◄ Church of Domine Quo Vadis, Rome [HD] ►
Welcome to this beautiful small church. Its
official name is the Church of St Mary in Palmis, but it’s now more known as the Church
of Domine Quo Vadis. This church, built next to the Appian Way, has a long and intriguing
history. The legend has it this was the spot where Saint Peter, who was fleeing Rome to
escape persecution, had a vision of a risen Christ. According to the apocryphal Acts of
Peter, Peter asked Jesus; “Domine, quo vadis ?” meaning “Lord, where are you going?”. Jesus
answered; “I am going to Rome to be crucified again”. This made Peter turn around, go back
to Rome and face his martyrdom. Evidence suggests a strong presence of the
Apostle Peter in this area, not only because it was here he met Jesus. This was also the
area where he is supposed to have lived. An epigraph found in the catacombs of Saint Sebastian
supports this as it says, “Domus Petri” — meaning “the House of Peter”.
An epigram by Pope Damasus I from the 4th century honors St. Peter and St. Paul and
further strengthens the belief that this was the area where the apostles lived. It reads:
“You that are looking for the names of Peter and Paul, you must know that the saints have
lived here”. There are indications that this site has been
a place for holy worship before this church was built and even prior to the legend of
St. Peter and Jesus. This church in fact located just in front of an ancient sacred Campus,
dedicated to the Roman God Rediculus — not to be confused with the word “ridiculous”.
His name derives from the Latin verb “redire”, meaning “to come back” and he was known as
the God of Return. The fact that the sanctuary of Rediculus was located here, along the Appian
Way, was no coincidence. The road was the most important one of all Roman roads and
was the road travelers going south or east took. Journeys to distant places like Egypt,
Greece or the Far East were often dangerous and not all would return from their voyage.
This site was the last place where you get a good glimpse of Rome behind you, so the
travelers stopped here and prayed to Rediculus that they would return to see Rome once again.
The first Christian building on the site was a small church, built in the 9th century on
the basis of the St. Peter’s legend. The current church was however built in year 1637 and
the current façade was added later in the 17th century.
Very little is known about the original 9th century church – the Church of St Mary in
Palmis. The word “palmis” does however stand for the soles of Jesus’ feet. Inside the church
you can find two footprints on a marble stone which would be a miraculous sign left by Jesus
when he appeared before Peter. The stone you can see inside this church is only a replica,
as the real stone is kept safely in the Relics Chapel at the nearby Basilica of San Sebastiano.
There used to be an inscription on the front façade of the church, telling travelers to
stop walking and instead enter this sacred temple, as it is the place where St. Peter
met Jesus. However, Pope Gregory the 16th found it inappropriate, almost as a kind of
advertisement, in which he ordered it to be removed in 1845. Today’s façade inscription,
right about the main entrance, is more modest. If you look at the inscription, you can see
“D.O.M”, which reads Dominus Optimis Maximus, meaning “Father All Mighty”. Below it you
can read a Latin phrase meaning “It was here Peter asked Jesus; Lord, where are you going?”
Despite the small size of the church, it still holds a very special place in the Christian
hearts. In 1983, Pope John Paul the 2nd further emphasized this when he defined the church
as “a place that has a special importance in the history of Rome and in the history
of the Church”.