Although a majority have been lost to history, some of the earliest relics of the Church still survive to this day. Of the surviving artifacts, those associated with Jesus Christ Himself have been the most studied and fascinating of them of all.
The most well known of these artifacts include the Shroud of Turin, the True Cross, and the Holy Robe of Jesus Christ. However, one obscure and little-known relic you might not have heard of is purported to have the actual footprints of Jesus.
According to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, Saint Peter was fleeing from his persecutors in Rome around the year 64 A.D. Along the Appian Way outside the city, Jesus appeared to Peter who asked Him “Lord, where you are you going?” To which Christ replied, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” It is said Peter gained his courage to return to Rome, continue his ministry, and accept his crucifixion upside down.
Tradition holds that on this site of Jesus’ appearance to Peter, a church was erected. The Church of Domine Quo Vadis, also known as Church of Saint Mary in Palmis, is named after the question Peter asked Jesus in Latin (“Lord, where you are you going?”). According to tradition, at the center of the church is a marble block containing the impression of Jesus’ feet he left after His appearance to Peter.
The official name of the church alludes to the relic, as palmis refers to the soles of Jesus’ feet. In the past, the church had an inscription above its facade that was later removed by Pope Saint Gregory XVI in 1845 that reads:
“Stop your walking, traveler, and enter this sacred temple in which you will find the footprint of our Lord Jesus Christ when He met with Saint Peter who escaped from the prison. An alms for the wax and the oil is recommended in order to free some spirits from Purgatory.”
Today, the marble slab displaying Christ’s footprints in the Church of Domine Quo Vadis is a replica of the original, which is housed in the nearby Basilica of San Sebastiano Outside the Walls. The church is administered by priests of the Congregation of Saint Michael the Archangel.