Location in the Grottoes


The Tomb of Hadrian IV

Vatican Grottoes


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Vatican City

Colonnade Saints
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The History

This splendid sarcophagus was made from Egyptian granite in the 3rd century A.D. It was used for a pagan burial and was sealed on the sides with iron clamps. It is the original tomb of Hadrian IV, Nicholas Breakspear, the first English pope in history.


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Hadrian IV died in Anagni in 1159 and was buried in St Peter's in, what his contemporaries called "optima concha", or a beautiful sarcophagus. The tomb was located at the triumphal arch, close to the sepulcher of Eugenius III. In November 1606, the remains were identified and the intact sarcophagus was transferred to the grottoes. It was moved to several different locations and then given its present position.

Sculpted on the front is a long festoon with a bucranium in the center and two rosettes on the sides. On the barrel lid are two heads of Medusa. On the wall above the sarcophagus is the inscription wth the name of the pope: HADRIANVS PAPA IIII.

Immured on the side of the niche is an inscription placed by the Royal Norwegian Society of Science on the 9th centenary of the conversion of Norway to Catholicism. It is a sign of recognition of Hadrian IV, who in 1152 went to Norway as a delegate of the pope to resolve political problems and found the Bishopric of Nidaros (Trondhiem). When he became pope, he protected the Norwegian pilgrims visiting the Apostolic tombs.


Tomb and Inscription of Hadrian IV
Tomb area of Hadrian IV
Inscription placed by the Royal Norwegian Society of Science
Inscription dedicated to Hadrian IV -
Royal Norwegian Society of Science


Source: Roma Sacra The Vatican Grottoes, Fabbrica of St. Peter's, June 2003

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