Home > St Peter – according to the Bible and tradition
Statue of St Peter in narthex

Statue of St Peter in narthex

Peter was born at Bethsaida, near the Sea of Galilee. Peter, whose name was originally Simon, was a fisherman along with his brother Andrew. Andrew was one of the first followers of Jesus and he encouraged his brother to join him.

During Jesus’ ministry, the gospels show Peter as the foremost apostle in declaring faith in him as the Christ.The name Peter, meaning ‘rock’, was selected by Jesus to indicate that he would be the rock-like anchor for the unity of the Church. Jesus also promised to give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which is why depictions of Peter generally show him holding a pair of keys. At the time of the arrest of Jesus, Peter cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest with a sword but then, as had been predicted by Jesus, he denied three times that he had ever known him. After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter re-affirmed his love for Jesus and was commanded to “feed (his) lambs”, to take care of the Church.

The Acts of the Apostles show Peter taking the lead in addressing the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. As the leader of the christians in Jerusalem, he was targeted by Herod for execution but miraculously freed from prison on the night before he was to stand trial.

Peter then left Jerusalem and travelled to spread the Gospel. According to tradition, he was in Rome in 63/64AD during the rule of the Roman emperor Nero. In 64 AD Nero blamed the christians for a disastrous fire in the city. Peter was one of the christians who was taken prisoner and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. At his own request, he was crucified with his head downwards because he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same posture as his Divine Master.