Our beautiful church banner hangs behind the altar and is one of the first things you see as you enter the church from the front door. What do the symbols mean? First it is important to know who Peter is. St. Peter’s is named for the apostle Peter, also known as Simon Peter. Jesus’ call to Peter is recorded in the Bible in Matthew and Luke. Here is what the Gospel of Luke tells us (Chapter 4):
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
There are numerous stories about Peter in the New Testament. The symbol of the rooster comes from the story of Peter denying Jesus three times prior to his crucifixion. Matthew (chapter 26) tells the story:
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
The two keys represent the keys to the kingdom. In Matthew 16 (verse 18) Jesus says to Peter: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it In some symbols of St. Peter you will see the two keys crossed.
Finally, the upside down cross represents Peter’s martyrdom. It is believed that Peter requested this type of crucifixion because he did not believe he was worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.