Even though the scientific community gave him credit for the discovery, Dr. Giorgio Filippi, curator of the epigraphic collection of the Vatican Museums, is quick to point out that he's not the first to find the tomb believed to contain the remains of St. Paul.
Filippi gave his presentation, "Through the Grating: Lights and Shadows on St. Paul's Tomb in Rome," on Thursday in the Barfield Drawing Room of the Bill Daniel Student Center.
"I rediscovered the tomb," Filippi said. "Everyone since the time of Constantine knew the tomb was there exactly where I found it."
Thursday's lecture marked the first time Filippi presented his findings in English and outside of Europe. It also was the only presentation Filippi will give about St. Paul's tomb during his time in the United States.
Antonios Augoustakis, assistant classics professor, said Filippi came to Baylor because of his connection with the classics department's Baylor in Italy program, which Augoustakis coordinates every July.
After receiving his doctorate in epigraphic studies from the University of Bologna in 1987, Filippi began his career as a curator at the Vatican Museum in 1993. He began looking through the museum's collection of Greek and Latin inscriptions and published a catalog in 1998 of all 2,000 of the inscriptions.
Between 1998 and 2000, Filippi and his team made five different excavation points inside St. Paul's Outside the Walls, Rome's second largest basilica.
"The Church of St. Paul is still used as a church, not as a ground for excavation, so they let us make a special search for the tomb," Filippi said.
The intensive search for St. Paul's tomb officially began in 2002 under the Papal altar, or main altar, of the church.
Filippi, who served as director of excavations at the basilica, wrapped up the search in December 2006, and the announcement of his findings sparked international interest.
"The discovery is important for religious uses so that we can see and touch the sarcophagus," Filippi said. "No one could answer exactly where it was or what it was shaped like, but now we can."
Filippi said he "doesn't know if the bones are actually in there," but stressed it's more about what the sarcophagus represents, not necessarily what it contains.
"People ask me, 'Are you curious?'" Filippi said. "But I don't But Filippi said he didn't have need to see inside the sarcophagus.
"The aim was not scientific research, but research for making the pilgrims more sure of the existence of the tomb of St. Paul, and making the tomb available for veneration," he said.
Dr. Alden Smith, classics professor and interim department chairman, has known Filippi since 1994 when they met at the Vatican Museum.
Smith said he visits Filippi every summer with the Baylor in Italy program.
"He introduces our students to epigraphy and takes us through the epigraphic wing of the museum, which is not always open," Smith said. "We are very grateful to him."
Filippi said he had never been outside of Europe before coming to Baylor.
"I had only seen America from television, but when I got here, I could confirm that my positive idea of America coincides with reality," Filippi said. "I feel very honored to come to this university and share here."