Author: Leo the Great Reading: Letter 15 Pages: NPNF2 12:20–26
HOW I DISCOVERED THE TOMB OF THE APOSTLE
By Renzo Allegri
ROME, MAY 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On May 3, the Church remembers St. Philip and St. James the Less, two apostles who formed part of the Twelve. Last summer the news broke that the Apostle Philip’s tomb was found at Hierapolis, in Phrygia. “The value of this finding is undoubtedly of a very high level,” says Professor Francesco D’Andria, director of the archaeological mission that made the discovery. D’Andria teaches archaeology at the University of Salento-Lecce and is the director of the School of Specialization in Archaeology of that university. He has been working in Hierapolis for more than 30 years, looking for St. Philip’s tomb and, since the year 2000, he has been director of this mission.
We asked Professor D’Andria to speak to us about St. Philip and the exceptional finding
that he and his team of researchers carried out.
“Historical news on Saint Philip is scarce,” said D’Andria. “From the Gospels we know that he was a native of Bethsaida, on Lake Gennesaret; hence, he belonged to a family of fishermen. John is the only evangelist who mentions him several times. In the first chapter of his Gospel, he recounts that Philip entered the group of the apostles from the beginning of Jesus’ public life, called directly by the Master. In the order of calling, he is the fifth after James, John, Andrew and Peter. In the sixth chapter, when he recounts the miracle of the multiplication of loaves, John says that, before doing this miracle, Jesus turned to Philip and asked him how all those people could be fed, and Philip answered that 200 denarii worth of bread would not be sufficient even to give a piece to each one. And in Chapter 12, John says that after Jesus’ triumphal entrance in Jerusalem, some Greeks wished to speak with the Master and went to Philip. And during the Last Supper, when Jesus spoke of the Father (“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also”), Philip said: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” From the Acts of the Apostles we know that Philip was present with the others at the moment of Jesus’ Ascension and on the day of Pentecost, when the descent of the Holy Spirit took place. Written information ceases on that day. All the rest comes from Tradition.”
ZENIT: What does Tradition say in addition?
D’Andria: After Jesus’ death, the Apostles dispersed through the world to spread the
Gospel message. And, according to Tradition and ancient documents written by the Holy
Fathers, we know that Philip carried out his mission in Scizia, in Lydia, and in the last
days of his life, in Hierapolis, in Phrygia. In a letter written to Pope Victor I, Polycrates,
who toward the end of the second century was bishop of Ephesus, recalls the important
personalities of his Church, among them the Apostles Philip and John. Of Philip, he said:
“He was one of the twelve Apostles and died in Hierapolis, as did two of his daughters
who grew old in virginity … Another daughter of his … was buried in Ephesus.”
“All scholars agree in considering that Polycrates’ information is absolutely reliable. The
Letter, which dates back to about 190 after Christ, 100 years after Philip’s death, is a fundamental document for relations between the Latin and the Greek Church
It refers to the dispute about the date of the celebration of Easter. And in that letter, Polycrates, who was patriarch of the Greek Church, claims the nobility of the origins of the Church in Asia, stating that just as the trophies (mortal remains) of Peter and Paul are in Rome, the tombs of the Apostles Philip and John are in Asia. Moreover, from that letter we know that Philip spent the last years of his life in Hierapolis, with two of his three daughters, who undoubtedly helped him in his work of evangelization. In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius of Caesarea says that Papias, who was bishop of Hierapolis at the beginning of the third century, knew Philip’s daughters and from them learned important details of the Apostle’s life, among them also the account of a tremendous miracle: the resurrection of a dead man.”
ZENIT: Is it known how and when the Apostle died?
D’Andria: Most of the ancient documents state that Philip died in Hierapolis, in the year
80 after Christ, when he was about 85. He died a martyr for his faith, crucified upside
down like St. Peter. He was buried in Hierapolis. In the ancient necropolis of that city an
inscription was found that alludes to a church dedicated to St. Philip. On an unspecified
date, Philip’s body was taken to Constantinople to remove it from the danger of
profanation by barbarians. And in the sixth century, under Pope Pelagius I, it was taken
to Rome and buried, next to the Apostle James, in a church built specifically for them.
The Byzantine-style church, which was called “of Sts. James and Philip,” was
transformed in 1500 into a magnificent Renaissance church, which is the present one called “Of the Holy Apostles.”
ZENIT: When did research begin on St. Philip’s tomb in Hierapolis?
