Saints Peter and Paul are the principle pillars of the Church founded by Christ. Saint Peter was chosen by Christ to be his first Vicar on earth; he was endowed with powers of the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 16:13-19) and charged with the role of Shepherd of Christ’s flock (Jn 21:15-17). In St. Peter and his sucessors, we have a visible sign of unity and communion in faith and charity. Divine grace led St. Peter to profess Christ’s divinity.
St. Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero, in about the year 64 AD. He was buried at the hill of the Vatican; recent excavations have revealed his tomb on the very site of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Saint Paul was chosen to form part of the apostolic college by Christ himself on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-16). Selected to bring Christ’s name to all peoples (Acts 9:15), he is the greatest missionary of all time, the advocate of pagans, the Apostle of the Gentiles. St. Paul was beheaded in the Tre Fontane along the Via Ostiense and buried nearby, on the site where the basilica bearing his name now stands.