Location of Tomb F

Necropolis (Scavi) Tomb F
The First Tomb of the Caetennii

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Tomb of the Caetennii
Interior of the First Tomb of the Caetennii, looking north

Terra-cotta decoration of a window in the facade of the First Tomb of the Caetennii


The First Tomb of the Caetennii (Tomb F)

(Drawing by B. M. Apollonj-Ghetti.)
Axonometric drawing, with vault and internal order restored to show the original architectural scheme. Later accretions are omitted.
From 'The Shrine of St. Peter' by Toynbee and Perkins, Pantheon. 1957


From: 'Guide to the Vatican Necropolis' by Michele Basso, Fabbrica di S. Pietro

This tomb was the first to be discovered. The top of the facade was uncovered when, in 1939, work was begun to lower the pavement of the Vatican Grottoes.

The names of members of the family are contained in many epigraphs, especially on the altar in the middle of the tomb. It is one of the largest and most ornate mausoleums.

On the facade, to the left of the entrance, there is a terracotta panel depicting a partridge; on the right-hand side there are architectural decorations.

The interior is rich with stucco figures and pictures of flowers and fruit; on the west wall there is a note-worthy rural scene. There are arcosolia and cineraria.

In this typically pagan tomb there is a burial that reveals some obviously Christian symbolism - a woman drawing water from a well, two doves with an olive branch, and the words dormit in pace - "rests in peace".

The deceased is a young Christian woman, Emilia Gorgonia; in the epitaph her husband recalls her beauty and goodness.

In another stone found in this tomb a wife eulogizes her husband, the director of a troupe of actors, and possessor of musical talent.

From: 'The Shrine of St. Peter' by Toynbee and Perkins, Pantheon. 1957
Tomb F was the first mausoleum to be cleared by the recent excavators. Its roof has gone; but its facade, which stands to a height of 4.50 metres, overtops those of all other tombs in the excavation and pierces the floor-level of the new lower church above. There, in the south aisle, a low, box-like structure encases the topmost surviving portion of this facade; and if the visitor is lucky and the lights are turned on below, he can crouch down, pep through the grating in the side of this protective box, and see something of the building which first gave away the secret of the Vatican necropolis.

P. Zander. The Vatican Necropolis, in "Roma Sacra", 25, Roma 2003
Margherita Guarducci, The Tomb of St Peter, Hawthorn Books, 1960
John Evangelist Walsh, The Bones of St Peter, New York, 1982
J. Toynbee - J.W. Perkins. The Shrine of St Peter and the Vatican Excavations, London 1956
Michele Basso. Guide to the Vatican Necropolis, Fabbrica di S. Pietro in Vaticano, 1986


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