Sunday, October 6, 2013


Necropoli Vaticana
Excavations carried out 1939/49 for Pius XII Pacelli (1939/58)
The work was undertaken at the request of Pius XI Ratti (1922/39) who wanted to be buried as close as possible to St. Peter's tomb. As the area chosen by the late pope was narrow, it was decided to lower the floor to make the task easier
The excavations were conducted on a total area of 69 x 18 m (225 x 60 feet)
The depth of burial ranges from 12 to 5 m (40/50 feet) compared to the level of the floor of the Basilica
The excavations haven't brought to light the entire necropolis and a big part of it is still underground and unexplored
The archeologists found out a double row of funerary buildings, dating from the end of the first century AD to the early fourth century, originally in open air. The buildings, situated on the slope of the Vatican hill that had been filled in and leveled for the construction of the Basilica of Constantine, were placed next to each other from west to east
The tombs belonged to families of wealthy freed slaves and consisted of large rooms, vaulted, often with a fence in front. There were terraces, which could be accessed through an external staircase. The deceased could be buried or cremated
Rich decorations were found inside the mausoleums: paintings, stucco, and sometimes mosaics
In the west area there is the so-called "Trophy of Gaius", shrine of the second century on the burial site of St. Peter. It was so named for the first piece of news that we have about it, dating back to the priest Caius, who, according to Eusebius of Cesarea at the beginning of the fourth century, exalts the Church in Rome as founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul
On the wall built at the time of Constantine, the epigraphist Margherita Guarducci found hundreds of graffiti with invocations to Christ and Peter. The archeologists, led by Monsignor Ludwig Kaas, finally entered the tomb and found a small ossuary with an incomplete Greek graffiti, in which the name of Peter was recognized. This gave them confidence that it was the right place. Pius XII made the announcement on the radio in the Holy Year of 1950: "The tomb of the Prince of the Apostles was found". However the ossuary was found empty
Only in 1953 there was the lucky discovery of some bones of a 60/70 years old man, wrapped in a precious purple cloth woven with gold thread and trusted to be from the grave, but moved at the time of Constantine in the niche of the wall G, as shown by fragments of red wall. The interpretation as "Peter is here" by the Garducci of the mentioned graffiti "Petr(os) eni", as well as accurate scientific tests lasted for years, gave Paul VI Montini (1963/78) the conviction that they must have been in all probability the remains of the body of St. Peter and then the official announcement was made in 1968
The remains were then placed in their original position, enclosed in a Plexiglas box provided by NASA closed with a scroll which states that "it is believed" that they are those of the Apostle Peter
Apart from the tomb of Peter, the most significant, largest and most luxurious mausoleum of the cemetery is the MAUSOLEUM OF THE VALERI (H) a mid-second century Roman tomb, decorated with excellent stucco, bright colors and murals that mimic the polychrome marble, to which were added the Christian words: "Peter prays Jesus Christ for the Christian saints buried near his remains"
MAUSOLEUM OF TULLIUS ZETHUS (C) with stucco and black and white mosaic floor
MAUSOLEUM OF TYRANNUS AND URBAN imperial freed slaves of Hadrian (117/138) with rich painted decoration including, on the left, "Peacocks facing a basket of flowers and fruits"
MAUSOLEUM OF THE JULII (M) transformed from pagan into Christian with a mosaic of "Christ as the Sun God Helios", "Good Shepherd", "Jonah returned to land from the sea monster" and "Fisherman"

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