While Peter was fleeing from his persecutors on the outskirts of Rome around the year A.D. 65, Jesus suddenly appeared to him. “Lord, where are you going?” Peter asked. Jesus’ answer: “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Realizing that Christ was speaking of Peter, the Apostle changed course and joyfully returned to the city, where he was captured and crucified upside down.
That’s the story according to the extra-biblical Acts of Peter. As is the case with many special events in salvation history, there is a church on the location where this supernatural encounter supposedly happened. Though it is officially called the Church of St Mary in Palmis, it is often referred to as Church of Domine Quo Vadis. Domine quo vadis is Latin for “Lord, where are you going,” the question Peter asked Jesus.
What makes this location particularly amazing, though, is that when he appeared to Peter, Jesus supposedly left behind a marble slab with his footprints. If true, the marble would be a first-class relic, and has been venerated by pilgrims for centuries.
Today, the marble slab with footprints displayed in the Church of Domine Quo Vadis is a copy of the original, which is kept in the nearby Basilica of San Sebastiano Outside the Walls.
The Church of Domine Quo Vadis used to have an inscription above its door that read:
Stop your walking, traveller, and enter this sacred temple in which you will find the footprint of our Lord Jesus Christ when He met with St. Peter who escaped from the prison. An alms for the wax and the oil is recommended in order to free some spirits from Purgatory.
But in 1845, Pope Gregory XVI ordered the inscription to be removed, due to its advertising tone.
The Church is also famous for being the place that supposedly inspired the polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz to write his famous novel Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero.