The Vatican Grottoes extend under part of the nave of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, three meters below the current floor, from the main altar (the so-called papal altar) to about one half of the nave; They form a real underground church that occupies the space between the current floor of the basilica and the ancient Constantinian basilica of the fourth century.

Those that are improperly called "caves" actually represent the gap between the old Constantinian basilica and the current one: walking in the "caves" as you walk in what was the basilica built by the emperor and lasted until the sixteenth century.
Read more: Mysteries And Wonders Of The Vatican Necropolis.
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The plant of the Vatican grottoes, which branch into niches, corridors and side chapels, is that of a three-nave church (the so-called old caves) with chapels that house the tombs of the popes; the semicircular apse of the church, with chapels and funeral monuments, (the so-called new caves) has the ideal center of St. Peter's Chapel, which corresponds, above the caves, the papal altar and the dome of Michelangelo, and, in the necropolis underground, the tomb of the Apostle Peter, the first Pope of Rome.

The Vatican grottoes are a suggestive monumental complex for the so many historical memories. In addition to preserving the tombs of several popes, the caves are rich in works of art from the ancient basilica.

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Among the most important works of art preserved in the Vatican grottoes we must certainly remember the tomb of Pope Boniface VIII, by Arnolfo di Cambio. Also important is the tomb of Cardinal berardo eroli by Giovanni Dalmatian and fragments of frescoes attributed to Pietro Cavallini.

The sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, and the tomb of Pope Sixtus IV in bronze (created by Antonio Pollaiolo in 1493) are preserved in the St. Peter's Treasury Chamber (access to the right aisle of the basilica above).
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The Vatican Necropolis lies under the Vatican City, at depths varying between 5–12 meters below Saint Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican sponsored archeological excavations under Saint Peter's in the years 1940–1949 which revealed parts of a necropolis dating to Imperial times.

The work was undertaken at the request of Pope Pius XI who wished to be buried as close as possible to Peter the Apostle.

It is also home to the Tomb of the Julii, which has been dated to the third or fourth century.

The necropolis was not originally one of the underground Catacombs of Rome, but an open air cemetery with tombs and mausolea.
Read more: Sacroprofano Splendor Of The Vatican Grottoes.

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