Once upon a time Saint Peter was walking along the ancient Appian Way in Rome and who did he meet but a (vision of) Jesus. Domine Quo Vadis?, Saint Peter asked, or in other words, “Where are You going, Lord?” Jesus, always ready for an answer, replied “Eo Romam iterum crucifigi” (“I am going to Rome in order to be crucified again”). Saint Peter thus decided to return to Rome and accept martyrdom.
Domine Quo Vadis? Church Rome
History and description
The Church of Domine Quo Vadis? was built at the exact spot where this meeting is supposed to have occurred, more or less where the Via Ardeatina forks off from the Via Appia Antica, slightly less than a kilometer from the Porta San Sebastiano.
The Domine Quo Vadis? church as it can be seen at present was built in 1637, but already in the 9th century a convent existed in the same location. It is even thought that there was a still earlier temple where travelers could pay homage to a heathen God, supposed to protect those travelers..
The official name of the church is the Santa Maria in Palmis, the Palmis being the soles of Jesus’ feet.
What to see
The two footprints on a marble tile in the middle of the church are copies. The originals can be seen in the nearby Basilica di San Sebastiano. Unlike what is usually assumed, the footsteps did not belong to Jesus but serve as an ex voto to thank for the safe trip.
There is a bronze bust of Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz, who won the Nobel Prize in 1905 thanks to his novel “Quo vadis?” The statue was created in 1977 by the sculptor Boguslaw Langman. A marble bust of the same writer and by the same sculptor can be seen in the Villa Borghese Park.
Until 1845, an inscription above the church’s façade encouraged passing travelers to make an offer, but Pope Gregory XVI had this maxim removed.
Address and public transport
Address: Via Appia Antica 51, 00186 Roma, Italia. Phone: +39 06 5120441 . District: Appio Latino. Public transport: Bus: 118, 218.