Sunday, May 11, 2014

Catholic Review: St. Peter's Bones

St. Peter's Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found . . . and Then Lost and Found Again by Thomas J. Craughwell, January 14, 2014. 144 pages. Published by Image. Source: Blogging for Books/publisher.
An exciting and fascinating account of the search for the remains of the world's first pope, none other than Peter, the apostle of Jesus.
In 1448 a team of architects and engineers brought Pope Nicholas V unhappy news: the 1100-year-old Basilica of St. Peter suffered from so many structural defects that it was beyond repair. The only solution was to pull down the old church-one of the most venerable churches in Christendom-and erect a new basilica on the site. Incredibly, one of the tombs the builders paved over was the resting place of St. Peter.

Then in 1939, while working underground in the Vatican, one workman's shovel struck not dirt or rock but open air. The diggers shone a flashlight through the opening and saw a portion of an ancient Christian mausoleum. An archaeologist was summoned at once, and after inspecting what could be seen through the hole the diggers had made in the mausoleum's roof, he authorized a full-scale excavation. What lay beneath? The answer and the adventure await.

So, I've had my eye on St. Peter's Bones for a couple months now, but have only just now had the opportunity to get my hands on a copy. The full title was enough to capture my attention because it is, and has happened, the case of the relics of a saint being lost throughout the ages. Of course, with it being St. Peter, the first Pope of the Catholic Church, I was curious in what fashion the loss happened and when it occurred; what I wasn't expecting was a fully engrossing history of his life and the search for his bones.

Where to start. After the last couple long, and very thoughtful, books on the spiritual journey of various saints and other priestly people, I knew my next read had to be something on a lighter scale. And that is just what I got with St. Peter's Bones. Even though this was a much easier read, I loved how well researched the book was, and how the scenes depicting the excavation under St. Peter's Basilica was interspersed with accounts of Peter's life and death, as well, as historical  pieces on the veneration of the saints (if you've ever been confused on this point, the author makes an excellent, yet short, explanation on what it means [basically, we seek their intercession]).

Even though there are many reasons to like this book, and that's just from the historical context and the mystery surrounding the bones of St. Peter, what really makes this such an interesting read is the writing. I really enjoyed how well the author was able to keep the story interesting without loosing sight of the ultimate goal- that of discovering the location of the relics of St. Peter.
   It was pretty exciting to read about those who were on the crew helping to excavate beneath the alter, as well, as seeing how many years it took for them to determine whether or not they has found what they sought.

Do I think the author handled this book well and the historical context surrounding relics and saints, yes. While the search was many, many years ago and started by a Pope who has been gone for many years, I really enjoyed seeing the big chance he took when he set things in motion.

Okay, so, my favorite part of this book would have to be seeing my patron saint, St. Petronille, mentioned within the text. While there's some contention on whether or not she was the physical or spiritual daughter of St. Peter; or whether she was actually a 3rd century martyr, I found myself drawn to her and chose her as my patron. So, while it is rather difficult to find out anything about her, I was down right excited to see her mentioned within St. Peter's Bones-so much so, that I should the passage to my whole family.
    While there are more than just then one point to have made this an interesting read, the inclusion of St. Petronille just made it all the more interesting because it showed how much their author did their homework going into this one.  

This is one of those books where I have trouble pin-pointing something that failed to impress me. Since it's not a work of fiction, yet, it had this great mystery and trial and error during the search, I can find nothing really that bothered me. It was just an interesting and well written book that is highly enjoyable.

Final Verdict: St. Peter's Bones- Take one part mystery, that of the location and misplacement of St. Peter's Bones, and one part history lesson and you'll get one interesting read.

St. Peter's Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found...and Then Lost and Found Again earns
this book was received in exchange for an honest review.

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