Keys of Heaven
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Saint Peter holding the Keys of Heaven (Rubens).
In ecclesiastical heraldry, the Papal coat of arms contain the keys of the office of St. Peter. The Keys of Heaven were, according to Christian tradition, received by Saint Peter from Jesus, marking Peter's ability to take binding actions.[1] Thus, the Keys are seen as a symbol of Papal authority still to this day. "Behold he [Peter] received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power of binding and loosing is committed to him, the care of the whole Church and its government is given to him [cura ei totius Ecclesiae et principatus committitur (Epist., lib. V, ep. xx, in P.L., LXXVII, 745)].[2]
St Peter is often depicted in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox pictures and artwork holding a key or set of keys. It is also notable that the general layout of St. Peter's Basilica is roughly key-shaped; evocative of the "keys" entrusted to St. Peter.


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