Turismo cultural y rutas históricas. El Camino de San Pedro de Jerusalén a Roma
Cultural Tourism and Historical Routes. The Way of St Peter from Jerusalem to Rome Turismo cultural y rutas históricas. El Camino de San Pedro de Jerusalén a Roma
Anna Trono 0 1
0 University of Sassari , Italy
1 University of the Salento , Italy
This paper focuses on cultural itineraries as a new category of heritage, a specific product for the promotion of cultural tourism in inland regions and a tool for defending small settlements from depopulation. The study describes the main characteristics of cultural itineraries, considering the factors that influence their creation and the strategies to adopt in order for them to realistically have a future and generate sustainable tourism in the regions through which the routes pass. In order for a cultural itinerary to be successful it is clearly indispensable to highlight the meaning of the ancient road but it is also necessary to identify the importance that it has today and can have in the future. Following the path taken by St Peter the Apostle towards Rome, this paper reconstructs stretches of that ancient itinerary, which has been historically and geographically documented. It proposes to highlight the value of a journey that undoubtedly appeals to those who are full of intellectual enthusiasm but appears to have little relevance for the faithful. Indeed, the latter have always been primarily interested in the journey's final destination, i.e. the great devotional route inside the Eternal City. Conferring importance on the Way of St Peter from Jerusalem to Rome would certainly help promote the inland areas of southern Italy that conserve traces of the saint's presence. However, it would also perhaps succeed in restoring pride and confidence in this important ancient cultural presence to the Mare Nostrum and in recognising the Way's key role in initiating intercultural dialogue and cooperation between Europe and the Mediterranean countries.
Cultural tourism; Routes; Regional development; St; Peter's Route
Este artículo se centra en los itinerarios culturales como una nueva categoría de patrimonio, un producto específico para la promoción
del turismo cultural en las regiones del interior y una herramienta para defenderá a las pequeñas poblaciones de la despoblación. El
estudio describe las principales características de los itinerarios culturales, considera los factores que influyen en su creación y las
estrategias que hay que adoptar para que tengan un futuro realista y generen un turismo sostenible en las regiones por las que pasan
las rutas. Para que un itinerario cultural tenga éxito, es claramente imprescindible resaltar el significado del antiguo camino, pero
también es necesario identificar la importancia que tiene hoy y que puede tener en el futuro. Siguiendo el recorrido de San Pedro
apóstol hacia Roma, este trabajo reconstruye tramos de este antiguo itinerario, documentado histórica y geográficamente. Se propone
resaltar el valor de un viaje que, indudablemente, atrae a aquellos que están llenos de un entusiasmo intelectual, pero parece tener
poca relevancia para los fieles. De hecho, estos últimos siempre han estado principalmente interesados en el destino final del viaje, es
decir, la gran ruta devocional dentro de la Ciudad Eterna. Así, conceder importancia al camino de San Pedro de Jerusalén a Roma sin
duda ayudaría a promover las zonas del interior del sur de Italia que conservan rastros de la presencia del santo. Sin embargo, tal vez
también logre restaurar el orgullo y la confianza en esta importante presencia cultural antigua en el Mare Nostrum y reconocer el papel
clave del Camino en el inicio del diálogo intercultural y en la cooperación entre Europa y los países mediterráneos.
Palabras clave: turismo cultural, rutas, desarrollo regional, Ruta de San Pedro.
1. Introduction | 2. Cultural itineraries as an emotional experience and an opportunity for regional development | 3. The travels of St
Peter | 3.1 The travels of Peter in Christian sources | 3.2. The sites of the Petrine epiphany in southern Italy and the historical-cultural
context | 3.3. Contemporary thematic itineraries | 4. Conclusion | References
Cultural tourism is one of the sector’s most popular categories and is enjoying rapid growth. Within this
category, cultural itineraries that seem to guarantee concrete results and promise responsible and inclusive
tourism development are particularly successful. Seen as complex cultural products, itineraries can confer
value on every single difference of culture and place, transforming them from a series of isolated local
situations to a network of resources. Such itineraries serve to “reunite” and “recontextualise” many aspects
of cultural heritage which, with the passage of time, have lost their original unity and the functions for
which they were created (Baldacci, 2006: 12). The quality of the environment and the landscape, the historic
contextualisation of the itinerary in terms of thematic content and the careful structuring of the individual
routes are fundamental in the creation of the itinerary. In themselves however, these are not enough. The
actual development that cultural tourism can generate depends on the concrete initiatives undertaken by
national, regional and local authorities, as well as private-sector operators in all countries. Such initiatives
require a spirit of cooperation that is regional rather than institutional, raising awareness among
consumers and tourists of the cultural identity that derives from this collective memory (Bustreo, 2014:
The literature on this theme is extensive, and is concerned with the type of cultural itinerary (e.g.
Majdoub, 2010; Berti, 2012; Zabbini, 2012), the geographical contexts of reference (see Beltramo, 2013;
Rizzo et al., 2013; Correia et al., 2017) and the national and international organisations and institutions that
promote them and support them (Khovanova-Rubicondo, 2013; Berti and Mariotti, 2015; Graf and
Popesku, 2016). Particularly striking is the increased number of papers focusing on religious routes and
itineraries, which are no longer limited to an analytical distinction between pilgrimage and religious
tourism (e.g. Hitrec, 1990; Cohen, 1992; 1998; Barber, 1993; Stoddard,1997; Blackwell, 2007; Griffin, 2007;
Damari and Mansfeld, 2014; Trono, 2014; Carbone et al., 2016) but seek to shed light on the current
motives for such journeys (Trono, 2016), routes (Murray and Graham, 1997; Shackley, 2001; Raj and
Morpeth, 2007; Gray and Winton, 2009; Herrero et al., 2009; Collins-Kreiner, 2010). There are also a
considerable number of studies focusing on specific cases (e.g. those in Raj and Morpeth, 2007; Timothy
and Olsen, 2006; Trono, 2009; Brayley, 2010; Lo Presti and Petrillo 2010; Cerrutti and Dioli, 2013; Rizzello
and Trono, 2013; Santos and Cabrera, 2014). The present paper starts with a theoretical overview of the
concepts of cultural and especially faith itineraries, their ancient and current meaning and the strategies
designed to ensure their success and promote the development of sustainable tourism. It then indicates a
number of sites, in the south of Italy through which St Peter the Apostle is said to have passed on his
pastoral journey from the Holy Land to Rome. According to the biblical and proto-Christian tradition, Peter
was considered the Prince of the Apostles and the foundation of the Church from the very birth of the new
religion. Together with St Paul, the figure of Peter the evangelist, martyr and pilgrim is seen in numerous
local traditions that share or claim the memory of his landing on their shores or passage through their
lands, during his long journey from the Holy Land to Rome, which links the most important sites of
Christianity’s origins. The paper summarises the state of the art of ongoing research into the places that are
connected to Peter’s journey along the Italian peninsula towards Rome. On the basis of ancient sources
and local memory, the research has identified and catalogued many cases, most of which are situated in
Puglia (a region that has always functioned as a bridge between Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean), and
others in the remaining regions of southern Italy.
