Vatican Underground Tours | Vatican Necropolis Tours & Tickets

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What is Vatican Necropolis?

The Vatican Necropolis is located beneath the Vatican City, between 5 and 12 meters below St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican Necropolis was formerly a burial cemetery adjacent to the Circus of Caligula on the southern slope of the Vatican Hill. It was illegal to bury the dead within the city walls, according to Roman law. As a result, burial places arose along the roadsides outside the city cemeteries. If you are in the Vatican you would be remiss if you didn't go on a tour of the Necropolis. Here is all you need to know about going on Scavi Tours, or the Vatican Necropolis tour!

Why take Vatican Scavi tours?

Vatican Necropolis

Plan your visit to the Vatican Necroplis

Tips and rules
Vatican Necropolis tours rules and tips

Book Vatican guided tours and tickets

What Lies Under the Vatican City?

Beneath the Vatican City, or more accurately under St. Peter's Basilica, you will find the Vatican Necropolis. The site was discovered during the early years of the pontificate of Pius XII Pacelli (1939-1958), who undertook a series of archaeological explorations in the area of ​​the Vatican Confession and in the center of the Sacred Caves.

On Scavi tours or Vatican Necropolis tours, visitors are led down three levels to a 1st century AD Pagan burial ground with a few small clay and stone repositories, followed by the 5th century Pagan and Christian combined burial ground with several medium-sized stone mausolea and other ruins, including a fractured piece of a large triumphal arch.

Level 1: Dating back to the 4th century BC, this level was originally an Etruscan necropolis, used for burials by the ancient civilization that predated the Romans in Italy. The most notable find here is the Banditaccia Tomb, a large chamber tomb with painted walls depicting scenes of daily life and religious rituals.

Level 2: This level dates from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD and contains a mix of pagan and early Christian burials.

Level 3: This level dates from the 4th century AD and is named after Emperor Constantine, who built the first St. Peter's Basilica on this site. The most important find here is the Tomb of St. Peter, which is believed to contain the remains of the first pope.

The papal grotto is included within this labyrinth, as is a 12th-century early Christian church with grates in the roof that go up into the basilica's floor.

St. Peter’s Tomb

Vatican Necropolis Tours, St Peter's Grave

Brief history of Vatican Scavi

  • The undergound originally served as an Etruscan necropolis, a burial ground dating back to the 4th century BC. Evidence of tombs, pottery, and other artifacts hint at their culture and rituals.
  • With the rise of Christianity and the building of the first St. Peter's Basilica in the 4th century AD, the necropolis evolved into a Christian burial ground. Early popes and martyrs were likely laid to rest here.
  • The exact location of St. Peter's tomb remained a mystery for centuries. Legends and traditions shrouded the necropolis in intrigue, attracting pilgrims and sparking archaeological interest.
  • Limited excavations occurred sporadically, but systematic exploration wasn't undertaken until the late 19th century.
  • The discovery of the Red Mausoleum, a large pagan structure possibly built for an emperor, and the Banditaccia Tomb, an Etruscan chamber tomb with vibrant artwork, became major highlights.

Frequently asked questions about Vatican Scavi tours

Can you tour the Vatican Necropolis?

Yes, you can visit the Vatican Necropolis. You can book you Vatican Necropolis tours online.

How do I purchase tickets to the Vatican Necropolis tours?

You can purchase Vatican Necropolis tour tickets online. Booking Scavi tours online is highly recommended as you can guarantee your spot and have a hassle-free experience.

Why should I take a Vatican Scavi tour?

Besides being the final resting place of the first pope, St Peter, the Vatican necropolis is an underground labyrinthine mausoleum that houses the remains of ancient Romans and Etruscans.

Does my Vatican Necropolis tour include a guided tour?

Yes, the Scavi institution provides a licensed guide to accompany visitors on their Necropolis tours.  

What are the timings of Vatican Necropolis tours?

The Vatican Necropolis is open between 9 AM and 6 PM from Monday to Friday and from 9 AM to 5 PM on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays.

How long is the Vatican Necropolis Tour?

A tour of just the Vatican Necropolis takes about 1 - 2 hours.

Where is St. Peter’s Tomb?

St. Peter’s Tomb is located just below St. Peter’s Basilica, within the Vatican Necropolis on level 3.