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. Dee

    Why does their inclusion in the tomb indicate aristocrats were the last to convert? Do they even have any surviving information from the classes lower than that? No logical basis for the statement.

    June 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  2. George

    Glory be to the God of love for all things !

    June 22, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  3. Ms. Saleem

    pre-Mediterrianian apostles are big in Germanic Jews....
    Wow! What a good find!

    June 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
  4. Robin

    The bible is the true inspired word of God but without Gods spirit it is impossible to fully understand its full meaning. For the things of the spirit are foolishness to the carnal or unsaved man, you must have the spirit of God to understand him. For God is spirit and those who worship him must worship him (in spirit) and in truth. Ask and ye shall recieve, seek and ye shall find. Gods ways are not our ways, never have been and never will be, were made from dirt God is holy and All powerful , a spirit being. God bless and may he give all who seek him, true revelation that can only come from the lord himself. For all true revelation of God can only come from the allmighyt himself..amen

    June 22, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
    • QuietChild

      True...God's Spirit and a broken and humble heart.

      June 22, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
  5. me

    What the heck is carbon calcium? As a chemist, I find CNN's scientific ignorance insulting. They most likely mean white calcium carbonate (limestone)....

    June 22, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  6. QuietChild

    "who spread the gospel of Jesus after his crucifixion." More importantly: "who spread the gospel of Jesus after his resurrection."

    June 22, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  7. Revpepper

    amen v6 and jenny

    June 22, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  8. Viking6

    Snow can never emit flame.
    Water can never issue fire.
    A thorn bush can never produce a fig.
    Just so, your heart can never be free
    from oppressive thoughts, words, and actions
    until it has purified itself internally.

    Be eager to walk this path.
    Watch your heart always.
    Constantly say the prayer
    “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”
    Be humble.
    Set your soul in quietness.

    The more the rain falls on the earth,
    the softer it makes it;
    similarly, Christ’s holy name
    gladdens the earth of our heart
    the more we call upon it.

    — Hesychius of Sinai

    June 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
    • Ronald Harper

      Viking6, I want to paraphrase Hesychius for you.

      Verse 1: All people despair. (ugh, i know all people despair)
      Verse 2: Accept that all people despair, and be contented. (dang, you can't change that)
      Verse 3: You will despair less if you pray. (aargh! i guess you can only pray)

      There is little wisdom there (all people despair), only a basic understanding of the human condition, which was about as astute as people had become by the 16th century when this Hesychius probably lived. Following this was the Renaissance, when philosophy and science emerged to lead humanity into what is now the 21st century.

      I wonder if the dark ages or the conquering of lower Europe by the Moors over the previous four centuries had anything to do with Hesychius' gloomy tone.

      You can find the rest of the story in the writings of the world's great philosophers, right up to Daniel Dennett today.

      June 23, 2010 at 1:35 am |
  9. Jenny

    Don't worry athiest, God may use you to bring others to repentance, as he did in the Bible. On the road to damacus, Paul was going to kill the christians, and God had other plans for him....Isn't life interesting, you may have hope after all....:)

    June 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  10. Steve

    The Vatican was built upon the grounds previously devoted to the worship of Mithra (600 B.C.) Mithra's cave-temple on the Vatican Hill was seized by the Christians in 376 CE. All of the borrowed, stolen and supplanted earlier material was re-written, not in the early first century but in the second and third century by the diaspora who, in many cases, did not know about the territory in which they have placed it. Many details were made later to fit the storyline, and the pious mischief continues (MIDLGB2110P) through the present time.

    June 22, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
    • dalis

      This isn't a bombshell, Steve. Many Christian sites all over the Mediterranean were (some abandoned, some not) pre-Christian worship sites. The Church doesn't hide this. In fact, you can pay 5 euro to view the Mithraic temple under the Basilica di San Clemente in Rome. Santa Maria sopra Minerva was just that, a church built over a temple to Minerva (the abbey next door built over a temple to Isis). Close by is the Pantheon, now a Catholic church. Sometimes, the only way a temple has lasted through the ages was because of its status as a church. In Siracusa, the Duomo actually incorporates the columns of the intact temple to Athena. In Palermo and Toledo, the churches were built as temples, turned into churches, turned into mosques and turned into churches again. So, it goes...

