Illustrated Catholic Family Annual – Saint Peter’s Statue

illustration of Saints Peter's Statue, from the 1877 Illustrated Catholic Family AnnualArticle

When Pope Paul V had completed in every part the magnificent Vatican basilica begun by his predecessors, he had this large sitting statue of the Prince of the Apostles, which had been for many centuries an object of great veneration to the faithful, solemnly placed in its present position not far from the crypt or confessional, against the last pier on the right of the nave, on 21 October 1605.

This venerable image is of high antiquity; and although no positive date or origin is assigned to it, a very respectable tradition says that it was cast from a bronze statue of Jupiter that had been worshipped in heathen times on the Capitol, by order of Saint Leo I (the Great), in the year 452, in thanksgiving for the wonderful deliverance of Rome from the attack of Attila, King of the Huns. It is of somewhat rude workmanship, but still sternly expressive, and may be considered the last worthy creation of the early Christian school of sculpture at Rome. The artist, whoever he was, has carefully adhered to the primitive type of the apostle’s physiognomy traditionally preserved among the Romans: head large and round, eyes projecting, hair and beard short and curly. The body is dressed in a tunic and mantle not ungracefully thrown over the left shoulder and falling in folds about the knees; one hand grasps the two symbolical keys, while the other is raised in the act of benediction. The right foot is slightly advanced, and almost worn away by the kisses of the faithful which have been repeated for so many ages; sometimes over twenty thousand persons in one day having been counted performing this act of devotion, to which an indulgence is attached.

The chair and pedestal are of marble, the latter having been substituted for an older one, by Pope Benedict XIV in 1757.

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Peter’s Statue”. Illustrated Catholic Family Annual, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 29 June 2017. Web. 25 October 2020. <>