Vatican Grottoes

Vatican Grottoes

Visit Vatican Grottoes & Explore its Historical Significance
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About Vatican Grottoes

Located just beneath the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Grottoes are a collection of burial spots stowed away under the ground. The Grotte 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)
Clementine Chapel (Chapel of St. Peter)

The Clementine Chapel, the crown jewel of the Vatican grottoes, is located in the middle of the peribolos. One of the most interesting sites one comes across when they visit the Vatican grottoes, this chapel acts as a ‘guardian box’ to the Apostle’s tomb. The "subterranea Confession," constructed at the end of the sixth century by Popes Pelagius II and St. Gregory the Great, is located in the room's core. It is the sole area of the ancient basilica that has retained both its original identity and purpose, along with the Pallia niche. The devout once flocked to this location, as they still do today, at the rear of the Constantinian monument above the grave of Peter, where they thought the apostle's head lay.

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Tomb of John Paul II
Tomb of John Paul II

On the north side of the Grottoes, fewer than 100 feet from the Tomb of St. Peter, was the first tomb of Pope John Paul II, whose burial was celebrated on April 8, 2005. Pope John XXIII's sarcophagus had previously been housed in the space where John Paul II was laid to rest. John XXIII's corpse was moved to the St. Jerome Altar in the basilica on June 3, 2001, following his blessing in 2000. After being sanctified, John Paul II was relocated under the Altar of St. Sebastian on May 1, 2011. The deepest of the three customary coffins, made of cypress, was used to bury John Paul II.

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Chapel of the Madonna of Bocciata
Chapel of the Madonna of Bocciata

This is the oldest chapel in the region surrounding Peter's tomb. Its origins may be traced back to a tiny oratory commissioned by Gregory XIII in 1580. Pope Clement VIII had the space extended and linked to the new peribolos of the grottoes in 1592. A painting by the 14th century Roman painter Pietro Cavallini may be seen in this chapel. Because of Mary's bloated face, it is known as the "Madonna della Bocciata." According to folklore, her face bled when a drunken soldier threw a bowl into the sacred picture after losing a bowling game.

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Vatican Museum
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
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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Vatican Grottoes
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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Tips to Visit Vatican Grottoes

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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