To view the relics of St. Peter, you must take a guided tour of the excavation.

That tour examines the subterranean level beneath, discovered in 1939, when workers dug down to prepare a place in the grottoes for the tomb of Pius XI. They came upon the site of the first basilica, and discovered beyond that part of the wall of Nero's circus, where games and races were held (also martyrdoms of Christians), and the ancient necropolis with it, a "city of the dead" complete with streets and mausoleums in the form of Roman houses.

Tombs of early Christians were discovered in this ancient cemetery, along with ancient graffiti on nearby walls, one of which read in Greek "Peter is here," at about the site that was traditionally believed to hold his grave.


Bernini knew of the tradition that Constantine had built a marble sarcophagus around the bones of St. Peter. He placed his colums surrounding the altar directly above where tradition said it was though no one had seen it for many centuries. With the discovery in the excavations of the inscription ÒPeter is HereÓ they found the sarcophagus of which 2 sides are now visible. The tomb of Peter (a rectangular hole in a wall) is visible at a distance of 15-20 feet.


No pictures are permitted. There doesnÕt seem to be any because none of the Rome gift shops had postcards of it. Apparantly they donÕt advertise it. That is understandable because the site certainly could not accommodate large numbers of people.


As you leave the scavi, you exit into the crypt of St. PeterÕs and pass John PaulÕs tomb without waiting in a long line. We were able to walk against the flow of pilgrims and sit for a long time on benches before JPIIÕs tomb.