Of all the disappeared wonders of the ancient world, the original basilica of St. Peter’s (extant c. 330 to 1505) is one I would most like to have experienced. Few of its features were preserved in the new church building. The accretion of memorials there was undoubtedly magnificent. We’ll never know.

Fragment of Navicella mosaic created for old St. Peter’s basilica

Here’s a report of an event that happened in old St. Peter’s on December 14, 882. It’s from the Annales Fuldenses, a contemporary Frankish history. It seems that order became shaky in Rome just as it had within the Carolingian dynasty.

Pope John (VIII) died. In his place Marinus, who was already bishop of Caere (near modern Cervetri not far from Rome), succeeded, contrary to canon law. A very wealthy man named Gregory, who was also a military commander that the Romans call a superista, was murdered by his colleague in the atrium of St. Peter’s; the floor of the church was drenched with his blood as he was dragged over it.

Annals of Fulda
Fragment of thirteenth-century mosaic once located in old St. Peter’s basilica and now in the Museo Barracco in Rome.

Iohannes pontifex Romanus decessit in cuius locum Marinus antea episcopus contra statuta canonum subrogatus est. Quidam Gregorius nomine quem Romani superistam vocitabant dives valde in paradiso sancti Petri a suo collega occisus est et pavimentum acceslesiae per quam trahebatur totum sanguine illius infectum.

Annales Fuldenses
Mosaic entitled Mater Misercordiae once located in old St. Peter’s basilica.

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