Vatican Grottoes

Vatican Grottoes | The Subterranean Sanctity

Located just beneath the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Grottoes are a collection of burial spots stowed away under the ground. The Grottoes Vaticane, as they are called here, lie beneath the Church but above the Vatican Necropolis. Clement VIII erected a semi-annular tunnel at the end of the 16th century that led to the Confession and the medieval crypt. The Confession is located under the papal altar and is oriented with the tomb of the Apostle in relation to the necropolis below. It is inaccessible from the Grottoes because the arch that frames it is covered in glass. One comes across a variety of tombstones as the Explore Vatican Grottoes. Famous names include Boniface VIII, who "created" the Jubilee, Pius VI Braschi, who was taken by the French and perished as a captive in 1799, Adrian (1159), the only English pope, and the popes of today. There are also lay persons with historical significance: the Stuarts, English throne imposters in exile in Rome since 1717, and Emperor Otto II, who passed away at the age of 28 in Rome.

Inside Vatican Grottoes

Clementine Chapel (Chapel of St. Peter)

The Vatican Grottoes hold a hidden gem known as the Clementine Chapel, situated at the heart of the peribolos. This chapel serves as a cherished highlight for visitors exploring the Vatican Grottoes, acting as a protective enclosure for the tomb of the Apostle Peter. A remarkable feature within the chapel is the "subterranea Confession," which was constructed in the late sixth century by Popes Pelagius II and St. Gregory the Great.

Incredibly, this room has remarkably preserved both its original identity and purpose throughout the ages, as well as the Pallia niche. Throughout history, devoted pilgrims have flocked to this sacred site, just as they continue to do today. Positioned at the rear of the Constantinian monument, directly above Peter's grave, the location was once believed to be the resting place of the apostle's head.

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Tomb of John Paul II

In close proximity to the Tomb of St. Peter, within the Vatican Grottoes, lies the initial resting place of Pope John Paul II, whose burial took place on April 8, 2005. Interestingly, the space previously accommodated the sarcophagus of Pope John XXIII. However, on June 3, 2001, Pope John XXIII's remains were transferred to the St. Jerome Altar in the basilica, following his beatification in 2000.

Subsequently, after his own beatification, Pope John Paul II was repositioned under the Altar of St. Sebastian on May 1, 2011. For the burial of John Paul II, the deepest of the three customary coffins, crafted from cypress, was utilized. These sacred burial sites within the Vatican Grottoes bear witness to the profound reverence and significance accorded to the resting places of esteemed popes, commemorating their enduring legacy and impact on the Catholic faith.

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Chapel of the Madonna of Bocciata

The oldest chapel in the vicinity of Peter's tomb has a fascinating history dating back to its origins as a small oratory commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1580. Subsequently, Pope Clement VIII expanded and connected the space to the new peribolos of the grottoes in 1592.

Within this chapel, a remarkable painting by the renowned 14th-century Roman artist Pietro Cavallini can be admired. This artwork is famously known as the "Madonna della Bocciata" due to an intriguing legend associated with it. According to folklore, the face of Mary in the painting appeared bloated after a drunken soldier lost a bowling game and angrily threw a bowl at the sacred image, causing her face to seemingly bleed.

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Icon of the Madonna Dolorosa & Reliefs of the Doctors of the Church

Apart from the crypts, visitors come across a wide selection of monuments as they explore the Vatican Grottoes. A huge image of the Holy Madonna may be found in one of the Vatican Grottoes' southern corners. Madonna is seen here wearing red and black clothing and extending her arms slightly, with an orange halo over her head. This artwork is flanked by reliefs of Church Doctors that have been preserved for centuries.

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Funerary Monument of Calixtus III

At the southern extremity of the grottoes, near the exit, there is a funerary monument to Pope Calixtus III. Calixtus ruled the Church and the Papal States from the 14th century until his death. Although his ashes were stored in Santa Maria in Monserrato, a memorial monument in his honor was erected at St. Peter's Basilica.

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Marble Statue of St. Peter Enthroned

The marble statue of St. Peter is a well-known picture across the world. It is, in fact, the most popular sculpture one comes across when they visit the Vatican Grottoes. The statue, which is located just before the grottoes' exit, depicts the apostle sitting with his arms folded and his feet decorated with sandals. Almost every visitor to the Vatican Grottoes is known to make gestures of kissing the Apostle's feet.

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Archaeological Rooms of Vatican Grottoes

Some of the Old St. Peter's Basilica is still buried beneath the modern cathedral, despite having suffered severe destruction. In the 1600s, Paul V added to the Vatican Grottoes by putting parts of the old church on the walls of them. The Archeological Rooms inside Vatican grottoes have a total of six rooms with tombs, frescoes, and other ancient church structures.

Clementine Peribolos

The stunning Clementinian Peribolos is located between the Chapel of St. Veronica and the Chapel with the Tomb of Pius XII. The area's roof is decorated with vibrant, vivid religious pictures that extend along the hallway.

Georgian Peribolos

Compared to the Clementine Peribolos, the Georgian one is more dilapidated and has several of its walls falling apart. The building, though, is sturdy even after all these years.

Who is Buried in the Vatican Grottoes?

