After visiting the Basilica don't miss the chance to visit the Grottoes where are the tombs of the Popes. Entrance is free of charge and although I had read in my guidebook that the minimum age to enter is 10 or 11 years old, there was nobody guarding the entrance, so, on we went, although our son isn't that old yet. Neverthless, we were confortable with the decision as he knows how to behave in a church and in sacred places.
In the grottoes you may find, as I already said, the tombs of the deceased Popes along the centuries. The one that is the center of all atention is the tomb of John Paul II, which is secured by 2 guards unlike all the others. We found a small crowd here, as people stay in worship here; also, we noticed there were fresh flowers, what didn't happen by the other tombs. His tomb is so simple that I was amazed, ...
The grottoes are situated under the Basilica. As we go inside looking up one may see the iron floor cover.
The Vatican Grottoes is the level below the floor of St. Peter's where many popes and a few royals are buried. Below the Grottoes is the ancient Necropolis, which is the Roman "city of the dead" and excavations of St. Peter's tomb.
One of the highlights of the visit is the view into the confessio, the area in front of St. Peter's tomb. The Niche of the Pallium, with the bronze urn containing the woolen stolls given to new Archbishops, is often mistakenly thought to hold the bones of St. Peter.
Reservations must be requested in writing: by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax: (+39-06) 6987 3017, or directly in the Excavations Office (entrance to the left of the colonnade). The request for a reservation must be made directly by the visitor who wishes to participate in the tour. In the case of someone requesting who is not the visitor, the contact information for the visitor must be given; the Excavations Office will communicate directly with him concerning the visit.
There is no time limit for making a reservation. The processing of the request, which can even be immediate, depends on the number of requests presented and on the schedule of visits already reserved. The duration of the visit is about an hour and a half. Visitors should dress in a way befitting a holy place: pants for men and pants or skirts covering the knees for women; covered shoulders for all.
Reservations must be requested in writing: by e-mail: email@example.com or by fax: (+39-06) 6987 3017, or directly in the Excavations Office (entrance to the left of the colonnade).
In your request to visit the excavations, please provide the following information:
- The exact number of visitors
- Their names (for groups, the name of the leader of the group as well as the kind of group and its provenance is also necessary [e.g. university, parish, etc.])
- The language desired for the visit
- The dates available during which the Office can arrange the visit. The precise time of the visit will be determined by the Excavations Office.
- Contact information (always give an e-mail address and (if available) as well as a fax number or full postal address) so that the Excavations Office may advise you about your visit.
The Office will send a proposed date and time that must be confirmed.
- Unveiled necropolis at Vatican Opens
By FRANCES D'EMILIO, Associated Press Writer
VATICAN CITY - Visitors to the Vatican soon will be able to descend into an ancient world of the dead, a newly unveiled necropolis that was a burial place for the rich and not-so-affluent during Roman imperial rule.
The necropolis, which was unearthed three years ago during construction of a parking lot, will open to the public this week. One archaeologist said on Monday that sculptures, engravings and other objects found entombed with the dead made the find a "little Pompeii" of cemeteries.
The burial sites, ranging from simple terra-cotta funerary urns with ashes still inside to ornately sculptured sarcophagi, date from between the era of Augustus (23 B.C. to 14 A.D.) to that of Constantine in the first part of the 4th century.
From specially constructed walkways, visitors can look down on some skeletons, including that of an infant buried by loved ones who left a hen's egg beside the body. The egg, whose smashed shell was reconstructed by archaeologists, might have symbolized hopes for a rebirth, officials at a Vatican Museums news conference said Monday.
The remains of the child, whose gender was not determined, were discovered during the construction of the walkways, after the main excavation had finished, said Daniele Battistoni, a Vatican archaeologist.
Buried there were upper-class Romans as well as simple artisans, with symbols of their trade, offering what archaeologists called rare insights into middle- and lower-middle-class life.
"We found a little Pompeii of funeral" life, said Giandomenico Spinola, a head of the Museums' classical antiquities department.
"We have had the mausoleums of Hadrian and Augustus," Spinola said, referring to majestic monuments along the Tiber in Rome, "but we were short on these middle- and lower-class" burial places.
The burial sites help "document the middle class, which usually escapes us," said Paolo Liverani, an archaeologist and former Museums official who worked as a consultant on the site. "You don't construct history with only generals and kings."
Among those buried in the necropolis was a set designer for Pompey's Theater, notorious for being near the spot where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death. Decorating the designer's tomb were some symbols of his trade — a compass and a T-square.
