- Saint Peter ad Vincula
- San Pietro in Vincoli
- Liberation of Saint Peter
- Release of Saint Peter
- Deliverance of Saint Peter
The feast was originally kept in Rome, Italy to commemorate the dedication of the Church of Saint Peter on the Esquiline Hill built by Eudoxia Licinia in 442, and rebuilt by Adrian I in the 8th century. When the chains which Saint Peter had worn in prison, and from which he was freed by angelic intervention (see readings below) were later venerated there, the feast received its present name.
The date when these chains were brought from Jerusalem is disputed; some claim they were brought in 116 by travellers sent in search of them by Saint Balbina and her father Saint Quirinus, while others think Saint Eudoxia brought them in 439. Pope Saint Leo the Great united them to the chains with which Saint Peter had been fettered in the Mamertine Prison, forming a chain about two yards long which is preserved in a bronze safe and guarded by a special confraternity.
About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John,* killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (It was [the] feast of Unleavened Bread.) He had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after Passover.
Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the church was fervently being made to God on his behalf. On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists.
The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself. They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that [the] Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.” When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer. When he knocked on the gateway door, a maid named Rhoda came to answer it. She was so overjoyed when she recognized Peter’s voice that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate.
They told her, “You are out of your mind,” but she insisted that it was so. But they kept saying, “It is his angel.” But Peter continued to knock, and when they opened it, they saw him and were astounded.
He motioned to them with his hand to be quiet and explained [to them] how the Lord had led him out of the prison, and said, “Report this to James and the brothers.” Then he left and went to another place. At daybreak there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. Herod, after instituting a search but not finding him, ordered the guards tried and executed. Then he left Judea to spend some time in Caesarea. – Acts 12:1-19
- “Feast of Saint Peter in Chains“. CatholicSaints.Info. 31 December 2015. Web. 26 May 2016. <>