want to slam peoples belief's. Shameful.

    June 22, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
    • The LORD

      Christianity weakens us as a people and as a country. I am a patriot and I think it's sad to see so many minds being rotted by the filth that is christianity.
      Now, by no means is it the only bad religion...Islam and Judea are absurd as well...but there are just so many christians or "christians" rather (an awful thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning) that they are the biggest problem this country currently faces.

      June 22, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
    • Lester G

      I totally agree with you, W247. And this isn't even a story about religion: it is about archeology.

      June 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
    • dalis

      Wow "LORD", you could have ripped that entire rant from Mein Kampf.

      June 22, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • dalis

      Godwin's Law BINGO!

      June 22, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • Andrew Messenger

      Anonymous forums make for childish banter from non-believers who easily quirk their derogatory remarks towards anyone who has the discipline to understand that laughing into the face of the Creator is a very foolish thing to do. Feel free to make fun of His followers all you want; He uses your vanity to strengthen our resolve.

      The deceiver has a nice uncomfortable spot waiting for you in the midst of eternal chaos within a lake of fire. He's beckoning your arrival.

      The wisest man to ever live on the planet amassed the largest fortune in the world and was sought after for his wisdom by all the world leaders of the day, once stated that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. And now I'm being reminded that I have been commanded to not cast pearls before swine, thus I'll finish at this point. Grace, mercy and peace to you.

      June 22, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      The problem is that faking religious artifacts is big business. Many religious artifacts are fakes or hoaxes and the damage that can be done to genuine finds to alter them to make them religious artifacts is difficult to imagine. People are desperate to make money and they know the way to do this is to scam people. Unfortunately, the church (in the past) has also been involved in the fraud... Why? Because religious artifacts make money and the church and tourism and faith demand 'proof' of the existance and places mentioned in the bible and the relics of the saints. Often at the expense of the truth and damaging genuine religious artifacts.

      June 22, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
    • Umme Omar

      I agree with W247

      June 22, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
    • Kevin

      Maybe the anger is because of seeing the dark side and trying to reveal it. But, you are so happy basking in the idea so that if anything actually happens then you realize it OR you don't either way you still die. If time feels like it.s getting faster it's because you're picking up speed destination to be determined. But for you it does not look good better change now. borderline hopeless. Kill zombies

      June 22, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  16. Jojo

    In the basement of an abandoned building in the Bronx we found a very old portrait of Jesus and in it he was black. That portrait was much older than the one I had in my living room. Since the portrait I found was much older, I knew it had to be a more accurate depiction of the Lord, so I threw mine away and hung the older one I found after I cleaned it up. Guests are always shocked to see that I worship a dark skinned Jesus. They wont believe me when I tell them that is the real Jesus.

    June 22, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  17. Matthew

    Nice bias in the article, CNN:

    "The apostles were a group of a dozen men, according to Christian tradition, who spread the gospel of Jesus after his crucifixion."

    How about the crucifixion and the RESURRECTION? If Jesus had been crucified and that was the end of it, do you really think we'd still be talking about Him today? I doubt it. Even the sweetest do-gooders are forgotten about by 99.99% of people after 30 years. If Jesus wasn't God, and didn't rise Himself from the dead, people would have long since forgotten about Him.

    June 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
    • The LORD

      Out of curiosity, which version of the resurrection are you referring to? Because the version in Luke is markedly different from the version in Luke. I'm just wondering EXACTLY which resurrection you are referring to?
      Oh yeah, there's also this confusing piece written by Paul in Corrinthians which seems to imply that it was a spiritual as opposed to a physical resurrection.
      That's probably the reason it wasn't included in the article, there is no reliable source on the matter and everything we have at our disposal is conflicting. Even the crucifixion scenes are different.
      Go read that book, and this time, actually think about it while you're doing it as opposed to having your eyes caress the pages for 5 minutes.

      June 22, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
    • brownstone

      Greek myth – Asclepius, Achilles – both resurected from the dead.
      Egypt – Osiris and Baal.
      Orpheus, Attis and Mithras,

      There is a resurrection story in every myth. All with exactly the same amount of evidence as the bible. None.

      June 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • The LORD

      Wow! We remember somebody more than 30 years after their death, so they must be divine!
      Is Plato God? Aristotle? Caesar? Was Caesar God? How about Siddartha?
      There were a lot of PEOPLE who lived before that peace-loving-hippy-radical-Jewish Rabi named Jesus. But just because history remembers you does not make you devine.

      June 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • april

      I'm with ya. You only need to read the book of Acts to know that something phenomenal happened in Jerusalem that weekend. Something that changed the world forever.

      June 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  18. brownstone

    Christianity is just like every other religion/ideology throughout history. It's all about power and control, and was born in blood. It wasn't spread through the casual preaching of the gentle words of Christ, but instead by forcible conversion through crusade and inquisition. Convert or Die! That is the foundation of this lunacy. Anything not open to skepticism is inherently flawed.

    June 22, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
    • dalis

      Oh yes, these 4th century Christians sure had the upper hand in the situation when Diocletian and Galerius banned Christian practice and forced them to sacrifice to the Roman deities or face execution. Do some research.

      June 22, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  19. Michelle

    Oriental? The only thing that is Oriental is a RUG.
    I think it's wonderful we can all debate this issue-

    June 22, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  20. Fuyuko

    There is a lot of fraud in biblical archaeology. I will take this with a grain of salt until there is more info.

    June 22, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • The LORD

      There's alot of fraud in the bible....

      June 22, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      Unfortunately faking religious artifacts is big business in some countries. Find a cup from the biblical era? Excellent. Find the cup engraved with the Apostle Paul's name? Priceless. Unfortunately, many artifacts are damaged as a result of tampering to increase their value.

      June 22, 2010 at 6:20 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.