News Archive

Monday 28 June 2021

Cardinal Baronius and the Bronze Statue


Tomorrow (29th June) will be the Solemnity of SS Peter & Paul. There will be First Vespers and Benediction this evening at 6pm, and then Mass at 8.15am (Low EF Latin), 9.15am (at St Joseph's), 12.10pm (Sung English), and 6pm (Sung Latin EF).

Anyone who has been to St Peter's Basilica knows the custom of venerating the foot of the bronze statue of St Peter, so that the metal has worn away over the centuries. The practice originates with the Oratorian Cardinal, the Venerable Cesare Baronius (1538-1607), one of the first disciples of St Philip.

Lady Amabel Kerr tells us, in her Life of Baronius, that,

"Every day of his life for thirty years, however busy he might be, and totally regardless of heat or cold, rain or wind, Baronius made a visit to St. Peter's. Having first given an alms to the beggars who crowded the steps, so as to secure their prayers, he went to the bronze statue of St. Peter, as well known to those who visit Rome now as it was to him. Kissing the foot and placing his head under it, he would utter the ejaculation Pax et obedientia; and then, having thus offered himself and his work, he made this act of faith, "I believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church."

It was Baronius who in this way introduced the devout custom, now so widespread, of kissing the foot of this image of St. Peter; and his imitators were so many that even in his lifetime the bronze foot began to be worn away. Then, going to the confession of the Apostles, he threw himself on his face before their tomb and prayed for the needs of the Church with such emotion that when he rose to his feet his eyes were red with weeping. As he left the Basilica, he paused before the Navicella Giotto's fresco of St. Peter walking on the water which met his eyes in the portico, and offered up this prayer before it: "Lord, who didst deliver Peter from the waters, save me from the waters of sin;" and after this, with strength renewed, he returned to his room and took up his daily burden."