Rome, cemetery under St Peter's

Also known as St Peter's necropolis
Era 3AD
Location Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
Placement Under St Peter's

The cemetery under St Peter’s was in use at least by the third century and contains both pagan (a scene of the death of Pentheus just outside Mausoleum Φ) and Christian wall and ceiling mosaics in Tomb M. The vault shows a bearded male figure with a rayed nimbus in a chariot drawn by two (probably originally four) white horses. The rest of the vault is filled with intertwined vines of bright green glass on a yellow (not gold glass) ground. On the walls of the tomb are mosaicked scenes of Jonah and the Whale, the Good Shepherd and a Fisherman. It is these overtly Christian scenes that have led to the charioteer, who resembles a pagan sun-god in many ways, but was also a symbol of well-being, and good fortune, being identified as Christ. As the original church of St Peter’s, built by Constantine the Great, was consecrated in 326, this mosaic must pre-date that: these tombs are perhaps middle to late third century in date.