Saint Peter’s Vision of Jesus on the Appian Way

A Participant in the Divine Nature Of Christ.  Who? Me?

As much as I love scripture – studying it and teaching it – I have become keenly aware that the Holy Spirit did not stop working among us when the last stroke of the pen completed what we know now as the New Testament.  The acts of the Holy Spirit continued and they were just as powerful, relevant, and active in the early church.   In fact, the acts of the Holy Spirit continue even today!

AW1 Sign
The Appian Way, southeast of Rome.

When my husband and I arrived in Rome after a 9-hour flight from Atlanta, we had planned to sleep for a couple of hours before venturing into the Eternal City.  Sadly, we were to find that our hotel room wasn’t ready for us.  Oh well – we washed the cobwebs from our eyes in the hotel’s public bathroom, entrusted the bellman with our luggage, donned our hiking shoes, hopped on a bus, and headed about an hour southeast of Rome to an ancient road known as the Appian Way (or Via Appia Antica, if you are Italian).  It was an awesome day – cool and dry – puffy clouds in the sky – a perfect day to hike the Appian Way back to Rome.

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The original paving stones of the Appian Way.

As we hiked on the original stones that paved the ancient road, we stopped to see all kinds of things . . .  ancient mausoleums and circuses.  We toured catacombs – the burial ground of thousands of first century Christians.  It was in the catacombs, painted above a grave, that we saw the first known depiction of Christ as the Good Shepherd.  We even stopped for lunch at an amazing restaurant where we sat in their courtyard next to a fountain and feasted on pasta.

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Earliest known depiction of Jesus as the Good Shepherd

But there was one place that I could not wait to see.  It was located just before we reached the walls of Rome that surrounded and protected the city.  There sits a tiny, insignificant church – a chapel really.  It would be easy to pass by without a thought.  But, for me, this church is built on holy ground and the highlight of our hiking that day.

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Church of Domine Quo Vadis

After Christ’s death in Jerusalem, Peter became the head of the church.  He traveled widely proclaiming the way of Jesus everywhere he went.  He had been in Rome when persecution against Christians (who refused to worship the emperor) became increasingly frequent and violent.  Warned that his life was in grave danger, he decided to flee the city following the Appian Way to safer ground.  He got as far as the ground where this little church stands.

In Latin, the church is called “Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis.”  In English, it literally means “The Church of ‘Lord, Where are You Going?’.”  According to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, as Peter fled the city, it was here that he encountered the risen Christ.   Peter saw Jesus walking in the opposite direction going back toward the city of Rome.  Peter – astonished – asked Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus responded, “I am going back to Rome to be crucified again.”

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Church of Domine Quo Vadis

Peter didn’t believe that following Jesus was just a philosophical endeavor or just a nice way to live, he believed that the divine life of Christ actually lived within him and within all believers.  Earlier, he had recorded this in the New Testament:

Christ has given us . . .  his precious and very great promises, so that through them you. . .  may become participants of the divine nature. (2Pe 1:2-4)

Peter had given up his own life to live the life of Christ – to let Christ live through him.   Because of this, Peter knew that Jesus was telling him to go back to Rome where, as a participant in the divine nature of Christ, he would be crucified.   Peter would not be alone on that cross.  Jesus was with him – living through him – crucified again.  Peter was a participant in the divine nature of Jesus.  As are all those who desire Christ.

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This stone marks the spot where Jesus met Peter on the Appian Way

Peter obeyed.  He returned, was arrested, and crucified upside down on a cross.

As I sat in the little chapel, I prayed, “Domine Quo Vadis?”  Lord, where are we going?  How is the Spirit calling me to participate in the divine nature?  Where does Christ want to take me? How can I be his hands and feet?  It is an overwhelming, but joyful question – to know that wherever Christ sends me, he lives his life within me!


If this article interested you, you may also be interested in April and her husband’s pilgrimage to Assisi.  She writes about this in St. Francis and the Christian Life.


Read more interesting stories in one of April’s books

13 Comments on “Saint Peter’s Vision of Jesus on the Appian Way

  1. Dear Henry
    Is it in the Bible what you stipulate about Peter? If not, well, then your feelings about Peter’s deed are ‘not true’ according to your own words.
    Please be careful. Judging other fellow Christian’s is never advised in the Bible just the same. – In His Love


    • Dear fellow Christian. Just imagine what the Bible would be if all things were written therein. If we are to limit our scope to the otherwise summative concepts in the Bible we may risk missing the chance to be pliable to the diurnal and continuous control of the Holy Spirit in our midst. If something said is concrete and has evidence, and for that matter powerfully aid in the edification of Christians then why should we subject it to such dissuading rigor.


  2. GOD does not make mistakes, Peter denied JESUS CHRIST three times now a forth.If it is not in the bible it is not true.True Christians don’t be deceived by the Beast.


    • Henry, greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
      How would you define a true Christian, in other words, how does one become a true Christian, what is the biblical mandate in your opinion?


    • The Bible recorded what could be accommodated therein. There are countless happenings that took place during Christ’s time which were not recoded, but they happened anywhere. Some were recorded by historians of the time who had nothing to do with Christianity, just like what journalists today may do, either for personal use or for public consumption.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t believe I’ve discovered this just less than a month from when we depart for Italy! What good fortune. I can’t wait to see it for myself. I have a question for you. How far out did you go to begin your walk? Thank you for this wonderful article!


    • Hi Kacee! We started near the tomb of Cecilia Metella. It takes about 5 hours to walk (lots of sightseeing on the way – Catacombs, Ancient Ruins of the Circus, Sheep crossing the road, etc) to the church of Domine Quo Vadis. You can rent a bike. What I would do is buy Rick Steve’s book on Rome. He has a chapter called “Ancient Appian Way Tour” that gives details about each stop along the way – opening times, suggestions, maps, etc. We stopped for a great lunch along the way. I love Rome, but this walk was my absolute favorite part. In fact, I wish I was there right now!! Have a good trip and please let me know what you liked best, etc.


      • We had a wonderful trip, and we got to walk the Appian Way. The tombs were closed for lunch, which was just as well because I am a bit claustrophobic, but we saw the ancient ruins you mentioned and, of course, the church. It was an emotional visit for me and I am grateful for finding this before we left. After two days in Rome, it was a perfect way to get away from the crush of crowds. I also liked seeing Sebastian’s Gate and the wall itself. Overall, the Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basilica were my favorite sites. Blessings to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you very much for sharing your experience, of hiking Appian Way. A truly moving part of history, one that brings us closer to seeing who we are. I walked the road years ago, with an overwhelming sense of deep feelings for this area. Today, through your words, the experience comes alive again, with more clarity for the experience.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Welcome to My blog | April Love-Fordham

  6. Pingback: All Saints Sunday | Christ Episcopal Church Dayton Ohio - Christ Episcopal Church


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