Visiting Saint Paul

We stumbled upon a most remarkable display while walking around downtown St. Augustine, Florida. We went into a small, inconspicuous building named Saint Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine. Inside were a few displays of local religious artifacts and artwork, a small alter and a gift store. One of the displays was kind of hard to see because it was in a dimly-lit room. It looked like a small, ornate jewelry box with some small trinkets in it. The unimpressive trinkets had some old labels on them but they were so small I couldn't read them or tell what they were.

I took the time to read the plaque next to the display which says, to my surprise, that in the box is a bone fragment of Saint Paul. Not a remembrance of Saint Paul ... not a memorial for Saint Paul ... but an actual bone from the body of Saint Paul the Apostle! And not just Saint Paul, but a bone from Saint Peter the Apostle (whom walked with Jesus), Saint Titus (whom Paul ordained bishop of Gortyn in Crete) and a few other notable Saints.

Being skeptical of such a lofty claim, and not knowing that the whereabouts of the body of Saint Paul was even known, we did some research. It turns out that yes, the whereabouts of the bodies of Saint Paul and Saint Peter are believed to be known, the Vatican in Rome has control of the bones, and, in fact, just two years ago, Pope Benedict XVI issued a statement saying that recent scientific tests have confirmed the authenticity of the bones. (Read the news article here.)

The plaque says that the bones were a gift from the Vatican and that the Vatican supplied documents of authenticity with them.

Jamie and I are amazed to have found this little display. Nowhere in the tourist magazines for St. Augustine have we seen anything about this. Nowhere on the website for the Saint Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine does it mention that they have these bones on display. It's just one of those surprising little nuggets you find by accident that makes your whole day. (It should be noted that Jamie is still skeptical about the claim.)

Of course, I seized the opportunity to come up with some humorous anecdotes, and play on Jamie's skepticism. I told Jamie:
"Gee, when I woke up this morning I never thought I'd be seeing Saint Paul!"
"Instead of the gentle hymns, they should have been playing 'When The Saints Go Marching In.'"
"When we go to St. Paul, Minnesota, will we see the bones of Saint Augustine?"

All photos © 2010, 2011 Bill and Jamie Goldmann