By Nick Pisa in Rome
1:39PM BST 29 Jun 2011
The fresco was found during restoration work at the Catacombs of San Gennaro (Saint Januarius) in the southern port city of Naples by experts from the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Art.
The announcement was made on the feast day of St Peter and Paul which is traditionally a bank holiday in Rome and details of the discovery were disclosed in the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
A photograph released by the Vatican shows the apostle, famous for his conversion to Christianity from Judaism, with a long neck, a slightly pink complexion, thinning hair, a beard and big eyes that give his face a “spiritual air.”
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who is Pope Benedict’s Culture Minister, wrote in L’Osservatore Romano:“The image of St Paul has an intense expression, philosophical and its discovery enriches our imager of one of the principal apostles.”
The figure is dressed in white and beige robes and with the letter ‘I’ on the hem, which may stand for ‘Iesus’ (Latin for Jesus) and it shows him approaching a dead person.