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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. Julie

    Why all this fighting over images found? Either you believe in God or you don't. Either you believe the paintings are depictions of the Apostles are you don't. Why spread hatred? Why commit blasphemy over an archeological find? Why argue over religion when you don’t believe in God or the Bible? What point are you trying to make? For those who believe no explanation is necessary, for those who don’t none will suffice.

    June 23, 2010 at 9:19 am |
    • whybs

      Right! No explanation is necessary or suffice 'cuz all religions are one big pile of dung! Just like horoscopes, there are always people who would find truth in it! 😦

      June 23, 2010 at 9:43 am |
    • whybs

      Unlike religions, there is no need for "spreading horoscopes" or "in horoscopes we trust" or "so help me horoscopes!"

      It's religions' subjugation of others that is the problem for non believers!

      June 23, 2010 at 9:49 am |
    • whybs

      Right! No explanation is necessary or suffice 'cuz all religions are one big pile of dung! Just like horoscopes, there are folks who would find truth in it! 😦

      June 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  2. Kenn

    Why do we not knw the name of the wealthy women in whose tomb the paintings were found? Why do we not know the names of three-quarters of the women in the Bible who made Judeo-Christianity possible? It is all well and good to have Jesus and his disciples prancing around Palestine doing good works, but it was the women who financed them. I think the bank plan is good – post prominent portraits of people with lots of money. That is the true origin of the Church.

    June 23, 2010 at 7:43 am |
    • Reality

      Kenn,

      Added thoughts about the effect of money and the origin of Christianity:

      Christian economics 101:

      The Baptizer drew crowds and charged for the "dunking". The historical Jesus saw a good thing and continued dunking and preaching the good word but added "healing" as an added charge to include free room and board. Sure was better than being a poor peasant but he got a bit too zealous and they nailed him to a tree.

      Paul picked up the money scent on the road to Damascus. He added some letters for a fee and "Gentilized" the good word to the "big buck" world. i.e. Paul was the first media evangelist!!!

      Along comes Constantine. He saw the growing rich Christian community and recognized a new tax base so he set them "free".

      The Holy Roman "Empirers"/Popes/Kings/Queens et al continued the money grab selling access to JC and heaven resulting in some of today's richest organizations on the globe i.e. the Christian churches (including the Mormon Church) and related aristocracies.

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue, ( Professors Crossan and Wright are On Faith panelists).

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      In conclusion, money is a major foundation of Christianity to include Mormonism. Ditto for Islam.

      June 23, 2010 at 8:03 am |
  3. Heather

    Has it ever been considered that the amount of ultra-violet light that was getting through the atmosphere back then was less and that no one was as dark?

    June 23, 2010 at 4:46 am |
  4. ajAmerica

    This is an incredible find!!! I wonder what esle we'll find buried in the years to come ??

    June 23, 2010 at 4:28 am |
    • Missy

      Isn't it amazing, aj? Truly fascinating. I wonder how they can tell which apostle was whom, though. Anyone know?

      June 23, 2010 at 4:33 am |
  5. Luke Myintthu

    Twelve men: their clothing worth nothing; their brains worth some fishing food; But, their hearts are priceless and their souls belong to Eternal Divinity.

    Do you want to know how they did it?

    June 23, 2010 at 4:04 am |
    • Reality

      Luke Myintthu,

      A different view: "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      June 23, 2010 at 7:58 am |
    • whybs

      Reality, Right! But what's the point of telling sheep the danger of the herd mentality?

      June 23, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  6. Luke Myintthu

    May peace of Jesus Christ dwell in you.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:53 am |
  7. biscko

    mark
    absolute and utter nonesense. the article is irresponsible in not making clear to the reader that these images were created hundreds of years after the fact by enemies of Christ (Romans) who subsequently saw it as political beneficial to gain political control of the otherwise uncontrollable christian cult for the purpose of expanding the roman empire. The Roman Catholic Church was established starting with the conference in Nice (322ad). The images are those of Romans/Italians and bear no relationship whatsoever with the actual people. It is ulterly incorrect and misleading to refer to these as "images of apostles" or even worst stating that they are the "oldest known". We must categorically reject the continued propagation of such shameless falsehoods almost 2000yrs later in this 21st century. These are no more the apostles than Michaelangelos' images of his uncle in churches across our nation are true images of Jesus. The life of jesus and the apostles and emulating it is what we should obsess over – not ancient Roman propaganda.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:49 am |
    • dalis

      If I may interject, the article didn't report these things because none of what you're saying is historically accurate. Can't fault them for that.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:57 am |
    • dalis

      For example, the Council was at Nicaea (in present-day Turkey) in 325. Nice is in France. It was convened by Constantine to settle issues within the already established Christian Church, including Arianism, the baptism of lapsed Christians, and to settle the date of the Easter feast. It did not start any church; the Church convened it. At that time there were over 1800 bishops within the Church of various traditions (Latin, Greek, etc.). All were invited. This is settled history.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:09 am |
    • Missy

      The article didn't state that these are accurate portrayals, just that they are the earliest known depictions. It's not irresponsible reporting, bisko. I do believe that most people are well aware that there weren't actual photographs available at the time, and that 300+ years after the fact, these are merely an artist's rendering, someone's personal interpretation - not a depiction of the men as they actual appeared. Give people a little credit here, would ya?

