Vatican Grottoes


The Vatican Grottoes are a series of underground chambers and chapels located under a part of the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

They are placed three meters beneath the floor we walk on now, starting from the main altar and reaching halfway down the aisle.

This creates an underground church beneath the Basilica floor.

The grottoes contain the tombs of over 90 popes, a few monarchs, and other church dignitaries dating back to the 10th century.

Besides the tombs, the grottoes also have paintings, pictures made of tiny tiles, sculptures, and writings.

A lot of these come from the older St. Peter’s Basilica.

Today, guided tours are available to groups of visitors wishing to learn more about the history of the Vatican Grottoes and the people buried there.

The Vatican Grottoes are different from the Vatican Necropolis, an old burial place from Roman times, situated below at a lower level.

History of Vatican Grottoes

The Vatican Grottoes, located under St. Peter’s Basilica, has a rich history dating back to the 16th century.

They were initially constructed between 1590 and 1591 to support the floor of the Renaissance-era basilica.

The grottoes contain the tombs of over 90 popes, a few monarchs, and other church dignitaries, some of which date back to the 10th century.

Over the years, the grottoes have undergone significant expansion, restoration, and renovation work.

Now, they are an important historical and religious site.

The grottoes also house frescoes, mosaics, sculptures, and inscriptions.

Many of these are relics from the older version of St. Peter’s Basilica.

How can you visit The Vatican Grottoes?

The grottoes are open to the public and can be visited by booking a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica or Vatican Museums, which includes access to the grottoes.

To visit the Vatican Grottoes, you can use the main entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Once you enter the Church, walk along the aisle until you find the entrance to the grottoes, which is located in the Pier of St. Andrew near the high altar. 

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The Most Famous Tomb in Vatican Grottoes

The most famous tomb in the Vatican Grottoes is Saint Peter, the apostle chosen by Jesus to be the first head of the Christian church. 

Per the legend, Saint Peter was executed in Rome during Nero’s rule and interred in a tomb atop Vatican Hill. 

His remains were later discovered in the Grottoes and enshrined in a tomb beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.

The oldest tomb in the Vatican Grottoes is that of Pope Leo III, the first pope to be buried in the grottoes in the 10th century.

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