The area situated between Vatican mounts and the Tiber never been part of the XIV Augustan region, but it preserved for long time suburban caratheristic where many aristocratics villas, such as the one of Agrippina that later became imperial estate, were erected along the streets in which the region was crossed.

The excavations carried out under St. Peter Basilica have revealed a necropolis dated back to II century A.D. The tombs are set in two parallel rows with an east-west orientation; the oldest row is the northen one where there is the inhumation rite together with the cremation rite, while in the southern row the inhumation prevailed over the cremation.  In the tombs of the rich freemen there are some strong differences between the simplicity of the outside part, made in lateritious with a brickwork façade, and the richness of the inside part where there are many stuccos decorations, frescoes and mosaics and some wonderful sarcophagi. The decorations of the Julian tomb (date back the end of II  or the begin of the III) stand out from among the others for theirs Chistian symbolism: on the wall there is Jonah at the sea between the jaws of the whale, while in the vault there is Christ as the Sun on a horse-drawn chariot.

The Christian tombs were set in the northen part where a small square was created and it was enclosured in three side by tombs built between I and IV century A.D. Around this area was identified the tomb of St. Peter.

The studies have permitted to say that in the simple original grave was built a monument in the II century A.D., known as the “Trophy of Gaius”  (Trofeo di Gaio) and it was characterized by an aedicule and two colomns and were built two stairs for climbing up until the Trophy.  A graffito on the posterior wall with the name of St. Peter says that the grave was the one of the Saint. This place became sacred for the pilgrims and for this reason it always was embellished with marble and mosaics, it is also  possibly to find this decoration in the floor of the small square located near the Trophy. 

In the IV century A.D the Emperor Costantine decided to built the basilica around the tomb of St. Peter that became the presbytery and it was visible to the pilgrims. For the creation of the basilica was necessary  to do some importat works of levelling of the ground.

The Constatinian basilica (85 for 64 metres) was composed by five naves, separated by rows of colomns with a transept where in the centre was laid a marbel base indicating the tomb, where on the top was built an aedicula holding up a marble canopy with four twisted columns and the huge apse was decorated by a rich mosaic. For the funeral functions of the basilica never been built an altar. The basilica’s floor was raised up in the VI century A.D. and the grave was accessible by two stairs that came down until the circular hall of the crypt. The basilica preserved for the most part the original paleochristianic aspect until the recostruction ordered by pope Nicholas V in the XVI century  A.D.



Everyday from Monday to Saturday from 9.00 to 15.00 pm


- Metro A Ottaviano Station


The Vatican Necropolis is situated under St. Peter’s basilica. Excavations are situated at left side (Arch of bells), or from the entrance of Paolo VI Street (at left).


EURO 10.00 (Guide included)


It is possible to book the guided tours by:

EXCAVATIONS OFFICE - Fabbrica di San Pietro
Tel. 06.69885318 - Fax 06.69873017

For informations and reservations:

EXCAVATIONS OFFICE - Fabbrica di San Pietro
Tel. 06.69885318 - Fax 06.69873017