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Archeologists discover St Paul's tomb

Vatican archeologists believe that they have identified the tomb in Rome's St Paul Outside the Walls basilica, following the discovery of a stone coffin during excavations carried out over the past three years.

Catholic World News reports that a sarcophagus - or stone coffin - which may contain the remains of St Paul has been identified in the basilica, according to Giorgio Filippi, a archeology specialist with the Vatican Museums.

"The tomb that we discovered is the one that the popes and the Emperor Theodosius (379- 395) saved and presented to the whole world as being the tomb of the apostle," Filippi reports.

The discovery was made by a team composed exclusively of experts from the Vatican Museum. They had undertaken their exploration in response to a request from the administrator of St. Paul's basilica, Archbishop Francesco Gioia. During the Jubilee Year 2000, the archbishop noticed that thousands of pilgrims were inquiring about the location of St. Paul's tomb. The excavation effort was guided by 19th-century plans for the basilica, which was largely rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1823.

An initial survey enabled archeologists to reconstruct the shape of the original basilica, built early in the 4th century. A second excavation, under the main altar of the basilica, brought the Vatican team to the sarcophagus, which was located on what would have been ground level for the original 4th-century building.

The Vatican archeologist said that Church officials would now have to decide whether to undertake further explorations around the tomb, to make the sarcophagus more visible.

In St. Peter's Basilica, excavations that were begun in June 1939 finally uncovered the tomb of the first Pope in 1941. But it 35 more years before the Church officially attested to the authenticity of those remains, in a statement released by Pope Paul VI in June 1976. A similar span of years could elapse before the Church confirms that the tomb discovered in St. Paul's Basilica is truly that of the apostle.

Archeologists discover St. Paul's tomb (Catholic World News 17/2/05)

St. Paul's outside the walls Basilica (Roma2000)

Site of Jesus' Cana miracle said to be found (CathNews 23/12/04)
Group discovers John the Baptist cave (CathNews 17/8/04)
Adelaide scholars in joint dig at Colossae (CathNews 12/3/04)

18 Feb 2005