Peter the Apostle

The statue

Peter holds two keys in his hand. The portrayal is a direct reference to what Jesus tells him: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church… I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”. Matthew 16:18-19

The story

Peter was originally called Simon, but received the name Kefas by Jesus. The name is Aramaic for rock, which is called petros in Greek – hence the name Peter. Peter’s doubt and denial of Jesus, first on the lake in a storm and then at the capture and interrogation of Jesus receive great attention in the Gospels. Perhaps in him we should be able to recognise ourselves, but also know that despite doubt and cowardice, there is someone uplifting us.

Peter became the leader of the earliest congregation in Jerusalem. He travelled to Rome to build the congregation, but was executed there by Emperor Nero in the year 64, crucified head down. According to legend, he chose this method himself, as he did not deem himself worthy of the same style execution as Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church view Peter as the first bishop in Rome and thus the foundation for the papacy, which has taken over the key power.

The Facts

The sculpture was carved out in marble by Luigi Bienaimé (the elder) from a sketch by Thorvaldsen, commenced in 1821. The statue was first put up in marble in 1838.