The Vatican Grottoes have over 90 tombs for popes, however not all of them are buried there. For example, Pius VI Braschi is one of the Vatican grottoes burials, who was caught by the French and died in prison in 1799. Another is John Paul I Luciani, who was only pope for 33 days. Another is Adrian IV, who was the only English pope. 

Besides the tombs of the popes, the Grottoes are also home to important historical figures. These include the Stuarts, who tried to take the English throne but were forced into exile in 1717. Moreover, if you are thinking about any renowned personality who is buried in the Vatican burials then it was Otto II. He was a famous emperor, who died in Rome when he was only 28 years old. 

Another notable grave is that of Josef Beran, a Czech cardinal who was detained in Prague following his employment at the Dachau death camp. He later became the archbishop of Prague until he was captured again for being against communism. In 1965, after his last release, he was made a cardinal. The Grottoes have many more important tombs, and each one has its own story.

Plan Your Visit to Vatican Grottoes

Location of Vatican Grottoes

In Vatican City, if you desire to know the Vatican Grottoes location then you must know that they are situated beneath St. Peter's Basilica. Known for its Renaissance architecture, St. Peter's Basilica is among the most significant Christian holy places. The grottoes, also known as the Vatican Crypt, are a group of tombs and chapels that are situated below the basilica's main floor.

Getting to Vatican Grottoes is fairly simple as you have to enter St. Peter's Basilica first. Then, you can proceed towards the papal graves by passing via the entrance near the St. Helen and St. Andrew statues to reach the Vatican Grottoes. The grottoes are an important religious and historical landmark since they include chapels and the tombs of popes and other prominent people.

Vatican Grottoes Timings

Opening Hours:

The Vatican Grottoes opening hours are 7 AM to 7 PM from April to September. However, the opening hours differ from October to March as during these months, the timings are 7 AM to 6 PM. Therefore, it is advised that you plan ahead of time and check the schedule before visiting the Vatican Grottoes.

Closing Hours:

Vatican Grottoes close at 7 PM from April to September and at 6 PM from October to March. Also, the Vatican Museums and places nearby, like the grottoes, may close sometimes for holidays, special events, or other unanticipated reasons. To make sure your visit goes smoothly and you have a good time, you should plan ahead of time and check the schedule.

Tips to Visit Vatican Grottoes

  • Do not forget to visit Vatican Grottoes while touring the Necropolis- the two are not the same thing as it is a distinct portion that contains various papal graves.

  • The space around the tombs is really fairly big and bright, so you won't feel claustrophobic.

  • For a more in-depth experience, learn about the grottoes before going.

  • Remember that photography is absolutely banned in the Vatican Grottoes, and all visitors must remain silent in the area.

  • Make sure you explore the Vatican Grottoes only after the Basilica; If you don't finish your tour of St. Peter's Basilica before heading to the Vatican Grottoes, you'll have to wait in line again.

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FAQs Of Vatican Grottoes

What are Vatican Grottoes?

The Vatican Grottoes are a vast papal burial place (separate from the Vatican Necropolis) beneath St. Peter's Basilica. The Grottoes house crypts containing relics of all past, present and would-be Saints at the Vatican City.

Is it recommended to book Vatican Museums tickets in advance?

Yes, it is highly recommended to book Vatican Museums tickets in advance. This allows you to skip long queues, guarantee entry during busy periods, choose specific time slots, and secure tickets for special exhibitions or events.

Why Visit the Vatican Grottoes?

The Vatican Grottoes can be an interesting place to visit, especially if you’re keen on exploring the history of the region. You’ll also come across a number of beautiful monuments and sculptures as you explore the Vatican Grottoes.

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Where are Vatican Grottoes Located?

The Grottoes are located just underneath the Basilica. However, the Grottoes and the Vatican Necropolis are two separate zones, and should not be confused as the same.

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What are the timings of Vatican Grottoes?

The Vatican Grottoes operate at different hours according to season. The grottoes remain open between 07.00 AM and 07.00 PM from April to September, and between 07.00 Am and 06.00 PM from October to March.

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Who is buried in the Vatican Grottoes?

The Vatican Grottoes is a papal burial site; more than 90 popes are buried here, along with other individuals of historical significance.

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Are all popes buried at the Vatican?

Yes, all Popes are buried at the Vatican- the past, present and future ones. In fact, the area underneath the Basilica is also said to house the relics of the Apostle, who is regarded as the most revered Saint in the history of Christianity.

How to get into the Vatican Grottoes?

Right beneath St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City are the Vatican Grottoes, which means you can access it via St. Peter's Basilica's main church. You just need to go down to the papal tombs through the doorway close to the figures of St. Helen and St. Andrew, and you will reach the Grottoes.

Where are the Vatican grottoes?

The Vatican Crypt, which is another name for the Vatican Grottoes, is below St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. The Vatican Grottoes are below the main floor of St. Peter's Basilica, which is one of the world's most important and well-known buildings.

How much does it cost to go to the Vatican Grottoes?

During St. Peter's Basilica's opening hours, visitors are not charged to enter the papal graves. For this reason, there are no admission fees to the Vatican Grottoes, and entry is completely free.


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