An archivist for Emperor Nero's private property and mailmen also were buried in the necropolis.
Unearthed were black-and-white mosaic flooring and other decorations, including figures of a satyr and Dionysus, an ancient god of fertility and wine, along with a scene of a grape harvest.
VISITS TO THE VATICAN NECROPOLIS:
Enquiries: Excavations Office, by e-Mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by fax +39 06 69873017
Photo - provided Monday, Oct. 9, 2006 by the Vatican Museums, a mosaic floor is seen in an ancient necropolis unearthed at the Vatican.
While visiting Basillica di San Pietro, make sure to include the Grottoes during your visit. Go outside and queue in the atrium of the Basillica. Visiting the grottoes is completely free, however it doesn't stay open as long as the Basillica is so you may want to visit there first. The Grottoes is where all of the Popes are buried; unfortunately, they do not let you visit all of them. With each tomb, they have a little plaque of information about the Pope buried there. Most people just walk by wanting to see Pope John Paul II's tomb, but I recommend reading the information about each of the popes. Some of them are really interesting and their tombs are quite nice. Seeing Pope John Paul II's tomb is an absolute treat. They rope off a little area for people to see it for any length of time, otherwise you have to walk by rather quickly. They don't want anyone to dawdle and stay in front of the tomb unless they are in the roped off area. I suggest waiting a bit to be able to see it properly. Most people pay their respects and move on in a reasonable amount of time, so you won't be waiting too long. Although, I did notice that some people stayed quite a while, but they stood in the back. There will be people crying and its easy to get swept up in the emotion, because he meant so much to people. Some have also placed roses near the tomb. Some things to remember about the Grottoes, remember where you are. They try to enforce being quiet and respectful and they have a taped message saying so on a loud speaker. Also, no photography is allowed. Another cool thing about the Grottoes are the grates that lead up to the Basillica. Look up into the grates and see inside the Basillica (you can do the same thing in the Basillica, except look down). When done with the Grottoes, the steps will lead you right into the Basillica underneath one of the statues. If you have time, I would definitley recommend taking a peak at the Grottoes, even just to see Pope John Paul II's tomb.
The Vatican Grottoes, beneath St Peter's Basilica, house tombs of various popes, early-Christian sarcophagi, remains of the ancient 4 century Church, works by Melozzo da Forlì, Pollaiolo, Arnolfo and mosaics, out of which one is attributed to Giotto.
Since 2005 beside the tomb of St. Peter, the pilgrims have another place of particular veneration: John Paul II's burial place.
John Paul II's tomb, placed where John XXIII lay before, has a simple stone with his name on it and no decorations.
Situated underneath the church and put up the tombs of several popes. Some tombs were brought from the old basilica. Some tombs you vvill find there: John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II actually the most visited and pictured tomb. The entrance is located next to San Longino pillar, one of the four that holds the arcs of the base of the dome built by Miguel Angel
Estan situadas debajo de la iglesia y alberga las tumbas de varios papas. Algunas tumbas fueron traidas de la antigua basilica. Alguna de las tumbas que se encuentran alli son: La de Juan XXIII, Pablo VI, Juan Pablo I y Juan Pablo II que es la mas visitada. La entrada esta situada junto al pilar de San Longino, uno de los 4 que sujeta los arcos de la base de la cupula construida por Miguel Angel.
Like I said in my intro, I did not expect to be lead down here, and once I was here, it took me a minute to say - am I really here - is this it?? When you walk past the tomb of Pope John Paul II, there is no time to stop, i bearly got the photo. There is a guard telling you to keep moving. I thought this was a little impersonal, I would have liked to have stopped for just a few seconds to say hello to the man.
Even more amazing was when I realised I was going to see the basket where the bones of St Peter are said to be. If you belive Dan Brown they are 4 stories underground in another basket, but I have not done my homework on that so for now I will say I saw THE basket.
Excavations under the tomb of St. Peter let to the important discovery that pope Paul VI announced on June 26, 1968: "the relics of Peter have been identified in a way which we may consider convincing.
Four oratories open onto the Gallery and several chapels, in two of which are the tombs of pope Pius XII and Pope John XXIII.
The lower level of the present basilica, which roughly corresponds to the level of the old basilica which Constantine built, is of particular interest.
It is reached from inside the basilica, by a stairway which passes through St. Longino's pillar, and opens onto the semicircular gallery known as the New Grottoes.
This is actually the oldest part of the grotto, but was so named because it was opened later.
His tomb is simple - as the man sought to be.
Detail regarding reservations for a visit can be found on my SCAVI tip.*