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St Peter

The apostle Peter was one of the closest of the twelve to Christ. Called Simon, he was given the name Peter (meaning a rock) after Jesus had described him as the rock upon which the Church would be built.

Peter, like his brother and fellow apostle Andrew, was a fisherman. He accompanied Christ during his ministry and, after Christ's death, led the Apostles. Later, according to some early accounts, he went to Rome where he set up the first Christian community, and was crucified by the Emperor Nero.

The Popes are seen by the Catholic Church as the successors of Peter. The church of St Peter's in Rome, the heart of the Catholic faith, is thought to be built over his tomb. He is often represented holding the keys to heaven and hell, which represent the powers of absolution and excommunication. It is a device also used by the Papacy.