The final result of the work is the indication of a route that recalls the historical and geographical
dimensions of this singular story of the Mediterranean, highlighting its assets and attractions in terms of
heritage and spirituality. This objective is part of attempts to plan the future of the Mediterranean in
accordance with new principles and socio-political dynamics, imagining new possibilities for dialogue and
cultural exchange, which have been neglected for so long. It also seeks to identify “positive signs and
perspectives in both, past memories and future plans”, which grant the Mare Nostrum a “continuation of
history” and “an alternative renewal” (Signore, 2007: 20).
1.Cultural itineraries and the weight of history
The cultural itinerary falls within the logic of homo viator, the human being as a traveller over time,
prompted to welcome the future, marvelling at the spectacle of the world, sharing knowledge and
emotions, travelling in search of a dimension that transcends daily life.
The movement of individuals (or groups) from their habitual locations towards places considered
‘holy’ is part of the history of humanity. Even before they acquired a physiognomy of their own, routes of a
devotional nature were already familiar to nomadic communities: their wanderings in search of
psychological and physical stability contained a form of ritualisation of the journey, and the manifestations
of this spirituality were identified with natural elements. As human beings adopted a more settled
existence, they felt the need to aspire to transcendence and to set off once more. It was in the ancient
world however that ‘pilgrimage’, as a devotional practice consisting of travelling to a place universally
recognised to be sacred for votive or penitential purposes, was born (Figure 1)1.
Pilgrimage as a form of penitence and purification performed at sanctuaries and oracles began to spread
properly in the fourth century AD. Throughout the Middle Ages it represented a fundamental, if not
essential experience for believers. Large numbers of people travelled to pray, ask for grace or obtain an
indulgence, knowing that they would have to face exhaustion and danger to reach the holy places. In those
years, Europe became a crossroads of routes used by merchants, soldiers, travellers and pilgrims heading
towards the holy places of Christianity. Indeed, «Every good Christian in the Middle Ages aspired to
1 The term ‘pilgrim’, from the Latin word peregrinus, has its root in per eger, indicating a crossing of frontiers, or per
ager, which means “through the fields”. For the Romans, the peregrinus was simply a foreigner or a traveller (Lavarini,
1997:29). Because of their vulnerability, they required legal protection, hospitality and food during their journey. The
practice had an economic and social impact: along the routes they followed, new roads and hostels were built, the
facilities for travellers in monasteries were expanded, and markets sprang up.
undertake a pilgrimage, at some time in their lives, to at least one of the tresperegrinationesmaiores:
Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela» (Arlotta, 2014).
With the fall of Byzantium (1453) and Otranto (1480) to Ottoman armies, the eastern Mediterranean
became dramatically unsafe, cutting off or at least disrupting links with the Holy Land. This situation
prompted Christians to draw up a new model of religious practice that dispensed with the long journey but
still ensured the spiritual adherence to the cult of the saints and the origins of Christ. This led to the
creation of an eminently European network of sanctuaries (Barbero, 2001), including numerous
micropilgrimages on a local level, consecrated by popular devotion and preferred by the lower social classes who
could not afford to go on long pilgrimages and visit the great sanctuaries of tradition.
Many of those routes remain popular today among those who wish to attempt a spiritual quest by
means of a journey. They follow a pre-set itinerary, by now consolidated, and entail visits to both the
religious monuments and the surrounding natural environment, generating an inseparable cultural unity
with the landscapes of the sites. Some are famous and internationally recognised (see the Camino de
Santiago de Compostela, the Via Francigena, the Way of St Olav), while many others are simply practised
by pilgrims and tourists as part of local traditions and devotional pilgrimages. In terms of sanctuaries, a
distinction can be made between the numerous small shrines of a local character, whose appeal is linked to
the buildings themselves and the aura that surrounds them (their importance derives from their function as
a point of reference for local worshippers and celebrations), and those that are interesting as a result of
the landscape in which they are located. These sites are often obscure and may even be unknown to the
local inhabitants. In many cases, such items have a high artistic and architectural value and an almost
“palpable” potential as engines of economic and social development when “discovered” (Arslan, 2013;
Rizzo et al., 2013).
While for the medieval pilgrim the road represented the most bitter and tiring aspect of pilgrimage
(Lavarini, 1997: 361), today it has taken on a social and cultural value, providing an opportunity to meet
other people and experience new things, to marvel at the landscapes, to conduct research or undertake a
path of personal growth mediated by inner experience. The roads over which millions of pilgrims have
walked in the course of the centuries are still the arteries of a faith that lives on, in accordance with
distinct beliefs and forms of worship, in the hearts of a large part of the world’s population. In many cases,
those once dangerous paths have become consolidated itineraries with much that appeals to tourists who
see the journey as an emotional, educational, social and participatory experience.
