July 11, 2011

The Vatican announced what it called the "sensational discovery" of an early image of St. Paul on the frescoed wall of a catacomb in Naples.

The fresco, dated to the early sixth century, is one of the most "intense and priestly" images of St. Paul from the period, with an unusually expressive face and the facial features of a philosopher, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi wrote in the Vatican newspaper June 29.

Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the image shows St. Paul turned in acclamation toward a dead woman.

It was found in the catacombs of St. Januarius, the most extensive series of underground burial chambers in southern Italy.

According to tradition, St. Paul preached in Naples during his last missionary voyage.

St. Paul is believed to have been martyred in Rome in 68 AD.