sunset over St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s are two of the major Basilicas in Rome.  Each was built at the site of the execution of their respective saint.  St. Peter’s Basilica was built near the Circus of Nero, where St. Peter was sentenced to crucifixion.  The first pope had requested to be crucified upside down because he felt himself unworthy to die as Jesus Christ had done.  Meanwhile, on the other side of Rome, at almost the exact same time, St. Paul was also being executed.  Since the Apostle of the Gentiles was a Roman citizen, he was sentenced to decapitation.   Having died on the same day, these two saints were born into heaven on the same day, making them twins in heaven.

The two Basilicas, which were built on opposite sides of Rome, are facing each other, speaking to each other.  When they were first built, they were almost identical.  As time passed, however, St. Peter’s grew and needed to be rebuilt.  And so it changed into the Basilica we see today.  St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, one for the Apostle of the Jews and the other for the Apostle of the Gentiles, these two churches may be said to be the “bookends of Rome.”

Resource: our first Virtual Pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Basilica