2. Cultural itineraries as an emotional experience and an opportunity for regional development
The structural changes affecting the economy and the contemporary cultural industry have given rise to
the so-called experience economy (Pine and Gilmore, 2011), based on the production and sale of
memorable events that have become the subject of interest for rapidly evolving cultural tourism. Cultural
tourists now aspire to more dynamic and participatory ways of discovering a region, the perception of
which is filtered by their sensitivity, culture and motivation.
Tourists are now more aware, involved and attentive to quality. They desire to discover the regions
that they visit and learn about their history and the components of their identity: landscapes, villages,
churches, traditions, crafts and gastronomy. Increasing numbers of people set off in search of something
more than a simple holiday: they want to have an experience, meet others, discover new places and
understand more about what they see; they want to establish a new, more authentic and direct relationship
with the local culture. Obviously, such experiences are absolutely personnal. They exist in the mind of an
individual who is involved on the emotional, physical, intellectual and even spiritual level. They are unique
and unrepeatable, deriving from the interaction between the event experienced and the traveller’s mind,
culture and motivation. Indeed, the traveller has become the protagonist of a new vision of the holiday,
characterised by a less frenetic rhythm of life and the ability to maintain the cultural and environmental
integrity of the regions being visited while meeting the economic and social needs of the host community.
It is therefore important to interact with the visitor, whose internal dynamics (level of education, mental
structures, sensitivities and perceptions) represent a fundamental element. The visitor is mentally and
spiritually involved in the journey or the daily life of the host community (Richards and Wilson, 2006;
Richards, 2011). It represents a new approach to travelling, aimed at qualitatively improving the current
way of visiting a location. It involves understanding and appreciating local heritage, in particular , that of
the “slow regions”, where the “slowness becomes a distinctive factor of development” (Rizzi, 2011: XI).
Here, the landscape is of high quality, with small villages, an agricultural economy, and cultural and
environmental assets. In such locations, it is possible to explore the historical sedimentation that is
manifested in the strong signs of human endeavour. These are the so-called “minor regions”, isolated from
the centre, affected by depopulation but not backward or depressed. On the contrary they enjoy a high
quality of life and offer a compatible form of tourism that is accessible to all: a “gentle” tourism that lends
itself to slow forms of transport such as the bicycle, train, bus and walking; a tourism that offers
ecotourism routes with no barriers of an economic, structural, social or cultural character, that is able to
combine the promotion of traditional local products with the rediscovery of cultural and environmental
heritage and the enjoyment of food-and-wine resources, which represent an essential component of a
region’s attractiveness and competitiveness.
The cultural route follows ancient roads used by millions of travellers over the centuries, recovering
the cultural dimension of travel and the subtle link between nature and the spirit of those that experience
it. It showcases a category of heritage that generates “lasting social and economic development”2,
particularly in those areas currently characterised by depopulation and marginalisation. Indeed, such
itineraries have considerable implications for planning in terms of the tourism sector and other economic
activities: it entails the systematic organisation of all the economic resources present in the area of
reference, it has synergistic effects resulting from the close complementarity between the cultural and
tourism services offered to users and their associated economic activities, and it prompts the creation of
networks among rural communities in order to enhance their visibility and encourage their use for tourism.
Creating a cultural itinerary means investing in resources and the quality of the region but it also
assumes the presence of a plan, as widely shared as possible, regarding the ways and means employed to
make it accessible, counting on the broad-based involvement of all the actors in the regional context
(Lajarge and Roux, 2007; Berti 2012; 2013). Institutional consensus is “a good starting point” for the success
of the itineraries, since it provides cohesion and stability in the eyes of the local population (Croci, 2007:
57). The involvement of the institutions (from the local to the international scale) confers visibility and
safety on the routes, even when this is not accompanied by financial support. The participation of the
inhabitants and stakeholders of the regions and sites that lie along the route is essential. These include
public bodies, institutions and other subjects (e.g. research and documentation centres) that can facilitate
the process of identification, documentation, planning, implementation and subsequent promotion of the
itinerary. Their involvement helps the process of protection of heritage and is part of the sustainable
development of the region, one of the actions recommended by the Council of Europe (Berti and Mariotti,
2015). The latter also calls for the development of quality tourism with a European dimension, seeking
agreements with public and private bodies active in the tourism sector that can develop tourism products
and be of benefit to potential stakeholders (CM / Res (2013) 67).3
All these elements are clearly important to the itinerary, but they are not sufficient to prevent it
from “sinking into oblivion” over time. Despite being well conceived and planned (and politically
supported), even if they get it right on a practical and organisational level (services, hotel and catering,
prices), itineraries need more, in order to take off. It is necessary to give them a meaning, to establish a
two-way correspondence between route and destination. As Ricciardi points out: “the road must have the
flavour of the destination. It is a kind of “already, not yet”, that includes within itself all the charm that the
road can exert on those who are travelling on it […]. While on the path, people seek a meaning and this can
be found if there is a destination that can be “counted off” [like the pearls of a necklace], step by step,
along the road itself […]. It is not just about discovering, but also feeling and reliving the route”, hopefully
then being able to describe it with clarity and imagination (Ricciardi, 2011: 117).
The authenticity of the places needs to be respected by means of targeted strategies that enable a
genuine experience that has nothing to do with stereotyped and distorted representations or hackneyed
simulations of traditional customs and the historic inheritance. Since they are often the expression of
fragile situations, and therefore easily ruined, the route needs to be managed not only via strategies that
minimise the uncertainty of action, but also with a healthy dose of responsibility that must first and
foremost seek to guarantee the protection, safeguard and sustainability of the region.
The Council of Europe also makes reference to these principles. Its Cultural Itineraries programme,
inaugurated in 1987, sees these principles as a useful tool for dialogue, intercultural cooperation and
consolidation of European identity, but also for enhancing respect and appropriate use (including for
tourism) of European cultural heritage (Council of Europe 2010/1)4.
