Everybody who goes to Rome makes it a point to visit the Vatican City. The Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basilica are the top most visited sites in Italy. What many may not know is another special tour to the Vatican Necropolis (Scavi) underneath the Basilica where Tomb of St. Peter is located.
Luckily I read about it while doing research for our trip. Sharon quickly emailed them for reservations and tickets. Only 250 people go through the Scavi tour a day in small guided groups of 12. Normally reservations must be made 90 days in advance. We were lucky to get slots even though we reserved about 30 days before our tour.
This is the entrance to the Scavi and no photography is allowed inside. This tour was really fascinating. We got to hear how they found St. Peter’s tomb and all the stories around it. We even saw the tombs of other people. For more information about the tour click here.
Entrance costs €12. Click here for a virtual tour of the Vatican Necropolis. I highly suggest you take this tour.
This is what the lines to enter St. Peter’s Basilica look like everyday. But since we took the Scavi tour we were already inside and exited through the Vatican grottoes where the popes were buried and then on to the main floor of the Basilica.
Of all the churches we’ve been to in Europe this was really the most jaw dropping. Everywhere you look there were exquisite works of art.
This [Pietà] is probably the world’s most famous sculpture of a religious subject. Michelangelo carved it when he was 24 years old, and it is the only one he ever signed. The beauty of its lines and expression leaves a lasting impression on everyone.
With this magnificent statue Michelangelo has given us a highly spiritual and Christian view of human suffering. Artists before and after Michelangelo always depicted the Virgin with the dead Christ in her arms as grief stricken, almost on the verge of desperation. Michelangelo, on the other hand, created a highly supernatural feeling.
As she holds Jesus’ lifeless body on her lap, the Virgin’s face emanates sweetness, serenity and a majestic acceptance of this immense sorrow, combined with her faith in the Redeemer. It seems almost as if Jesus is about to reawaken from a tranquil sleep and that after so much suffering and thorns, the rose of resurrection is about to bloom. As we contemplate the Pieta which conveys peace and tranquility, we can feel that the great sufferings of life and its pain can be mitigated.
Here, many Christians recall the price of their redemption and pray in silence. The words may be those of the “Salve Regina” or “Sub tuum presidium” or another prayer. After Peter’s Tomb, the Pieta Chapel is the most frequently visited and silent place in the entire basilica.
It is said that Michelangelo had been criticized for having portrayed the Virgin Mary as too young since she actually must have been around 45-50 years old when Jesus died. He answered that he did so deliberately because the effects of time could not mar the virginal features of this, the most blessed of women. He also said that he was thinking of his own mother’s face, he was only five when she died: the mother’s face is a symbol of eternal youth. source
“Only those who wish to pray may enter”. This sign in front of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel lets visitors know that this is a place for reflection, and not just part of a tour of the basilica. source
Blessed Sacrament Chapel
The word ‘Confessio’ refers to the Confession of faith by St. Peter which lead to his martyrdom. St. Peter’s tomb is behind the Niche of the Pallium.
In this niche is a silver coffer with fabrics (each known as a “pallium”) woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of St. Agnes (Jan 21) and bestowed upon patriarchs and metropolitans as a reminder of the Church’s unity. source
The Basilica centers around the Papal Altar where only the Pope celebrates Mass. It was consecrated by Clement VIII, June 5, 1594, on top of several other older altars.
Rising above the altar is the baldacchino (95ft. canopy), Bernini’s masterpiece and first work in St. Peter’s. The ancient tomb of St. Peter lies directly below the altar. source
The Papal Altar & Baldacchino
My cousin Sharon requested free tickets to attend the Papal mass on June 29th. Only Sharon and Rochele went to the mass. They didn’t know that the mass celebrated the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul and the mass lasted 3 hours. The following pictures were taken by Rochelle.
Papal mass at the Vatican