Monday, June 29, 2009
Last evening Pope Benedict celebrated First Vespers for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, winding down the Pauline Year. Excavations begun in 2002 to make the sarcophagus of St. Paul "accessible" (pictured above) to pilgrims have produced some interesting scientific discoveries.
"An authentic scientific analysis" conducted on the sarcophagus conserved in the basilica, the Holy Father said, "seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul."
"A tiny hole was drilled into the sarcophagus -- which over many centuries had never been opened -- in order to insert a special probe, which revealed traces of costly purple colored linen fabric, laminated with pure gold and a blue fabric with linen filaments," Benedict XVI explained.
"Grains of red incense and protein and chalk substances were also discovered," he continued. "There were also tiny bone fragments, which were sent for carbon-14 testing by experts who were unaware of their origin. These were discovered to belong to a person who had lived between the first and second centuries."
Reported here and here.
Also announced the previous day was the following: on the 19th it was reported that Vatican archaeologists using laser technology have discovered what they believe is the oldest image in existence of , dating from the late 4th century, on the walls of the catacomb of St. Tecla, near the basilica.