St. Peter's Tomb

What is St. Peter’s Tomb?

St. Peter’s Tomb is a holy site located within the walls of the largest church, St. Peter’s Basilica. The St. Peter's Basilica is a great example of timeless art and architecture created by some of the most brilliant minds to have ever existed. The Basilica was made by Emperor Constantine as the resting place of the apostle. It was operating as a church for many years until it was expanded on greater levels later.


The Basilica houses St. Peter’s tomb as well as a shrine for many holy men and has been a source of faith for many. Its iconic dome, which looks over the panoramic skyline of the city, has served as an inspiration to many-a-cathedrals and buildings. Pope’s have also been interned in the Basilica since the early Christian era. It is one of the four Major Basilicas. Built between 1506 and 1626, the present St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church and one of the holiest shrines of Christianity.


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Where is St. Peter's Tomb Located?

Situated within the confines of the Vatican Necropolis, the St Peter's Tomb resides beneath the expanse of St. Peter's Basilica. Tradition holds that following his passing, St. Peter found his final resting place on Vatican Hill, near the location of his martyrdom. Originally, an aged basilica was erected atop the site housing St. Peter's Tomb. However, this original construction was eventually supplanted by the present-day edifice of St. Peter's Basilica.

Historical Significance Of St. Peter

  • The location known today as St. Peter's Square, situated in front of St. Peter's Basilica, holds historical significance as the place where Peter the Apostle faced crucifixion.
  • In the 1st century, this area bore the name Circus of Nero and served as a venue for gruesome public executions and trials.
  • In the year 64 AD, Emperor Nero orchestrated the macabre execution of Christians, among them Peter, as part of his cruel practices. Peter, one of the central figures in Christianity, met his martyrdom in Rome during Nero's reign. Alongside him was St. Paul, who, according to tradition, played a pivotal role in establishing the Church in Rome alongside Peter.
  • Iconography depicting Peter's martyrdom illustrates his crucifixion with an unusual orientation—his head downturned. This positioning is attributed to his belief that he was undeserving of sharing the same crucifixion stance as Christ, and thus, he chose to have his head facing the ground at the time of his death.


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About Original St. Peter's Tombs

It is believed that St. Peter’s tomb was laid on land that belonged to Christian proprietors. The actual St Peter's tomb was in an underground vault which was later brought to the Basilica.


Due to the tumultuous nature of the period for Christianity, it is believed that the remains of saint Peter and the saint Paul may have been removed for a while from their original tombs to preserve them from the Romans.


The lore tells that the remains of saint peter may have been removed secretly by the Christians at night and hidden in the Catacombs of St. Sebastiano in 258 AD, and later returned in 260 AD to the place, where Valerian's reign ended.


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Know More About St. Peter's Tomb

History of the Tomb
  • St. Peter's Tomb is historically significant as the final resting place of Saint Peter, one of Jesus Christ's twelve apostles and the first Pope of the Catholic Church. 
  • According to tradition, Peter was martyred in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero around AD 64.
  • His burial place was initially a simple monument in a Roman cemetery near the Circus of Nero and later a small shrine was built over Peter's grave.
  • Emperor Constantine the Great constructed the original basilica over this shrine, marking the beginnings of St. Peter's Basilica as we know it today.
Modern Excavation
  • In the 1940s, Pope Pius XII ordered excavations beneath St. Peter's Basilica to find the apostle's tomb and confirm traditional beliefs about the burial site.
  • Archaeologists uncovered a complex of ancient Roman mausoleums and a simple grave containing bones identified as Saint Peter's.
  • The discovery validated centuries-old traditions and enhanced the historical and religious importance of St. Peter's Basilica as a pilgrimage site.
  • Today, you can see parts of the excavation site through guided tours, offering insights into early Christian history and archaeology.
Tomb at St. Peter’s Basilica
  • St. Peter’s Tomb is located beneath the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. 
  • It is part of the Vatican Necropolis, the ancient burial ground and was discovered during excavations ordered by Pope Pius XII in the 1940s. 
  • The tomb is surrounded by a complex of ancient mausoleums and includes a small shrine built in honor of Peter.
  • This tomb is a major pilgrimage site for Christians, as it is believed to hold the remains of one of Jesus Christ’s closest disciples, making it a place of deep spiritual significance.
Relics of Saint Peter
  • In 1942, remains were found in a second tomb beneath St. Peter's Basilica by Ludwig Kaas, the administrator of the basilica.
  • The bones were analyzed and believed to be of Saint Peter, though there was no significant proof.
  • Some of Peter's relics are kept in the Vatican Necropolis, directly beneath St. Peter's Basilica, allowing pilgrims and visitors to worship them.
  • These relics hold immense religious importance as they are believed to be the physical remains of one of Jesus Christ's closest disciples.

FAQ's

Who is Saint Peter?

Saint Peter, also known as Simon Peter, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ in Christian tradition. He holds significant importance in Christianity as the first pope according to Roman Catholic tradition. Saint Peter was a key leader among Jesus' apostles, known for his strong faith even though he had times of doubt and denied knowing Jesus. He is remembered for his martyrdom in Rome around 64-68 AD, making him a central figure in the early spread of Christianity. Today his tomb is located beneath St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, which remains a pilgrimage site and a symbol of his enduring legacy.

Where was St. Peter buried?

St. Peter was buried in the Vatican Necropolis which is under the current St. Peter’s Basilica.

What is St. Peter Basilica famous for?

The Saint Peters Basilica is famous for St Peter’s Tomb and its marvelous Architecture. Many of these are the High St. Peter Altar, the confession, the dome, the columns, the 91 tombs of the early Popes and more.

What is inside St. Peter’s Basilica?

St. Peter’s Basilica houses the tombs of 91 Popes, a few church dignitaries, monarchs, and other important figures from Roman history.

How to reach St. Peter’s Basilica?

  1. By Metro: The nearest metro stop to the Basilica is the Ottaviano station. You can take Line A (red line) of the Rome Metro towards Battistini and get off at the station. From Ottaviano, it's about a 10-minute walk to St. Peter's Basilica.
  2. By Bus: The closest stop to St. Peter's Tomb is the Piazza Pia stop. Several buses stop near the Vatican, including lines 40, 62, 64, and 81. These buses run from various points in Rome to Piazza Pia, a short walk away.
  3. By Tram: You can take tram line number 19 to Piazza del Risorgimento, just outside the Vatican City walls. Once you get off the tram, the Basilica is a quick 6-minute walk from here.
  4. By Car: The St. Peter's Tomb is located approximately 3 km away from Rome and it takes around 11 mins to reach via Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. You can catch a taxi, book an Uber or simply rent a self-drive car to move across the Vatican.

How did St. Peter die?

Emperor Nero condemned St. Peter to the punishment of crucifixion.

Is Peter the Apostle really buried at St. Peter’s Basilica?

Archaeological findings point to the likelihood that the remains of St. Peter were interred on Vatican Hill.

Where are the relics of St. Peter?

Reportedly, modern archaeological excavations unearthed the purported relics of St. Peter, and these remains are currently safeguarded within St. Peter's Basilica.

What structures are dedicated to St. Peter at St. Peter’s Basilica?

In addition to the Basilica's primary dedication to St. Peter, supplementary structures including a shrine and a Baldacchino were erected to honor his martyrdom.

Do I have to pay to visit Saint. Peter’s tomb?

Access to the papal tombs is granted via St. Peter's Basilica, and there is no admission fee to enter the church unless you opt for a guided tour.

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