Around the year 67 A.D. Saint Peter suffered death by crucifixion during the reign of Emperor Nero and was laid to rest in a nearby cemetery on the Vatican Hill. For centuries Christians venerated the tomb of St Peter which was marked with a small monument in the mid 2nd century. In the year 320 the emperor, Constantine, began the construction of a large basilica in honour of St Peter, central to which was a shrine that encased both his tomb and the monument which had been subsequently built above it. In the 16th century Constantine’s basilica, which was in very poor condition, was slowly and carefully deconstructed as a new basilica was built. This new basilica is the current basilica and it was finished in 1626.
In the early 20th century a construction crew stumbled upon parts of an ancient city street of family tombs [a necropolis] which had been filled in by Constantine’s workmen as the first basilica was built on the Vatican Hill. This necropolis was constructed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and it began at the Tiber River and stretched to and past Peter’s tomb. Between 1939 and 1950 archaeologists uncovered much of this necropolis, eventually discovering the tomb of St. Peter.
Today it i possible to walk underneath the foundation of St. Peter’s Basilica along the streets of this ancient necropolis. By way of a guided tour, pilgrims learn about the history of ancient Rome, St Peter, and the Church. A visit to the excavations underneath St Peter’s is one of the most important and memorable experiences available.
To make a reservation, visit the Excavations Office website and follow the instructions listed. Their website will also inform you of any restrictions or regulations of the Excavations Office.
It is best to make your request early as the number of visitors permitted to enter the excavations is limited to 250 people per day.
Your e-mail should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and include:
- NUMBER of visitors;
- NAMES of the visitors (in case of groups, the composition and provenance of the group is also needed [e.g. university, parish, etc.]);
- LANGUAGE in which the requested tour will be given;
- DATES in which the individual/group is available: you can suggest certain time blocks, but the precise time of the visit will be determined by the Excavations Office;
- CONTACT INFORMATION (an e-mail address, fax number, or full postal address) so that the Excavations Office may advise you about your visit.
Upon submitting your request, you should receive an automatic response if your subject line contains the words “Scavi tour”. This will inform you that your message was received and provide some other basic information.
As the dates which you have requested are approaching, a further response to your e-mail [than the above automated response] will be sent if you are placed in one of the groups. This message will contain the date and time of the visit to which you are assigned. It may take one to two months to receive this reservation e-mail. It will contain all further instructions necessary. You must respond to this reservation message and submit your payment in order to secure your placement on the visit. You will generally pay with a credit card via the Internet. Upon processing your payment, the Excavations Office will send you an electronic receipt.
If you do not receive a receipt within several days, please inform their Office, as they may not have received your payment.
For more information, please visit: The Vatican Excavations Office.