These considerations are echoed in the resolution of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and
Tourism, which declared 2016 to be a “National Year of Paths”5, concurrent with the Catholic Church’s
Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, giving new life to places of devotion that have long been pilgrimage
destinations. It brought into a single network the almost seven thousand kilometres of paths running from
the north to south of the country, subdivided into circuits and itineraries of varying difficulty and length,
combining history and art, sacred and profane. The Ministry then launched a programme to promote the
itineraries (suitable for walking but also other forms of sustainable transport, on the national and regional
level), considering them to be an important component of Italy’s cultural and tourism sector, a way of
defending villages from depopulation and a tool for interregional coordination. Last but not least, they
provide an opportunity for meaningful cooperation between operators in the sector on various institutional
levels, both secular and religious6.
These are not the only public sector initiatives aimed at the creation of cultural routes. There is not a
single region whose rural and local tourism development plans do not include at least one route7. Publicity
campaigns now seek to promote artistic and environmental heritage that is little-known but deserving of
protection and promotion for tourism purposes (Suarez-Inclan, 2005). Such campaigns are designed by
tourism marketing experts and public and private operators in the field of interregional, transnational and
cross-border cooperation (the various Interregs), and are also seen as an opportunity to promote
intercultural dialogue and tourism.
One of the essential principles to ensure that a cultural itinerary is recognised at the institutional level is the
historical authenticity of the events that it narrates, as well as the authenticity of the heritage that it seeks
to promote. In addition to itineraries promoted at the institutional level, in Italy there are dozens of
planned or existing paths of extensive geographical range (i.e. the Via Francigena, Via Romea, Way of St
Martin, etc.). They retrace ancient roads and infrastructure, passing through places of great artistic, cultural
and natural interest.
4 On the objectives and characteristics of the Council of Europe’s Cultural Itineraries, see, among others, Nagy, 2012; 49
5 Directive of the Minister of Cultural Activities and Heritage and Tourism
“2016-Anno dei Cammini d’Italia”- MiBact–UDCM REP. Decreti 12/12/ 2016 N°567.
6 Directive of the Minister of Cultural Activities and Heritage and Tourism
“2016-Anno dei Cammini d’Italia”- MiBact–UDCM REP. Decreti 12/12/ 2016 N°567.
7 As part of the Plan for Culture and Tourism proposed by the Minister of Cultural Activities and Heritage and Tourism,
approved in May 2016 by the Inter-ministerial Committee for Economic Planning, one billion euros from the
Development and Cohesion Fund 2014 – 2020 were allocated for the execution of 33 measures to safeguard and
promote cultural heritage and enhance cultural tourism. 20 million Euros were allocated to the Via Francigena, 20 to the
Via Appia Regina Viarum and a further 20 to the Franciscan, Benedictine and Santa Scolastica paths
An ideal route of great historical, religious and cultural value, relatively little-known and studied, is
based on St Peter's travels across the south of Italy on his journey from the Holy Land to Rome. Its
potential in cultural terms lies in the relationship it establishes among several sites devoted to the memory
of the Apostle in southern Mediterranean regions.
3.1 The travels of Peter in Christian sources
The methodology used to determine the route is based on:
In order to investigate the identity and symbolic components of the geographical area in question, it is
important to consider them as the "primary subject" of that area's image (Cosgrove, 1984; Mazzoleni,
2005). Indeed, the geographical framework is of fundamental importance and should be extended to
embrace all cases which come within the present research, in a perspective of cultural interaction and
dialogue among seemingly distinct contexts.
At present, the field research covers southern Italy, with a focus on the Puglia region and some
coastal areas of other regions. Due to the scarcity of written sources that characterises many sites in this
geographical area, in-depth local reconnaissance is required, including the study of the rich iconographic
repertoire that has survived decay, neglect and deliberate destruction by people unaware of its historical
and artistic value.
The Petrine tradition is characterised by a succession of known sources that are often contradictory.
For this reason, they need to be analysed together with other data (material, landscape, iconographic and
iconological, as well as ritual and liturgical), in order to decode and correlate the different signs in a broad
cultural context (Lefebvre, 1974; Turri,1998; Zappella, 2014).
The Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles are the official Christian sources available for
reconstructing the life of Peter from the resurrection of Jesus to his martyrdom in Rome. Unfortunately,
they contain little information about the places where the Saint pursued his evangelising mission (Donati,
2000; Palazzo, 2011). Research has mainly focused on the exegetical and doctrinal level of the "Petrine
ministry", the apostolic succession8 and ecumenical aspects, seeking the foundations of Inter-Christian
theological dialogue. If we shift the perspective of the research from the canonical religious to the
historical-cultural, we can then make use of other sources, important among which are certain apocryphal
writings that provide coeval (or nearly coeval) testimony.
The various Petrine writings are collected in the Acta Petri of the Corpus Christianorum. They have
been handed down to us in many different ancient languages (Geerard, 1992). Among them, we focused
on the so called Pseudo-Clementine writings. They were written in Greek between 222 AD and the end of
the 3rd century. They are believed to have been produced in Syria or Coele-Syria, within the
JewishChristian community. The original text (called G) is lost but some parts have survived in two different
redactions: The Homilies (H) and The Recognitions (R), both dating to the 4th century.
8 The pericopes of Mark 8, 27-30, Matthew 16, 13-20 and Luke 9, 18-21 and 22, 31-32 have been variously compared
with the magisterium of the Church, tradition, and historical and archaeological evidence.
The Recognitions, originally in Greek, have come down to the present day only in the Latin version of
Rufinus of Aquileia (5th century) and in other fragments. The oldest evidence of the existence of the original
text (G) can be found in the Panarion (XXX, 15, 1-3), a treatise on heresies written by Epiphanius of Salamis
in the second half of the 4th century. Epiphanius cites the manuscript as the "Travels of Peter written by
Clement," held by the Ebionites (Cirillo, 1997; Stanley Jones, 1995).
