I believe you have a copy of the famous bronze statue of St. Peter which is in St. Peterís in Rome. So many pilgrims have venerated it for centuries by kissing or touching the extended right foot that it is worn thin. Pius IX granted an indulgence to pilgrims who kiss the foot of the statue. However, this practice was encouraged earlier by Pope Constantine (708-715).
This may be part of the reason for believing the statue originated as early as the fifth century, although Constantine may have been referring to another statue.
DATE NOT CONFIRMED
A more common belief is that it is from the 13th century. Some aspects, such as the snail curls of the hair and beard seem to indicate 13th century Arnolfo di Cambio is the artist. However, a complete consensus of the date of the statue has not been reached.
In 1871, a mosaic, imitating a brocade drapery, was placed behind it. This was the year that Pius IX convened the First Vatican Council, held in St. Peterís, which defined the doctrine of papal infallibility. Above this mosaic is a medallion-portrait of Pius IX (1847-78) whose papacy of 31 years lasted longer than St. Peterís 25 years. A legend held that no pope would rule longer than St. Peter.
According to a Guide to St. Peterís Basilica, on St. Peterís feast, June 29, the statue is clothed with liturgical vestments (amice, alb, stole, red cope, tiara and ring) so that it seems to come to life.
The right hand index and middle finger are raised in blessing, while the thumb, ring and little finger are folded. This is similar to the blessing shown in the sixth century Eastern Church mosaic of Christ Panocrator which is on the wall of the Byzantine Santa Sophia in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul).
While seated on a marble throne, St. Peter, in his left hand is holding keys signifying the power and authority given him by Jesus. It is his left wrist which is in a sling.
You are not the first who has wondered about this sling on Peterís arm. Others have tried to decipher its possible significance.
However, neither I nor local people whom I questioned noticed the sling when we saw this statue.
No one really knows the reason for the sling but some suggestions have been made. It may be that the big keys represent the weight of responsibility placed on Peter, which is too heavy to bear without the help of God. Hence, he requires support as depicted by the sling.
It could also depict his human weakness, in general, according to seminary guides from the North American College in Rome.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL STOLE
A statement from A Virtual Tour by Our Sunday Visitor indicates Peter is dressed with ďthe philosophical stole.Ē This stole, I presume, is an academic stole or hood worn in universities which originated with the priestly garment in early Catholic universities.
This could, then, refer to Peterís knowledge of Jesus, as well as his love and loyalty in leading the world to Jesus. However, whether the sling is actually a stole is hard to determine.
My first thought was of Johnís Gospel (21.18-19) where Jesus tells Peter that when he is old, he will be bound by someone else and will be led to where he does not want to go, thus signifying the manner of his death. This sling could depict the binding.
However, in the final analysis, we have to conclude that it may be simply part of the robes worn in those days which needed to be held up when seated.