      Also, the Liturgical Calendar was arranged to Christianize Roman festivals. Christmas is celebrated instead of the Saturnalia. the Epiphany instead of the Juvenalia, St. Valentine's instead of the Lupercalia, (Western) Easter instead of , the Assumption instead of Caesar Augustus (Ferragosto), All Saints instead of the Pomonalia, .

      And why not? It was effective. After all , you don't see anyone worshiping Mithra, Saturn or any of the rest anymore. And remember the Romans did it to the Greeks, and the Greeks did it to the Babylonians and Mycenaeans. Some Christian denominations call observation of these holy days apostasy, but they're getting coal in their stockings. 😉

      June 22, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  11. Revpepper

    I agree that religion has covered up and distorted history. Dont pay much attention to religion after reading the Fox book of mayters. (dont spell well not a scribe oops). But a spiritually free man in Christ knows the truth through the lies

    June 22, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
  12. Revpepper

    we don't make decisions based on fear of damnation. we make decision through a moral standard that allows us to fully understand that decision. Based on love, faith, and peace that is beyond all understanding. Our country was founded on this moral code. I respect your feelings on others belief and was not being mean in that statement. Just wanted to spark a thought and stimulate a conversation beyond some that is written above

    June 22, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  13. wesjoenixon

    I'm most scared that in 100-200 years, or as soon as people around the world can make super bombs in their basements with specs garnered via the internet, that millions–litterally–millions of people will be killed in the name of religion. This is a reality that is on its way here.

    June 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
  14. Real Jesus

    Jesus Christ

    The son of Julius Ceasar And Cleopatra

    The biggest hoax in history.

    Jesus was in fact the son and heir to both the Roman & Egyptian throne.
    History has been altered to protect those who would be killed.
    The church in Rome would lose that cash cow
    and religions around the globe would revolt.

    Jesus was the son od Julius Ceasar & cleopatra,
    and when Ceasar was murdered by the Roman senate
    Octavious sent a legion of troops to kill the son of Ceasar.

    So much history covered up
    in the name of religion.

    Shame on everyone who cant find the truth.

    June 22, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
    • Seriously?


      June 22, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
    • QuietChild

      Please name your sources.

      June 22, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
    • Luke Myintthu

      Umm.... I think that you are the child of Romeo and Juliet, being delivered into this world by the wife of Shakespeare??? Just curious...

      June 24, 2010 at 2:39 am |
  15. Revpepper

    remove s insert e

    June 22, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
  16. Revpepper

    Just one thing Devout. If we are right you have everything to lose. but If we are wrong we have nothing to loss

    June 22, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
    • Devout Atheist

      So I should believe in a story "just in case"? That's not faith, that's fear. I don't see the joy in life when you make decisions based on possible damnation. Don't get me wrong, I respect the faiths and the people who believe in them. I just don't find it in me to believe in it myself.

      June 22, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
  17. Revpepper

    boy have each of you missed it and it saddens me to see the body of Christ so divided. Oh well He'll fix that someday

    June 22, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
  18. Devout Atheist

    Regardless of your take on religion, this is a great archeological find. I'm huge on history, and you can't appreciate human history, without appreciating human mythology, whether Greek/Roman, Norse, or Judaic. (yes, I'm saying Judaic because Christianity and Islam sprang out of Judaism, so they're both Judaic. Don't like it? Then prove me wrong.)This is a really cool discovery, in that it gives us an idea of what was going on as the world transitioned away from Greek/Roman mythology and adopted more contemporary religious views.

    June 22, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
    • april

      Devout Atheist? What the heck is a devout atheist? I mean what are you devoted to? If you don't believe in anything, you can't be devoted to it. Silly.

      June 22, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  19. Godless

    Yep. If you aint a Christian, you don't matter to the rest of the mind imprisoned world. Wake-up people.

    June 22, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      S'funny, but I've never had my comments deleted and I'm no christian. And given CNN's history, they seem an unlikely bunch to stoutly defend "the faith".

      June 23, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  20. Devout Atheist

    I love how CNN won't post certain statements

    June 22, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
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