D’Andria: In 1957, thanks to professor Paolo Verzone, who taught engineering at Turin’s
Polytechnic and was very passionate about archaeological research. An agreement was
stipulated between the Italian and Turkish Republics, which enabled our team of
archaeologists to carry out searches in Hierapolis. Professor Verzone was the first
director of that mission. He began immediately, of course, to look for the Apostle Philip’s
tomb. He concentrated the excavations on a monument that was already visible in part
and known as the church of St. Philip, and he discovered an extraordinary octagonal
church, a genuine masterpiece of Byzantine architecture of the fifth century, with
wonderful arches in travertine stone.
All this complex of constructions made with so much care and detail made one think that
it was a great church of pilgrimage, a very important shrine, and Professor Verzone
identified it as the Martyrion, namely the martyrial church of St. Philip. And therefore he
thought that it was built on the saint’s tomb. Hence he had several excavations carried
out in the area of the main altar, but he never found anything that made one think of a
tomb. I myself thought the tomb was in the area of the church, but in 2000, when I became director of the Italian archaeological mission of Hierapolis, by concession of the Ministry of Culture of Turkey, I changed my opinion.
D’Andria: All the excavations carried out over so many years had no result. I also carried
out research through geo-physical explorations, that is, special explorations of the
subsoil, and not obtaining anything, I was convinced we had to look elsewhere, still in
the same area but in another direction.
ZENIT: And towards what did you direct your research?
D’Andria: My collaborators and I studied a series of satellite photos of the area carefully,
and the observations of a group of brave topographers of the CNR-IBAM, directed by Giuseppe Scardozzi, and we understood that the Martyrion, the octagonal church was the center of a large and well-developed devotional complex. We identified a great processional street that took the pilgrims of the city to the octagonal church, the Martyrion at the top of the hill, the remains of a bridge that enabled pilgrims to go across a valley through which a torrent flowed; we say that at the foot of the hill there were stairs in travertine stone, with wide ascending steps that led to the summit.
At the bottom of the stairs we identified another octagonal building that could not be seen from the surface but only on satellite photos. We excavated around that building
and realized it was a thermal complex.
This was an enlightening discovery that made us understand that the whole hill was part
of a course of pilgrimage with several stages. Continuing our excavations, we found
another flight of steps that led directly to the Martyrion, and on the Square, next to the
Martyrion, there was a fountain where pilgrims did their ablutions with water, and near
there a small plain, in front of the Martyrion, where there were vestiges of buildings. Professor Verzone had not dared to carry out an excavation in that area because it was an immense heap of stones. In 2010, we began to do some cleaning and elements of extreme importance came to light.
ZENIT: Of what sort?
D’Andria: A marble architrave of a ciborium with a monogram on which the name
Theodosius could be read. I thought it was the name of the emperor and so that
architrave made it possible to date the martyrial church between the fourth and fifth centuries. Then, little by little we found vestiges of an apse. Excavating and cleaning the floor, a great church came to light. Whereas the floor of the Martyrion was octagonal, this floor was that of a basilica, with three naves. A stupendous church with marble capitals refined decorations, crosses, friezes, plant branches, stylized palms in the niches and a central pavement with marble tesserae with colored geometrical motifs: all referable to the fifth century, namely, the age of the other church, the Martyrion. However, at the center of this wonderful construction what enthused and moved us was something disconcerting that left us breathless.
ZENIT: And it was?
D’Andria: A typical Roman tomb that went back to the first century after Christ. In a certain sense, its presence could be justified by the fact that in that area, before
Christians built the proto-Byzantine shrine, there was a Roman necropolis. However,
examining its position carefully, we realized that that Roman tomb was at the center of
the church. Hence, in the fifth century the church had been built precisely around that
pagan Roman tomb, to protect it, because, evidently, that tomb was extremely
important. And immediately we thought that perhaps that could be the tomb where the
body of St. Philip was placed after his death.
ZENIT: And did you find confirmations of this supposition?
D’Andria: Indeed. In the summer of 2011, we carried out extensive excavation in the area
of this church with the coordination of Piera Caggia, research archaeologist of the IBAMCNR, and extraordinary elements emerged that confirmed are suppositions fully. The tomb was included in a structure in which there is a platform that is reached by a marble staircase. Pilgrims, entering in the narthex, went up to the higher part of the tomb, where there was a place for prayer and they went down on the opposite side. And we saw that the marble surface of the steps was completely consumed by the steps of thousands upon thousands of people. Hence, the tomb received an extraordinary tribute of veneration.
