This question has recently come up again as Pope Francis announced in November, 2013, that the relics believed to be the very bones of St. Peter were to be put on public display. Are there any facts to substantiate either Peter’s stay in Rome or his death there?
Surprisingly, there is a great deal of literary evidence to support both notions. Though much of it is late, scholars focus on two key quotations that best make the case. The earliest is by Clement, bishop of Rome, who wrote to the city of Corinth in Greece in 96 A.D. Clement was warning the Corinthian parishioners about the evil that results from internecine jealousy. He lists seven instances of such sinful behavior in the Old Testament and seven from Christian times. Among those latter seven are Peter, “who because of unjust jealousy bore up under hardships not just once or twice, but many times; and having thus borne his witness (martyresas) he went to the place of glory that he deserved,” and Paul, who, because of “jealousy and strife . . . pointed the way to the prize for endurance . . . bearing his witness (martyresas) before the rulers” (1 Clement 5:4-7).