Courtesy Photographic Archive, Archaeological Expedition at Capernaum/Emmanuele Testa

A “St. Peter” graffito? The name “Peter” may appear in this “mare’s nest” of lines (top) scratched on a wall of the Capernaum house-church.

The drawing (center) is an exact reproduction of the inscription. It was made by Emmanuele Testa, epigrapher for the Franciscan expedition that excavated the building in the late 1960s. To the Franciscan excavators, the lines form the words “Peter, the helper of Rome,” but many scholars dispute this reading.

At bottom is another drawing made by Testa, this one an interpretation of the drawing of the “mare’s nest” of lines. The excavators read:


ROMAE is Latin for Rome; PETRUS, Latin for Peter; and BO(HQë‚) Greek for helper.

Some scholars see two large X’s scratched over the inscription in an apparent effort to deface it. The strokes the excavators claim for “T” and “U” in the so-called “Peter” are, in fact, part of the two XX’s incised over the inscription. Also, the graffito shows horizontal marks above the groups of letters in the first line, indicating that these letter groups are Greek abbreviations. Thus, the meaning of the entire inscription is still a mystery.