The story is presented in the autobiographical form of letters written by Clement of Rome to James,
the brother of Jesus and head of the early Christian congregation in Jerusalem. The letters take the form of
a travelogue and contain discourses, dialogues, and debates. The first letter explains how Clement followed
a Jew named Barnabas to Judea, where he befriended the Apostle Peter, becoming his disciple. He records
how the twelve disciples engaged in public debates on the temple steps until James suffered a violent
attack. Then he describes Peter's debate with a Samaritan sorcerer, Simon Magus of Gitta, who claimed to
be the resurrected Jesus. Once defeated in the debate, Simon fled towards Rome with the aim of
promulgating a false religion. In the following letters we find Peter and Clement chasing Simon along the
Syrian coast until they reach Antioch (Gebhardt, 2014). The places described in the Pseudo Clementine
writings are mainly around Jerusalem and along an ideal line linking the coastal Palestinian-Syrian cities to
the city of Antioch, the great capital and cultural hub of the eastern Mediterranean (Figure 2).
Another important source is the Actus Vercellenses, written in Spain in the 7th century. Like the
previous writings, according to recent research, the Actus Vercellenses are linked to a literary-historical
phenomenon of great importance: the simultaneous dissemination and circulation of various Petrine
narratives during the 4th century, probably originating in the previous century (Filippini, 2008).
The sources prove that after Jesus' resurrection, apostolic preaching was not always linear. Many of
the precepts of the new religion were in fact defined after debates - sometimes violent - among the
apostles themselves, or with the Jews, the temporal authorities and impostors. In this framework, a key role
was played by Peter (Cephas), James ("brother of the Lord" or “the Just”), John, Matthew, Barnabas and
Paul (Saul of Tarsus, "The man who formerly persecuted us") (Gal. 1, 19; 1, 23; 2, 9).
Preceding James as the leader of the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem, and following Paul in
the work of propaganda among the gentiles, Peter himself can be considered the epitome of early
Christianity in a wider sense.
For the purposes of this study, it is important to focus on the itinerant dimension of the
evangelising Apostle (periodoi Petrou), supported by the Pseudo-Clementine writings, a theme that
anticipates the narrative of the Petrine route towards the Italian peninsula. The story of Simon the Sorcerer
is also reported in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts, 8). It shows that since its beginning, Christian evangelism
has projected itself outwards from the Holy Land towards the key centres of power, with a special focus on
the capital of the Roman Empire. In the coeval sources as well as in the posthumous tradition, the journey
to the centre of power is intertwined with preaching in all major settlements where Christian communities
were springing up, with the intention of bringing the canon, the apostolic version of the liturgy and the
Following this estatement we can better understand the non-linearity of the path and the role that
certain sites associated with the Petrine Epiphany have played in the organisation of cultural and economic
developments in Italy since late Roman times. Since the last century, historians have studied those Italian
sites that keep relics, memories or legends of St Peter's journey, with the aim of outlining a possible route
taken by the Apostle in the direction of Rome. The results of this research are not however geographically
consistent. Due to the lack of reliable sources that might distinguish between local traditions, the paths
between settlements can be distant and often disconnected from each other.
Medieval and modern local literature has tended to be somewhat biased in its interpretation of
Christian sources (especially the Epistles and Acts of the Apostles), with the aim of asserting the primacy of
some places over others. The result is the spread of local Petrine routes in various Italian regions such as
Sicily, Campania, Puglia and even Tuscany (De Algeritiis, 1555; Tomea, 2012; BHL 6679; BHL 6679b). The
routes vary from coastal ones, by boat or on foot, to inland ones (Baronio, 1588: 297-298) (Acta Sanctorum:
XXIX junii, Acta S. Petri).
Since that time, other places and memories have been listed, extending the network of sites and
complicating the task of arriving at a general, linear path. All the sources relate that St Peter came to Rome
and spent several years of his life there (Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Romanos, 4, 3). According to the official
Catholic version, after his martyrdom, the Apostle was buried on the Vatican Hill and his remains rest in the
crypt beneath the monumental basilica that was consecrated to him by the emperor Constantine. The
basilica that stands on the site today is the largest church in Christendom (Guarducci 1989).
In conclusion, while contemporary archaeology and coeval writings leave no doubt about the
presence of St Peter in Italy, and Rome in particular (Carandini 2013), his journey along the peninsula
remains to be determined. The research being conducted to this end points to the creation of cultural
3.2. The sites of the Petrine epiphany in southern Italy and the historical-cultural context
The south of Italy has for many centuries been a bridge between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean
and a land of conquest. Since the fall of the Roman Empire it has experienced successive changes in
territorial control. Each context preserves a cultural stratigraphy that is partially legible in the surviving
signs and sources. The myth of St Peter's journey (accompanied by Mark, Paul or other disciples) is one of
the possible thematic readings of this stratigraphy.
In local literature, the story of the first evangelisers who arrived on the Italian coast and moved
across Europe is tinged with the classic mythology of the journey (in Latin: per agere) and its stages, which
is rooted in the famous Homeric and Virgilian poems. This myth influenced an important part of the
pilgrimage phenomenon in medieval culture (Ohler, 1986). It became a predominant component in the
aftermath of the crusades, in conjunction with the development of the mercantile economy of the late
Middle Ages, prevailing, in some cases, over religious and penitential components (Cardini, 1996).
Leaving aside the issue of the historical reliability of local memories of the evangelisation of Italian
Christian communities by the Prince of the Apostles, as raised by scholars (D’Angela, 1976; Lanzoni, 1927:
25-27)9, a preliminary survey highlights the presence of Petrine sites along the main historical Roman
roads and near seaports (Uggeri, 1983). In some cases, there is an indirect link between St Peter and the
places. The evangelisation was performed by one of his disciples, such as Andrew, Marcianus or Pancras. In
other cases, Mark, Peter’s interpreter, who transcribed his words into the Gospel (Concina, 2009; Tomea,
2012)10, was the executor of his will. Indeed, there is much evidence for the bond between the Apostle and
the Evangelist in the Christian canonical tradition. It has been represented since the earliest known frescoes
dating back to the 4th century (Tavano 2009).