On the façade of the tomb, near the entrance, there are nail holes which undoubtedly
served to support an applied metallic locking device. Moreover, there are grooves in the
pavement that make one think of an additional wooden door: all precautions that
indicate that in that tomb there was an inestimable treasure, namely, the apostle’s body.
And on the façade, on the walls there are numerous graffiti with crosses, which in some
way have consecrated the pagan tomb.
Excavating next to the tomb we found water baths for individual immersions, which
undoubtedly served for healings. After venerating the tomb, sick pilgrims were
submerged in the baths exactly as happens in Lourdes.
However, the main — I would say mathematical — confirmation which attests, without a
shadow of a doubt, that that construction is really St. Philip’s tomb comes from a small
object that is in the Museum of Richmond in the United States. An object in which there
are images that up to now could not be fully deciphered, whereas now they have an
ZENIT: What object is it?
D’Andria: it is a bronze seal about 10 centimeters (four inches) in diameter, which served
to authenticate St. Philip’s bread to be distributed to pilgrims. Icons have been found that represent St. Philip with a large loaf in his hand. And, to be distinguished from ordinary bread, this bread was marked with the seal so that pilgrims would know that it was a special bread, to be kept with devotion.
There are images on the seal. There is the figure of a saint with a pilgrims’ cloak and an
inscription that says “Saint Philip.” On the border is a phrase in Greek, an ancient phrase
of praise to God: Agios o Theos, agios ischyros, agios athanatos, eleison imas (Holy God,
strong Holy One, immortal Holy One, have mercy on us). All the specialists of Byzantine
history who know that seal have always said that it came from Hierapolis. However,
what is most extraordinary is the fact that the figure of the saint is presented between
two buildings: the one on the left is covered by a cupola, and it is understood that it represents the octagonal Martyrion; the one on the right of the saint, has a roof like the
one of the church of three naves which we have now discovered. The two buildings are at
the top of a stairway. It seems that it was an image of the complex then existing around
St. Philip’s tomb. A photograph made in the sixth century. Moreover, in the image of the
seal there is an emblematic element: a lamp hanging at the entrance, typical signs that
served to indicate a saint’s sepulcher. Hence, already indicated in that seal is that the tomb was in the basilica church and not in the Martyrion.
ZENIT: You have made all these discoveries in recent times.
D’Andria: I would say very recent times. We did so between 2010 and 2011. Above all
2011 was the year of the greatest emotions for us: we discovered the second church and
Philip’s tomb. We concluded a work begun 55 years ago. The news has gone around the
world. And it has attracted scholars and the curious to Hierapolis. Among others, at the
end of last August, hundreds of Chinese arrived, as well as numerous Koreans and
journalists of several nationalities.
Last Nov. 24, I had the honor of presenting the discovery, at the Pontifical
Archaeological Academy of Rome, to scholars and Vatican representatives. Also
Bartholomew the Patriarch of Constantinople wished to receive me to know the details of
the discovery, and on Nov. 14, feast of St. Philip in the Orthodox Church, he celebrated
Mass precisely on the tomb found in Hierapolis. And I was present, 1,000 thousand
years, the chants of the Greek liturgy resounded among the ruins of the church.
In the forthcoming months, we will take up the works again and I am certain that other
important surprises await us.
Author: Leo the Great Reading: Letters 1-8 Pages: NPNF2 12:1–7
Those of you who are on Facebook will have noticed that the number of memes about Christmas has begun to grow steadily over the past few weeks as the Season of Peace and Goodwill comes upon us.
There are lots of reasons why people celebrate Christmas, one person I worked with many years ago like to go out as often as possible during December to get as drunk as possible to “celebrate Christmas”-I was not quite sure then what it was exactly that she was, supposed to be “celebrating” and, to be frank, I am still none the wiser, years later on. Other people like to celebrate the family-Christmas is an opportunity for everyone to get together at least once over the holiday period and catch up with all the various events that have happened since the last Festive Season, or last Family Get-together, whichever happened sooner.
Of course I may just be fantasising, because for some people Christmas can be a time of sadness and loneliness and great difficulty, as indeed it was for the carpenter from Nazareth called Joseph who had to go to a town called Bethlehem, many miles away, taking with him his nine-month-pregnant wife, Mary. For those of us who celebrate Christmas with our loved ones in our centrally heated houses, feasting on plump turkey, brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce, perhaps it would do us good just to reflect for a few moments on the circumstances that occurred the night we sometimes like to call The First Christmas.
