Timeline of Christian Tradition

Christian tradition relative to Paul’s tomb and the basilica built over it.

A Simplified Timeline.

{Compiled by the redactor from the various sources already cited.}








ca 96 (80-140)


I Clement


“Owing to   envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven   times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching   both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his   faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the   extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects.”




Apocryphal “Acts of Paul “


Other apocryphal acts appeared between 150 and 300.  All were fanciful and discredited,   but many added even more specific details.


“Then Paul stood with his face to the east and lifted up   his hands unto heaven and prayed a long time, and in his prayer he conversed   in the Hebrew tongue with the fathers, and then stretched forth his neck   without speaking. And when the executioner (speculator) struck off his head,   milk spurted upon the cloak of the soldier. And the soldier and all that were   there present when they saw it marvelled and glorified God which had given   such glory unto Paul: and they went and told Caesar what was done.”





Dionysius of  Corinth
Fragments of a letter to the Roman church.

Tertullian of Carthage

Caius or Gaius

(As quoted by Eusebius, 100 years later)

“Therefore you also have by such admonition joined in close union the churches that were planted by Peter and Paul, that of the Romans and that of the Corinthians: for both of them went to our Corinth, and taught us in the same way as they taught you when they went to Italy; and having taught you, they suffered martyrdom at the same time.”

"...Paul wins his crown in a death like John's {the Baptizer} ..."

“But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church.”





(documentation dating from at least 354)


In that Kalendar of the Church known as the ‘Feriale   Philocalianum’ under the heading ‘Depositio Martyrum’ and the Martyrologium   Hieronomianum.


(cited in Edmundson)



Peter and Paul’s remains were reportedly removed to Roman   catacombs to avoid desecration during persecutions of the Emperor Valerian.   Reports differ widely as to how long the remains were in the catacombs, from   months to decades.


ca 323




First Church historian.


“Thus   publicly announcing himself as the first among God’s chief enemies, he was   led on to the slaughter of the apostles. It is, therefore, recorded that Paul   was beheaded in Rome itself. And that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero   This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names   are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day.”





Emperor Constantine


(according to the Liber Pontificalis, itself a   controversial source with the earliest dating suggesting 6th   century editing.


As part   of his many construction projects at Christian Holy Places around the Empire,   Constantine builds a large basilica on Vatican Hill and because of space   constraints, a much more modest one on the Via Ostia site of Paul’s   tomb.  Paul’s remains were placed   in a bronze coffin and encased in surrounding masonry.




In that Kalendar of the Church known as the ‘Feriale   Philocalianum’ under the heading ‘Depositio Martyrum’ (cited in Edmundson)



III. Kal. Iul. Petri in Catacumbas et Pauli Ostense—Tusco et   Basso cons.


384 -- 395


Emperors   Valentinian II, Theodosius, Arcadius, Siricius, and Honorius


Completely demolished Constantine’s original basilica, reversed   its East-West orientation, rebuilt and modified the tomb enclosure and   expanded the complex until it became the largest church in Rome and notable   for innovative design structures that were incorporated into most later major   churches.


440 – 816 !


Popes Leo the Great, Symmachus, Gregory the Great, Sergius I,   Hadrian I, and Leo III.


Each pope carried out major restorations and reconstructions of   the apse (site of the tomb), the roof, aisles, atrium, transept, roof and   floors.




St. Jerome’s Lives ...


“He {Paul} then, in the fourteenth year of Nero on the same day   with Peter, was beheaded at Rome for Christ’s sake and was buried in the   Ostian way, the twenty-seventh year after our Lord’s passion.”


ca 550-600


(first estimated compilation in Gaul, present edition from 9th   century.)


Martyrologium Hieronymianum attributed to St. Jerome (347-420)


This first general or "universal" martyrology was the   ultimate source of all later Western martyrologies adds specifics of the   removal of Paul’s remains to the catacombs.



“III. Kal. Iul. Romae natale apostolorum sanctorum Petri et   Pauli—Petri in Vaticano via Aurelia Pauli vero in Via Ostensi, utrumque in   Catacumbis, passi sub Nerone, Basso et Tusco consulibus.” (cited in   Edmundson)




Pope Gregory the Great



“An extant inscription records the gift by him of a piece of   land at the Aquae Salviae to the basilica of St. Paul.”




Pope Sergius II


Islamic armies (Saracens) attack Rome.  Although failing to penetrate the inner walls of the city,   they do thoroughly sack and loot both the basilica of St. Peter and that of   St. Paul.




Pope Innocent II


Reconstruction & modification after major fire.




Pope Clement VI


Major repairs after severe earthquake damage.


1389 -- 1426


Popes Boniface IX, Martin V and Eugene   IV


Major restorations.





Basilica unusable because of extreme Tiber flood.




Italian architect Antonio Canevari


Collapsed   portico rebuilt; the ancient narthex was demolished, and columns from the   early four-sided portico were removed; and a series of other restorations   were completed.




Pope Leo XII


Redesign and reconstruction after extensive fire to “restore it   to its former glory.”




Rodolfo Lanciani


Amateur explorer of St. Pauls Outside the Walls.


“I had the privilege of examining the actual grave December 1,   1891, lowering myself from the fenestella under the altar. I found myself on   a flat surface, paved with slabs of marble, on one of which (placed   negligently in a slanting direction) are engraved the words: PAVLO APOSTOLO   MART. .”


Lanciani specifically comments that Constantine’s bronze coffin   has disappeared.




George Edmundson


“Let us now turn to the tomb of St. Paul on the Ostian Way. The Apocryphal   Acts all declare that St. Paul as became his status as a Roman citizen   suffered martyrdom by decapitation—honestiores capite puniantur, and that he   was led out to a place known as Aquae Salviae, near the third mile-stone on   the Ostian Way. This tradition has not been seriously disputed. In the Greek   Acts the addition is made that the Apostle suffered under a pine-tree. “



Words! Mere Words! Was there anything so real as words? - Dorian Gray