In the literature, legends are often embodied in the local context, acting as the founding myths of
proto-sanctuaries. Many of those sites arose as caves or underground churches, taking advantage of
existing Roman pagan or earlier structures. Later, they were converted into public places of worship, under
the management of the clergy.
In the tourism sector, some operators have proposed a "Petrine way", running from Otranto to
Rome along the route of the Via Sallentina-Traiana on which the Southern Via Francigena has also recently
been based. Taking this path to be the only valid one would exclude many other sites in the peninsula,
whose memories are no less considerable than those of the Adriatic sites.
Starting from the available medieval sources, it is possible to identify a number of locations, where the
landing of the Apostle could have taken place. Many of these are in Puglia, along the coast and near the
main Roman roads, such as the Via Augusta Sallentina, Via TraianaCalabra, Via Appia and Via Traiana.
9 Many scholars consider only the path of St Paul's journey to Rome to be reliable, passing through Syracuse, Reggio
and Pozzuoli. In those cities, Christian communities had existed since 61 AD (Otranto, 1991: 3-5).
10 All over the country and Europe, many dioceses claim an apostolic mandate, handed down in the Passio of their
patron saints and proto-bishops. Such traditions also played a symbolic role in consolidating the authority of the Roman
Church over Christianity (Lanzoni, 1927: 78-83).
Other important memories can also be found in the seaports of other regions. Figure 3 shows the currently
documented sites on a map, together with the infrastructural and settlement organisation of the early
Roman Empire. The map highlights the attractive power of some of the cities where the evangelisation of
Italy began and the first Christian dioceses were created.
The diachronic distribution of sites allows us to integrate the cultural route with the Roman road
network and settlement hierarchy. The settlements of Sipontum, Ruvo, Egnatia, Leuca, Manduria and
Tarentum (Taranto) stand out in this scenario, sharing similar traditions regarding the passage of St Peter.
The Apostle preached in sites used as pagan places of worship or burial that later became churches or
shrines. In Taranto and Manduria (D’Angela, 1975), we find classical rock-cut chamber tombs adapted for
use as chapels. In Leuca (Morciano, 2012) and Taranto (Farella, 1979), the ruins of older pagan temples
became the symbol of the power of Christianity over the ancient beliefs.
It is also important to notice the characteristics of the figures that accompany St Peter as described
in the various local traditions. Among these are disciples travelling with the Apostle who chose to remain in
certain places, becoming their first spiritual guides. In other cases, we find natives so fascinated by the
Saint’s preaching that he elevated them to the rank of pastor.
In some towns, the preaching of the apostles or their disciples found fertile ground in which to
spread the new Christian message, especially within the Jewish community that flourished in Southern Italy.
The Jewish-Christian dimension, which appears to be a crucial aspect of the Pseudo-Clementine chronicles,
could help understand the special bond between the figure of Peter and some communities, where there
was a strong Jewish or Levantine cultural presence11.
In late antiquity and the Byzantine era, the cult of St Peter was revitalised by dedicating new
churches and monasteries to him or by disseminating his representation in the sacred iconography
In this era, the Roman road system was largely still functional. The economic collapse following the
continuous wars fought between the imperial troops and the northern invaders caused the disappearance
of several ancient cities and the development of new settlement networks. Several Petrine sites developed
in this cultural climate. Some particularly well-preserved early medieval churches, mainly in the inland areas
of the Salento peninsula, are dedicated to Peter's journey. These include the ruined church of St Peter near
San Giuliano di Lecce, showing the Byzantine construction techniques and the widespread use of spolia,
materials extracted from other buildings or ruins (Belli D'Elia, 1975: 220; Bouras, 2002); San Pietro a
Crepacore (Lavermicocca, 2012: 104-106)12; and Seppannibale (Bertelli, 1994).
Other sites are probably related to territorial organisation in the Byzantine epoch, such as Galatina,
where the link with the Apostle is evident in the ancient name of Casale Sancti Petri in Galatina, and the
inhabitants worship a stone touched by St Peter and a precious reliquary bust; San Pietro in Lama (Cazzato
et al., 1998) and San PietroVernotico (Pennetta, 1997), which trace their foundation to the Apostle and have
wells blessed by him; Otranto (Safran, 1992); Monacizzo, where devotion to the saint appears to reflect that
of neighbouring towns (Tarentini, 2006); and Taranto (D’Angela, 1992). The tradition linked to the complex
of St Peter in Monte Sant’Angelo certainly belongs to early medieval times. It is arguably the product of a
religious syncretism between the image of the Apostle as an evangelist and proto-pilgrim and is linked to
the birth of the first great European non-imperial sanctuary: St. Michael the Archangel in the Gargano (Belli
D'Elia, 1999). Under Norman and Angevin rule the cult of St Peter was encouraged by the ruling families,
who were vassals of the Pope, and by the aristocracy.
After the 11th century, the main Benedictine and mendicant orders acquired many shrines and
Greek-rite monasteries from the Crown and aristocracy. Their task was to support the Latinisation of the
region and to strengthen the royal authority. The Catholic monarchs also sought to control the ethnic and
11 In his long journey from Europe to the Middle East during the 12th century, the Jewish traveller Benjamin of Tudela,
moving in the opposite direction to the Apostle, covered parts of the Petrine Way that emerges from this research and
from the sources (Signer et al., 1983; Minervini, 1989).
12 The church lies near the Via Appia, on a road documented in the 12th century (Marchi, 2000: 93) between Oria and
Lecce that ran along the so called LimitonedeiGreci. This route is largely included in the Puglia Aqueduct Green Way
(http://mobilita.regione.puglia.it/; LeggeRegionale n. 1/2013) (Figure 4).
religious minorities variously distributed throughout the territory, such as Jews, Muslims, Greeks, etc.
(Minervini, 1989: 47; Martin, 1993).