The Church as ever has a way of bringing us down to earth. The weeks immediately prior to Christmas are called Advent. In the Eastern Orthodox Church we also call it Winter Lent, or even The Fast of St Philip. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, this fast lasts for six weeks, unlike the Western Church when the Advent Fast lasts only four weeks.
But why do we call it The Fast of St Philip?
The answer is very simple. The day before the Fast starts is the Feast of St Philip. St Philip, you will recall was one of the Twelve Apostles. He does not have much to say in the Gospel accounts, but on one occasion, Philip makes a trenchant comment:
Advent is the Preparation Time for Christmas. A more accurate name for Christmas is “The Feast of the Nativity of the Second Person of the Trinity According to the Flesh.” A bit of a mouthful maybe, but it sums up everything that Christians believe about Christmas-it is a Feast-a time of celebration-because Someone special is being born. That person is the Second Person of the Trinity-the Son of God and it is His Physical Birth that we celebrate-the time that is when He takes on flesh and becomes Man.
When Philip told Nathanael about meeting the Christ, Nathanael was unsure and Philip invited him to “Come and see.” At Christmas time, when we celebrate the First Coming of Christ, we are also invited to “Come and see”. Advent is to prepare us for that first experience of meeting the Christ at His First Coming.
What to read during Advent? Well, apart from the Bible, which fills us in with all the details that are important (by the way, if you are unsure about a reading plan of the Bible during Advent, try the plan on this website: http://www.holytrinityorthodox.com/calendar/ it will give you all the information you need) there is an excellent guide to the Fast by the ever memorable Fr Thomas Hopko: The Winter Pascha, Readings During the Christmas/Epiphany Season
Author: John Cassian Reading: On the Incarnation of the Lord, bk. 7, ch. 21-end Pages: NPNF2 11:615–621
Father Georges Florovsky (1893–1979) was an Eastern Orthodox priest, theologian, and historian. Expelled from Russia in 1920, he became a professor at Orthodox seminaries in Paris and New York, then a professor at Harvard University and Princeton University. In this excerpt from a 1951 essay titled “The Lost Scriptural Mind,” Florovsky argues that the fathers of the Christian church are more relevant than modern theologians. You can read the full essay here.
Christian ministers are not supposed to preach their private opinions, at least from the pulpit. Ministers are commissioned and ordained in the church precisely to preach the Word of God. They are given some fixed terms of reference — namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ — and they are committed to this sole and perennial message. They are expected to propagate and to sustain “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Of course, the Word of God must be preached “efficiently.” That is, it should always be so presented as to carry conviction and command the allegiance of every new generation and every particular group. It may be restated in new categories, if the circumstances require. But, above all, the identity of the message must be preserved.
One has to be sure that one is preaching the same gospel that was delivered and that one is not introducing instead any “strange gospel” of his own. The Word of God cannot be easily adjusted or accommodated to the fleeting customs and attitudes of any particular age, including our own time. Unfortunately, we are often inclined to measure the Word of God by our own stature, instead of checking our mind by the stature of Christ. The “modern mind” also stands under the judgment of the Word of God.
Modern Man and Scripture
But it is precisely at this point that our major difficulty begins. Most of us have lost the integrity of the scriptural mind, even if some bits of biblical phraseology are retained. The modern man often complains that the truth of God is offered to him in an “archaic idiom” — i.e., in the language of the Bible — which is no more his own and cannot be used spontaneously. It has recently been suggested that we should radically “demythologize” Scripture, meaning to replace the antiquated categories of the Holy Writ by something more modern. Yet the question cannot be evaded: Is the language of Scripture really nothing else than an accidental and external wrapping out of which some “eternal idea” is to be extricated and disentangled, or is it rather a perennial vehicle of the divine message, which was once delivered for all time?
We are in danger of losing the uniqueness of the Word of God in the process of continuous “reinterpretation.” But how can we interpret at all if we have forgotten the original language? Would it not be safer to bend our thought to the mental habits of the biblical language and to relearn the idiom of the Bible? No man can receive the gospel unless he repents — “changes his mind.” For in the language of the gospel “repentance” (metanoeite) does not mean merely acknowledgment of and contrition for sins, but precisely a “change of mind” — a profound change of man’s mental and emotional attitude, an integral renewal of man’s self, which begins in his self-renunciation and is accomplished and sealed by the Spirit.
We are living now in an age of intellectual chaos and disintegration. Possibly modern man has not yet made up his mind, and the variety of opinions is beyond any hope of reconciliation. Probably the only luminous signpost we have to guide us through the mental fog of our desperate age is just the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” obsolete or archaic as the idiom of the Early Church may seem to be, judged by our fleeting standards.
