From 9.00am to 3.30pm
Except on Sunday and Vatica holydays
Visitors under 15 years of age are not allowed to visit the monument.
Under S. Peter’s basilica is an important necropolis composed by brick mausoleums arranged along a funerary way. The oldest ones are on the line to the north of the way, dating back to the II century AD, those of the south side, the latest ones, date back to the III century AD. The sepulchres have inscriptions with the names of the dead and are frescoed and stuccoed inside; some of them have white and black mosaic floors. Interesting the inscription on the mausoleum of Popilius Heracla, quoting a part of his will where the deceased required his heirs to bury him “in the Vatican near the arena”; this is a precious topographic indication to locate Caligula’s arena, near the Vatican necropolis. Another important sepulchre is that of the Iulii, whose frescoes depict Christian themes such as Jonah in the jaws of a whale and the Good Shepherd, while in the vault is a mosaic depicting Jesus Christ riding the Sun’s chariot, like the pagan god Apollo. Afterwards, the space of the necropolis was occupied by other tombs, even though the major part of the Christian sepulchres were in the western part, where is a small rectangular square surrounded by mausoleums built around what was identified as Peter’s tomb, near the arena where the apostle was martyred. This was in the origin a simple hole; around the middle of the II century AD, a monument was built upon the tomb, leaning against a wall, whose entrance was from two stairs to the south. This monument was formed by a niche with two pillars supporting a covering slab of travertine upon which was a smaller niche. Underneath, another underground niche contained the tomb of Peter, as proven by a graffito on the wall behind the biggest niche, where you can read the name of the apostle in Greek letters. In the IV century the basilica was built by Constantine upon the tomb of Peter. Began around 320 AD it was consecrated in 326 by Pope Sylvester I and realized in 349. The church with a nave and double aisles divided by pillars had a colonnaded atrium and was closed by an apse separated from the aisle by a transept, in the centre of which was the funeral monument of Peter. On top of the sepulchre was a shrine placed in the centre of the presbytery, on top of the shrine was a canopy supported by four spiral columns portraying putti gathering grapes. Two more columns were behind the apse. The Constantine basilica had no altar, since it was not for liturgy but for funerary use. Only afterwards, in the IV century, to practice the liturgy and protect the sepulchre was raised the floor of the presbytery, in front of which was added a double row of six spiral columns, the innermost of them was closed by plutei. The sepulchre of Peter was accessible via two side steps. Eleven of these columns are still in the present basilica of St. Peter. The Constantine basilica was intact until the XV century, when Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) decided the rebuilding of the edifice due to its precarious conditions.
Visits to the Tomb of Saint Peter and the Necropolis under the Vatican Basilica
Special visits to the necropolis underneath the Basilica, where the tomb of St. Peter is located, are only possible following special permission granted from time to time by the “Fabbrica di San Pietro”. Visits are organized according to the schedule set by the Excavations Office.
In order to preserve this exceptional historical, archaeological site and due to the limited premises around the venerated tomb of the Apostle Peter, only around 250 visitors per day are permitted to enter.
Groups are composed of approximately 12 people and according to language. Only those who are 15 years or older will be admitted – no exceptions will be made. Each group is accompanied by a guide especially trained by our office. The guided visit lasts about an hour and a half.
Requests, if possible, should be sent directly by the interested visitor/s. If the person submitting the request is not the actual visitor, he or she should send the visitor(s) name(s) and e-mail address(es). This will allow the Excavations Office to replay back to the person requesting the visit and to the visitor with specific information about the visit granted.
Those leading groups (universities, parishes, cultural associations, agencies, and other groups) should send a complete list of names of the participants and the name of their organization.
There are no set deadlines for submitting requests. All requests, even urgent ones, will be fulfilled depending on the places left available at the closest date to the one requested.
Requests may be submitted in written form by sending a message to email@example.com, by fax +39 06 69873017, or by visiting the Excavations Office in person (using the south [left] entrance, just outside of the Colonnade).
It is absolutely necessary to provide the following information:
1. Exact number of participants;
2. Names of participants;
3. Language requested;
4. Possible dates *when the Excavations Office can assign your visit (the time will be determined by the Office). *please always write in full the name of the month (e.g.: from 01 January 2010 to 08 January 2010)
5. E-mail address, or fax number, or a complete postal address.
The cost of the individual ticket, including the contribution for the guide, is 12 Euros (approximately $ 17.50 USD). No reductions in price will be given for any reason.
Regulations during visits:
Arrive at the Excavations Office at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time of the visit.
Clothing should be appropriate for a sacred place: long trousers/slacks/jeans for men; dresses that reach below the knees or long trousers/slacks/jeans for women; shoulders must be covered for all.
Entrance to the Excavations Office is only through the gates located on the Via Paolo VI (outside of the Colonnade, just to the south [left], near the entrance to the General Audience Hall.) Upon arrival, present the Swiss Guards with your letter of confirmation received from the Office which indicates the scheduled time of your visit.
Depositing prohibited items:
The following objects are absolutely prohibited during the visit:
luggage / large bags /backpacks /cameras
These [and similar] objects must be deposited before reaching the Office.
A deposit area free of charge for these objects is available to the right of the façade of the Basilica at ground floor level of the Basilica's premises passed the security check areas. We are glad to provide this service and the objects deposited are supervised by our staff.
Anyone who does not observe these regulations will not be allowed to participate in the visit.
Monday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed: Sundays and Vatican Holydays
The last visit always begins at 3:30 p.m. (4:15p.m. from April through September).