In this cultural phase, the renewed Petrine iconography referred to the papacy as a symbol of the
direct lineage of the Pope’s religious authority from the first of the apostles. Such propaganda became
crucial to the Latinisation of the southern Italian regions, in contrast to the Orthodox-Byzantine culture that
had prevailed in Norman times (Vetere, 1990). In addition, it proved to be crucial when the French Angevin
dynasty was called on by the pope to restore its rights over the southern regions, against the secular
expansion of the Emperor, the excommunicated Frederick II of Swabia (Tramontana, 2000).
The Crusades and the growing power of the Military Orders further modified this geopolitical
framework. The Military Orders sited their commandries at ports and near the main cites and road
junctions of the peninsula. In their view, the myth of the Petrine journey represented a link between the
western cities and the Holy Land, emphasising the unity of the Christian world. In addition, the invitation to
pilgrimage and the connection to the places of the Passion of Jesus were also an excellent means to raise
recruits and obtain supplies for overseas conquests. A modern inscription that stands on the front façade
of the church of San Pietro de' Samari near Gallipoli tells the story of the medieval church. It was rebuilt, a
fundamentis, by Hugues de Lusignan in 1148, on his return from the Crusade (Moscardino 1969; Natali
2007). However, regardless of the validity of the inscription, the architectural style of the medieval part of
the building reflects the model of the so called "axial domed churches". The model was used for many
centuries in Puglia, which counts several medieval churches dedicated to St Peter. Furthermore, the
constructive and stylistic references of the church, with Eastern and Nordic echoes, enabled the building to
fully represent the region’s role as a cultural and geographical bridge from the eleventh to the thirteenth
centuries (De Cadilhac, 2008).
During the Angevin period, the first great Jubilee of 1300 was an exceptional event that attracted
pilgrims from all countries ad limina apostolorum in order to gain a plenary indulgence. It provided a valid
argument for the recovery of the tradition of the Apostle’s journey along the routes followed by pilgrims to
Rome. In the Middle Ages the Petrine tradition developed especially in those cities going through a phase
of strong political and economic expansion. These include major Adriatic ports such as Bari, Brindisi and
Trani, which developed prosperous trading relationships and promulgated civic statutes characterised by
strong local autonomy.
Considering their importance since Roman times and their direct connection to the centre of power
by means of the Via Traiana, for some of these cities the Middle Ages can be seen as simply the later
development of a more ancient tradition. According to some local writers, the remarkable crypt of Santa
Geffa in Trani, a rock-cut church of uncertain date and unclear dedication, may derive its name from
Cephas, the name of Peter in the writings of Paul (Fonseca, 1976)13.
In Brindisi and Bari, there are no sites referring explicitly to Peter's journey, although there is a
modern historiographical tradition in this sense. In other towns along the Via Traiana we find important
shrines and churches dedicated to the Apostle. Passing through some remarkable sites linked to the myth,
the route through Andria, Ruvo di Puglia and Balsignano (Castagnolo, 2006) may well represent the
strength of the Petrine tradition along this Roman road in the late Middle Ages and modern times. At the
present state of the research, some sites outside Puglia require more detailed study. Notable among these
are Syracuse and Taormina in Sicily and Naples in Campania (Ciavolino, 1990).
Also worthy of attention in this regard is the situation in northern Italy, where the apostolic
foundation of the maritime hegemony of Pisa was also based on the myth of Peter's landing. The church of
San Piero a Grado and the port of Livorno keep the memory of this event (Testi Cristiani, 2011), and other
dioceses and sacred sites also originate from the apostolic mandate. The survey is still in progress, with the
aim of reconstructing the network of the Petrine tradition in all Italian regions.
13 Kepha, Aramaic name, corresponding to the Greek petra (rock), from which comes "Petros" (Matthew 16, 18; Galatians
2:7-14, 1 Corinthians1:11-13, 3:21, 9:5 and 15:5).
3.3. Contemporary thematic itineraries
The spread of legends and Petrine dedications throughout Italy never gave rise to a movement of pilgrims
beyond the local boundaries. On the contrary, the sources report localised worship, favoured by Swabian
and Angevin authorities, who granted concessions for conducting periodic fairs. In modern times, they
evolved into religious processions and demonstrations of popular piety that celebrated the towns’
Architectural analysis of the buildings dedicated to the Saint confirms this evidence. Far from
identifying any typological or stylistic relationship among the recorded episodes on a larger regional scale,
it merely highlights a few similarities in the founding acts and the sites described by the local stories.
Historical sources and sites typically mention the presence of a crypt, a rock-cut church or a ravine where
the Apostle performed miracles, celebrated masses and converted people to Christianity
These places had originally been used for religious (pagan), funerary and civil purposes (chamber
tombs, canals, reservoirs, springs, warehouses). After their consecration, they were embellished with
liturgical furnishings and decorations. In all cases, the decorations and frescoes came very much later than
the moment of the supposed Petrine consecration.
The recurrence of water sources and underground sites in some regions, as well as some aspects of
modern devotional practice, link the cult of St. Peter to agricultural fertility rites. The Saint embodies
figures that are probably of pre-Christian origin or were otherwise created within cultures that had to
adapt to climatic conditions characterised by prolonged drought. This could be the case of processions
and pilgrimages held in San Pietro in Bevagna and Gallipoli.
Other aspects were based on the exploitation of the sea (maritime commerce, transport, fisheries,
etc.). Examples of this tradition include Leuca, Taranto and Adriatic coastal cities (Trani, Bisceglie, etc.),
where the saint is invoked to protect sailors.
On the regional level, although almost all of the sites are located near ports, rivers and major
highways, we rarely find them in the centre of ancient cities. Similarly to what happened in Rome, it is
assumed that the proto-Christian communities located their places of worship outside the urban perimeter,
where they would be easily accessible from outlying villages and other cities.
In light of the above, we have established two distinct routes, which are designed to integrate and
overlap with each other according to the interests of the user. The routes focus on the sites associated with
the Petrine tradition.