Preach the Creeds!
What, then, are we going to preach? What would I preach to my contemporaries “in a time such as this?” There is no room for hesitation: I am going to preach Jesus, and him crucified and risen. I am going to preach and to commend to all whom I may be called to address the message of salvation, as it has been handed down to me by an uninterrupted tradition of the Church Universal. I would not isolate myself in my own age. In other words, I am going to preach the “doctrines of the creed.”
I am fully aware that creeds are a stumbling block for many in our own generation. “The creeds are venerable symbols, like the tattered flags upon the walls of national churches; but for the present warfare of the church in Asia, in Africa, in Europe and America the creeds, when they are understood, are about as serviceable as a battle-ax or an arquebus in the hands of a modern soldier.” This was written some years ago by a prominent British scholar who is a devout minister too. Possibly he would not write them today. But there are still many who would wholeheartedly make this vigorous statement their own. Let us remember, however, that the early creeds were deliberately scriptural, and it is precisely their scriptural phraseology that makes them difficult for the modern man.
Thus we face the same problem again: What can we offer instead of Holy Scripture? I would prefer the language of the Tradition, not because of a lazy and credulous “conservatism” or a blind “obedience” to some external “authorities,” but simply because I cannot find any better phraseology. I am prepared to expose myself to the inevitable charge of being “antiquarian” and “fundamentalist.” And I would protest that such a charge is gratuitous and wrong. I do keep and hold the “doctrines of the creed,” conscientiously and wholeheartedly, because I apprehend by faith their perennial adequacy and relevance to all ages and to all situations, including “a time such as this.” And I believe it is precisely the “doctrines of the creed” that can enable a desperate generation like ours to regain Christian courage and vision.
The Tradition Lives
“The church is neither a museum of dead deposits nor a society of research.” The deposits are alive—depositum juvenescens, to use the phrase of St. Irenaeus. The creed is not a relic of the past, but rather the “sword of the Spirit.” The reconversion of the world to Christianity is what we have to preach in our day. This is the only way out of that impasse into which the world has been driven by the failure of Christians to be truly Christian. Obviously, Christian doctrine does not answer directly any practical question in the field of politics or economics. Neither does the gospel of Christ. Yet its impact on the whole course of human history has been enormous. The recognition of human dignity, mercy and justice roots in the gospel. The new world can be built only by a new man.
The Modern Crisis
The first task of the contemporary preacher is the “reconstruction of belief.” It is by no means an intellectual endeavor. Belief is just the map of the true world, and should not be mistaken for reality. Modern man has been too much concerned with his own ideas and convictions, his own attitudes and reactions. The modern crisis precipitated by humanism (an undeniable fact) has been brought about by the rediscovery of the real world, in which we do believe. The rediscovery of the church is the most decisive aspect of this new spiritual realism. Reality is no more screened from us by the wall of our own ideas. It is again accessible. It is again realized that the church is not just a company of believers, but the “Body of Christ.” This is a rediscovery of a new dimension, a rediscovery of the continuing presence of the divine Redeemer in the midst of his faithful flock. This discovery throws a new flood of light on the misery of our disintegrated existence in a world thoroughly secularized. It is already recognized by many that the true solution of all social problems lies somehow in the reconstruction of the church. “In a time such as this” one has to preach the “whole Christ,” Christ and the church—totus Christus, caput et corpus, to use the famous phrase of St. Augustine. Possibly this preaching is still unusual, but it seems to be the only way to preach the Word of God efficiently in a period of doom and despair like ours.
The Relevance of the Fathers
I have often a strange feeling. When I read the ancient classics of Christian theology, the fathers of the church, I find them more relevant to the troubles and problems of my own time than the production of modern theologians. The fathers were wrestling with existential problems, with those revelations of the eternal issues which were described and recorded in Holy Scripture. I would risk a suggestion that St. Athanasius and St. Augustine are much more up to date than many of our theological contemporaries. The reason is very simple: they were dealing with things and not with the maps, they were concerned not so much with what man can believe as with what God had done for man. We have, “in a time such as this,” to enlarge our perspective, to acknowledge the masters of old, and to attempt for our own age an existential synthesis of Christian experience.1
For those of you who, like me, were enthralled by the Indiana Jones series of films, you may have wondered what really did happen to the famous “Ark of the Covenant”. Is it still lost? Has it been found? In either case, where is it likely to be? This video gives some ideas of what has happened to it.