St. Peter and the Keys to Heaven

St. Peter, depicted in a statue in the columbarium in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California, holds a pair of keys.  The keys are a symbol used to represent the saint and have their origins in scripture, specifically in the book of St. Matthew, King James Bible Chapter 16: verses 16-19:

16:  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17:  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18:  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19:  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

And it was so, the Lord built His church on St. Peter with St. Peter becoming the very first pope.  In art St. Peter is often shown standing in front of the gates of heaven.  In addition to keys as a symbol for St. Peter, an inverted cross is also used to represent the apostle.  According to the historian Eusebius, St. Peter was crucified upside down because he did not think he was worthy enough to be crucified in the same way as Jesus Christ.  According to tradition, St. Peter bound to a cross upside down, preached the word for two days until he died.

St. Peter was a simple fisherman born in Bethsaida near the Sea of Galilee.  Christ said that St. Peter would be a “fisherman of men.”  St. Peter’s feast day is June 29, shared with the apostle Paul.  St. Peter is the patron saint of fishermen, shipwrights, and stonemasons.

Mosaic from the columbarium in the St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona

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