The final purpose is to establish the regional narratives that put the traveller in contact with the
various aspects of the myth from different thematic viewpoints. The proposals overlap – and do not conflict
– with the current and past formulations of the "Via Petrina" promoted by organisations linked to religious
tourism and pilgrimage, tourism companies and local chambers of commerce. Both routes mainly lie within
the territory of Puglia, where almost all of the sites surveyed to date are concentrated. However, they are
designed to connect to extra-regional sites through the dense network of cultural and religious itineraries
that are already widely promoted, or being developed, throughout Italy (see the Cammini del Sud, Vie
Francigene, Via Appia, etc.). Figure 4 shows the correlation between the suggested itineraries and the “soft
mobility” network in the Puglia Region.
The first itinerary is closely related to the system of internal and local routes that have somehow
preserved the path of the Roman road network or the medieval diverticula linked to it. The route is
designed to encourage the promotion of those local contexts that still bear witness to Petrine traditions
and their more authentic and less globalised historical-religious values. The user is involved in a "slow"
approach that is similar to the experience of a contemporary cultural pilgrimage.
The route starts from the outskirts of Taranto and heads towards the site of San Pietro di Mutata,
crossing a stretch of the Appian Way that flanks the internal lagoon (Mar Piccolo). From there it leads to
the eastern coast of the Gulf of Taranto following the transhumance sheep tracks on the plateau which
runs parallel to the shoreline (the Ionian-Salentine arch). Taking the ancient Via Sallentina, the route
descends to Cape Santa Maria di Leuca (Column and Cross of St Peter) and then continues along the
western side of the peninsula to the north of Puglia. After Andria, the route leaves the Via Traiana and
follows the coastal path from Trani to Siponto. From the Gargano, it takes the Via Sacra Langobardorum,
heading back in the direction of Benevento, from where it is possible to reach Naples (church of San Pietro
ad Aram, urban catacombs) or continue along the Via Appia to Rome.
Source: PPTR Regione Puglia – Oliva
This route can become a closed circuit by following the final stretch of the Via Appia from
Benevento to Taranto. Circularity gives the path the flavour of apostolic itinerancy. With its historical and
cultural values associated with the Petrine tradition, each site is able to impart the sense of travel for the
purpose of preaching and conversion, moving from the Holy Land to Rome, the cornerstones of Early
The second itinerary is historically linked to the maritime dimension of the Petrine journey. It is
designed to evoke the point of view of the Apostle when he reached the Italian coast. This view allows
visitors to relive one of defining moments in the history of Christianity, especially Catholicism: the landing
of Peter and the spread of his revolutionary religious message in the heart of temporal power and ancient
The itinerary consists mainly of small-scale coastal trips between ports related to the myth by
means of signs, relics, cultural and religious traditions. It can also be travelled by land, following the
existing coastal roads or the traces of Roman ones. This sea route includes Siponto, Trani, Bisceglie, Bari,
Egnazia (Savelletri), Brindisi, Otranto, Santa Maria di Leuca, Gallipoli, San Pietro in Bevagna, Taranto (the
Island of San Pietro, the city and the coast of Mar Piccolo).
As with the first itinerary, the second may also become a circuit, comprising the entire Southern
coast of Italy, the east coast of Sicily (Taormina, Siracusa) and Naples on the Tyrrhenian route to Ostia
(Rome). This route may contribute to the development of sailing services in the landing sites, and the
growth of local economies linked to the sea.
The distinct feature of the apostolic theme in the above proposals is that it considers each stage as
part of a unified itinerary. Although it lacks cogency in terms of evidence, over more than two millennia it
has given rise to a cultural stratification that reflects and enhances many typically Mediterranean themes
(Braudel, 1977-1978). Therefore, to develop this project, it is essential to build a uniform communication
system and produce virtual content that can be accessed by the user in situ or by means of ICT-based
systems (Trono and Oliva, 2013).
The promotion of the St Peter itineraries is perfectly feasible within the Italian peninsula, where the
consolidated emphasis on local traditions (religion, culture, food, crafts) supports slow tourism. Italy is
crossed by a network of itineraries designed for an immersive and engaging regional experience.
Considering the full dimension of the route discussed here, the challenge is to extend it to all the places of
the Petrine tradition: the ancient Palestinian and Syrian cities, the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean
islands. In this way, it can be seen as part of the process of cultural integration that is crucial to European
and Mediterranean future horizons.
Though the religious connotations of these routes may seem to limit their interest for non-Christian
consumers, the story of St Peter's preaching may well be an opportunity to construct an original narrative
of Mare Nostrum. In his legendary travels, we can recognise the whole of the vast and impervious sea of
antiquity, on whose shores elements of common identity developed and the seeds of the contemporary
world germinated. It could represent a big step towards dialogue and integration, consistent with the
desire of the European Community to recognise the Mediterranean as the cradle of its founding values and
thereby confer on it a new centrality.
Religious routes and pilgrimage trails are among the best known places in historical studies, because they
are rich in historic facts and personal testimonies that have been handed down to posterity. These routes
still represent the ancient arteries of a faith that continues to be practised in accordance with distinct
beliefs and forms of worship, but they are also proposed as a category of heritage that gives rise to a new
system of knowledge and promotes the development of local economies linked to tourism activities and
associated production chains. Their value lies in the identification of a model for a new ethics of
conservation, which considers cultural assets to be part of a common heritage without borders, to be
conserved and handed down to future generations.
The proposal for an itinerary that follows the stages of the evangelising journey taken by the
Apostle Peter 2000 years ago from Jerusalem to Rome does not only mean retracing the first steps of
Christianity. It also represents a healthy exercise of the collective memory, an opportunity to recover the
historical, cultural, environmental and economic assets of the regions that host them and, last but not least,
potentially a valuable opportunity for intercultural dialogue in that “world of conflicts” which the
Mediterranean has been and still is today (Canfora, 2016).
The “historic and cultural” reasons for proposing the route of St Peter are not however sufficient to
ensure its success. For this reason, as with all cultural itineraries, there is a need for public policies in which
regional cooperation and coordination are essential for the success of the route and the sustainable
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