Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology

“Paul and Peter, pray for Victory” (PAUL ED PETRE PETITE PRO VICTORE) says this graffito scrawled on the walls of the Memorial to Rome’s most famous saints located under the Church of Saint Sebastian. By the middle of the third century A.D. pilgrims were visiting this site where it was believed that the bodies of Peter and Paul had been temporarily deposited after their deaths during the reign of Nero (37–68 A.D.). Altogether some 640 Latin graffiti were found on the walls of the Memorial, scratched by pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire who came to pay homage to Saint Peter and Saint Paul. In the fourth century Emperor Constantine had a new church built on the site, the Basilica Apostolorum, “Church of the Apostles;” it was not until the Middle Ages that the church was dedicated to St. Sebastian. By that time the great basilicas of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and St. Peter’s in the Vatican had replaced the Basilica Apostolorum as the center for the veneration of the twin martyrs of Rome.