It was the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. That was just a coincidence. Even though I am a skeptic I paid the small admission fee to see the cell where Paul (and supposedly Peter too) was held during his time as a prisoner in Rome.
I am a skeptic. If you want me to believe something it helps if you have some sort of proof. Don’t tell me “George Washington slept here” if you don’t have his signature on the hotel ledger. And if you do, I may still consult a handwriting expert.
So I’m not sure if that really was the place where Paul was held, where several of the New Testament epistles were written. Then again, I have no reason to think it isn’t the place. If tradition places Paul there, who am I to say otherwise?
From a marketing perspective it is usually good to give the people what they want. If Paul’s cell wasn’t available they would have to invent it. For many people Rome is not just a tourist destination but a place of pilgrimage. They’ve marked this as the place for centuries, and it is as good a location as any other I guess.
I don’t need to see a cell to know that Paul was indeed held prisoner In Rome. After all, he wrote about it rather extensively. If he hadn’t been a prisoner we would all be that much poorer in our understanding of the Christian faith. It was because he could not travel freely that he set down in words what might otherwise have just been delivered in a Sunday morning sermon. That would have been beneficial for those who attended church that day, but not much use to us almost 2,000 years later. There were no podcasts back then. I suppose the epistles are the first century equivalent.
So I’ll play along with the idea that this is indeed where Paul wrote Ephesians and Philippians. After all, if it wasn’t in this exact location it must have been somewhere close by. He was there a while – waiting for his date with Caesar.
I only have the one picture though, an altar that definitely does not date from the first century. The upside down cross is a reference to the legend that St. Peter was crucified that way. I’m a little perplexed that I didn’t take more pictures. Though as I remember it, I was fairly fresh off the plane and definitely jet-lagged, so I may not have been thinking too clearly at the time. With my skepticism I may have discounted the possibility that this was a place I should take some time to contemplate. I seem to remember not spending much time in the room.
Next time I’ll stay a little longer.