History Stories

St. Philip Martyrium in Hierapolis, Turkey
According to some accounts, Philip the Apostle was executed in the Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis, located in southwestern Turkey, around 80 A.D. Archaeologists have been searching for his grave for years. On July 27, 2011, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that a tomb believed to be Philip’s was unearthed among Hierapolis’ ruins. While the grave has yet to be opened, it is traditionally thought that his remains were transported to Constantinople and later to the Santi Apostoli church in Rome.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome
One of the largest churches in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome’s Vatican City was completed in 1626 and partly designed by Michelangelo. According to tradition, the original church on the site was constructed in the fourth century above the grave of Peter the Apostle, who was crucified around 67 A.D. during the Roman emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians. While some historians question whether Peter was ever in Rome to begin with, in 1968 Pope Paul VI announced that excavations beneath the basilica had yielded the saint’s remains.

Basilica of St. Andrew in Patras, Greece
According to tradition, Andrew the Apostle preached in various cities along the Black Sea, setting up parishes in Russia, Greece and Constantinople. It is believed that he was crucified and buried in Patras, Greece, in roughly 60 A.D. His remains were purportedly relocated to Constantinople around 357 and then to Amalfi, Italy, where an elaborate tomb was built for him, in 1208. Some of the purported relics were returned to Patras in the 1960s and enshrined in the Basilica of St. Andrew, constructed in the Byzantine style in the early 20th century. Others are housed in several churches throughout Europe, including St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh and the Church of St. Andrew and St. Albert in Warsaw.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain
The destination of a pilgrimage route known as the Way of St. James, the Romanesque cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was built in the 12th century on the site of several earlier churches. According to legend, the original ninth-century chapel marked the tomb of James, son of Zebedee, whose remains were miraculously transported there after his beheading in Judea in 44 A.D. Some theologians have questioned traditional aspects of James the Apostle’s biography, including whether he actually preached the Gospel in Spain, as well as the authenticity of the relics at Compostela.

Basilica of St. John the Apostle in Ephesus, Turkey
Roman Catholic tradition holds that John outlived all of the other apostles, dying in Ephesus, Turkey, around 100 A.D. It is believed that a magnificent church was built above his tomb there in the sixth century, commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Only ruins of the building now remain.

Santhome Basilica in Chennai, India
Thomas the Apostle is believed by some to have traveled as far as India to spread the Christian faith. According to tradition, he angered an Indian king by converting his wife and was speared to death in the city of Chennai. Portuguese explorers constructed a church over his alleged burial site in the 16th century; it was then rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style by the British in 1893. Thomas’ remains, meanwhile, were ostensibly transported to Mesopotamia in the third century and later to the Greek island of Chios before being enshrined in the Basilica of St. Thomas the Apostle in Ortona, Italy.

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