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Biblical archaeology of Rome

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The Biblical archaeology of Rome illustrates a number of important archaeological sites of Biblical significance that can help to substantiate the historicity of the Bible. Although perhaps better known for its ancient monuments, such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish steps, there are numerous sites of Biblical importance in Rome including Mamertine Prison, the Church of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Saint Peter’s Basilica and Square, and the Arch of Titus. [1]

Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus, built in 81 A.D., is an arch that can be found near the Colosseum and the Roman forum. It was built to celebrate Titus’s capture of Jerusalem. The arch features many reliefs, a couple of which that are of Biblical significance. One shows Roman soldiers carrying away the Menorah and other loot from the temple. The other shows the procession of Titus and the Roman soldiers after concurring Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied first by Daniel and then by Jesus. [2]

A relief featuring Roman Soldiers carrying the temple menorah.

One of the reliefs previously mentioned, the one of Roman soldiers carrying the menorah away from the temple in Jerusalem, is of great significance. This relief is the only known image of the temple menorah. The menorah, which was originally painted gold, meets the requirement for the temple menorah laid out in Exodus 25: 31-40.[3] Because the relief is one of the only known images of the menorah, it is used as a reference for images of the menorah found today, including the Emblem of the State of Israel.[4]

Mamertine Prison

The outside of Mamertine Prison.

Mamertine Prison is a prison in the Roman Forum. Not only did it house many prisoners, but it is also thought to be the place where Paul and Peter were imprisoned. If this is true, then it is the place where Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, subsequently converting many people, including his guards.[5]

Mamertine Prison held both Peter and Paul in their final days. Nero ordered that Paul be beheaded. His remains were put where the Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls now stands.[6] Peter requested that he be crucified upside down so as not to outshine Christ. He was granted his wish in 64, A.D. in what is now St. Peter's square in Vatican City. Mamertine Prison was used as a church around the 8th century, with frescoes found inside dating back to as early as the 6th century. In the 17th century, St. Joseph of the Carpenters was built on top of the prison, where it still stands today.[7]

Churches in Rome

Rome has over 900 churches, both Protestant and Catholic. Out of these churches, there are two of Biblical significance, St. Peter's Basilica and Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.[8]

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica from St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, Vatican City.

St. Peter's Basilica, built from 1506 to 1615, is significant in many ways. It is one of the largest church buildings in the world and it is where the Pope preaches. It is also the site of Peter's tomb.[9] At the end of his life, Peter was imprisoned in Mamertine Prison. In 64, A.D., he was sentenced to death by crucifixion. However, he requested that he be crucified upside down so as not to outshine Christ. His request was approved, and they crucified him upside down in what is now St. Peter's square in the Vatican city.[7] He was the buried in a small grave on the Vatican Hill. Over the years, the grave evolved into a small shrine. After about three hundred years, Constantine ordered that a church should be built on the site. [10]

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

The front of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is located just outside the the wall that guarded Ancient Rome. It was founded by Constantine in the 4th century A.D., and is one of the four Papal Basilicas, the others being the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, and the previously mentioned St. Peter’s Basilica. The church is most famously the site of Paul's tomb.[11] Paul arrived in Rome, specifically at Mamertine Prison, in 61, A.D., where he awaited his death. After about four years of imprisonment, Nero ordered that he be beheaded. He was buried in a Roman tomb about two miles from where he was killed. His tombstone reads PAULO APOSTOLO MART, which translates to Apostle Paul, Martyr.[12] The site was a place of worship until Constantine declared a church be built on the site.[11]

List of Other Archaeological Sites in Rome

The following is a list of archaeological sites in Rome, most of which are not directly linked to Biblical Archaeology:

  • The Colosseum - one of the most famous sites in Rome, the Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was and still is the largest amphitheatre in the world. It is also the place where early Christians were martyred.
  • The Roman Forum, equivalent to what we would call a town center, the Roman Forum is the most well known of the forums in Rome. Located next to the Colosseum, it features the previously discussed Arch of Titus and Mamertine prison, among other things.
  • Circus Maximus, the Roman empire's largest horse racing track. It was used to film the movie Ben Hur, which led the author of the novel to Christianity.
  • The Imperial Forum, another forum similar to the Roman Forum.
  • Castel Sant’Angelo, mostly built between the 13th and 17th centuries, Castel Sant’Angelo has been used and a mausoleum (Hadrian’s Mausoleum is a pseudonym), fortress, and it is currently being used as a museum.
  • The Baths of Caracalla, a large Imperial bath house built for the Roman Emperor Caracalla from 211 A.D. to 216 A.D.
  • The Arch of Janus, a four way arch with a staircase inside that led to different rooms.
  • Marcellus Theater, a massive amphitheater style theater that was built by Julius Caesar and finished by Augustus Caesar and converted into apartments.
  • The Pantheon, an ancient Roman temple that has been converted into a Catholic church in 608 A.D. [13]
  • Largo di Torre Argentina, once the site of Curia of Pompey, which is said to be the location of Julius Caesar's murder.[14]


  1. Stiles, Wayne. 6 Christian Sites in Rome You Should Know About Wayne Stiles. Web. Accessed on November 29, 2017.
  2. The Arch of Titus in Rome Bible History Online. Web. Accessed on December 2, 2017. Author Unknown.
  3. Povoledo, Elisabetta Technology Identifies Lost Color at Roman Forum The New York Times. Web. Published on June 24, 2012.
  4. Emblem of Israel Wikipedia. Web. Last edit on December 27, 2017. Multiple Authors.
  5. Mamertine Prison, Rome Sacred Destinations. Web. Accessed on December 2, 2017. Author Unknown.
  6. Paul The Apostle Wikipedia. Web. Accessed on January 4, 2018. Multiple Authors.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Squires, Nick Archaeologists find evidence of St Peter's prison The Telegraph. Web. Accessed on January 4, 2018.
  8. The Churches of Rome: Major and Minor All Roads Lead to Roma. Web. Accessed on December 13, 2017. Author Unknown.
  9. The Editors of Encyclopædia BritannicaSt. Peter's Basilica Encyclopædia Britannica. Web. Accessed on January 5, 2018.
  10. Inside the Vatican: St. Peter's Basilica National Geographic News. Web. Accessed on January 5, 2018. Author Unknown.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls Atlas Obscura. Web. Accessed on January 6, 2018. Author Unknown.
  12. The Tomb of the Apostle Papal Basilica - Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls. Web. Accessed on January 6, 2018. Author Unknown.
  13. ARCHAEOLOGICAL & HISTORICAL SITES & MUSEUMS IN ROME & THE VATICAN CITY Archaeology Travel. Web. Accessed on December 27, 2017. Author Unknown.
  14. Cohen, Jennie. Julius Caesar’s Stabbing Site Identified History. Web. Published on October 11, 2012.