      June 23, 2010 at 4:16 am |
  8. dalis

    It would be really cheeky of me to quote the Bible right now just because you wrote that. 😛

    Again, the next time they find a Mayan temple or Viking runestones or a Druid henge – you won't have a word to say. You're an anti-Christian. Someone may quote the Koran or the Torah or the Bhagavad Gita on CNN.com. Will we hear from you? I bet not.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:48 am |
  9. Luke Myintthu

    1. Apostles are not blond hair or blue eyed... Great, I am not blond hair and blue eyed, I don't want to be and such, but, small mind talks people, big mind talks ideas.

    It does not matter what a human's skin color, hair color, or eye color are. Some might say if God had meant the races to be mixed, He wouldn't created us of different colors. I would say, God wants us to join in One Body of Christ regardless of any colors or anythings.

    2. The apostles are from Middle East. They must have looked like Osama bin Laden. Yup, by appearances, humans are look alike, but, by their deeds, they are wide apart. Two men look over the same windows, one sees stars, the other sees the mud. The apostles had seen stars by following Christ, but, Osama bin Laden??? by his deeds???

    3. God flooded the world, wants us to suffer first in the world to go into heaven. That is, God is not fair.

    Ans: God who is good and loving created humans out of nothing to share His Blessed Eternal Divinity. It is humans who seek suffering and seeing suffering as sufferings instead of embracing with God's love.

    In this very world, a person who does not have any problems or sufferings is the person who does not do anything. 100% of sufferings a person feel come out of the way the person responds to the problems or (better to say temptations).

    "Please broaden my mind that I can accept all things.
    Let me not whine or whimper over things
    that I have no control over.
    And give me the best response
    when I'm pushed beyond my limits."

    June 23, 2010 at 3:41 am |
  10. TOM

    Its that time of the year again? Has anyone noticed that when the church is having problems, all of a sudden something is found or a bunch of religious movies hit the big screen, ie BOOK OF ELI, and LEGION. They don't realize that in this day and age when information is at our finger tips religion and believing in something that won't have any affect on a situation and is mainly for those with low self-esteem to get artificial self-esteem. Religion has now mainly been relegated to those who want to influence the uneducated masses or for the poor to have something to believe in and to keep them under control

    June 23, 2010 at 3:39 am |
    • Adrian

      Umm i'm a Christian and happy with my life. I have three healthy kids, lovely wife, and a good job why would i be unhappy? Maybe you should Think about what you say before you post it. PS if anything is keeping down the poor its the banks.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:48 am |
  11. Rommel

    GOD, GOD, GOD, GOD, GOD.... Religions, Religions, Religions, Religions.... What's the difference of all that? Beliefs? Just live your life in right manner way. No one to criticize, no one to hurt, no one to insult... Just live your life and enjoy. Believe what you want to and care for no one's comments. Life is so short... Just look forward and wait for the future that may come. Whew... This why wars can't end up...

    June 23, 2010 at 3:37 am |
  12. Thomas

    No pictures? "This gallery has expired" is written where the images should be.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:20 am |
  13. Guy that can see the past

    so when I tell you what I think it's harassment? What is it when Christians post their bible verses, try to change public policy, or impose their beliefs on others (aka brainwashing their children)?

    anyway, I just want you all to know the truth. God seriously told me that stuff.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:15 am |
  14. Intellectual Salad

    Cor 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

    Ponder...

    June 23, 2010 at 3:08 am |
  15. Stephen

    Not that it really matters what the apostles looked like. I'm sure George Washington looks a lot different than is paintings. The most important part is the age of the paintings and our ability to restore these paintings. The images look great! This is an art treasure dating 1600 years ago.

    What the heck is a rapture? Is this something that happens when you lift too much weight? Perhaps it's like something taken? If so, can I honestly say that my brother-in-law's car wasn't stolen last week...it was raptured?

    June 23, 2010 at 2:59 am |
  16. dalis

    Seriously, would you harass in this manner a page on the discovery of a new Buddha statue? What's the matter with you?

    June 23, 2010 at 2:53 am |
  17. Jerad

    Sometimes I just feel like my IQ drops from reading the comments on here. No one is claiming that these portraits are true to life. Geez, I honestly think that over 90% of the people who comment on here don't actually read more than a sentence or two from the articles.

    June 23, 2010 at 2:33 am |
  18. Chris

    I love the internet. Any discussion related even remotely to religion always breaks down to an argument over whether there's a god. Just like how any discussion related even remotely to politics always breaks down to which side is more like the Nazis.

    Both make an equal amount of sense. These paintings may not look like what we think the Apostles might have looked like; therefore, there is no god. Also, a judge overturned the moratorium on oil drilling, therefore all Democrats are Nazis. To recap: I love the internet.

    June 23, 2010 at 2:27 am |
    • Rommel

      bro, where can I take a look at the paintings you're pointing at?

      June 23, 2010 at 2:31 am |
  19. Rommel

    May I see the photos?

    June 23, 2010 at 2:27 am |
  20. Nelson

    I've got an old copy of Jurassic Park. Does that mean dinos are alive and well?

    June 23, 2010 at 2:21 am |
    • Joe G

      maybe that wasn't clear enough. I'm saying Harry Potter is also written down, and the books are in agreement about many things. Therefore it's true.

      June 23, 2010 at 2:31 am |
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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.