I am 96% confident of these two lists.
They are more accurate than any other list I have seen.
Most of you have probably seen at least a picture of this imposing, ~6′ tall marble tablet listing the names of the popes buried in St. Peter’s, under the Latin inscription SUMMI PONTIFICES IN HAC BASILICA SEPULTI (Supreme Pontiffs buried in this Basilica).
This tablet, in St. Peter’s is to the right of the entrance to the sacristy – that being the rather large ‘annex’ to the left of the main Basilica (when facing it). You reach it from the left aisle under the huge monument to Pius VIII (#254), pictured below.
The Vatican’s marble tablet lists 148 popes up to and including John Paul II (#266).
This 148 number is optimistic.
The actual number of popes now believed to be buried within the precincts of St. Peter’s is 137, possibly 138 or maybe 139 — and that includes the original Stephen (II) (#92), a bona fide pope albeit for four days, who is indeed buried there though NOT listed in the marble tablet.
WHY THE DISCREPANCY?
The problem is that the list on the tablet does not reflect some bodies that were transferred away from St. Peter’s after they had been initially buried there.
St. Sixtus I (#7) is a good example. There is a wonderful story about what happened to the body of Sixtus I (which I recounted in my first book). Tradition maintains that Sixtus I was martyred (though this was unlikely) and buried under what is now St. Peter’s Basilica. It is also said that in 1132 Innocent II (#165), at the bidding of the residents of Alife [Italy], granted them Sixtus I’s relics. But the mule carrying the relics from Rome refused to go beyond Alatri [Italy]. So, the relics were interned at the Alatri Cathedral with Alfie just getting a finger bone.
But, his name appears on the marble tablet, thus making us rethink that old adage about things chiseled in stone – in this case, ‘soft,’ most likely Carrera, marble.
Here is THE list of the 13 popes that appear on the marble tablet but have since been translated to other locations:
1. St. Sitxus (#7) –> Alatri Cathedral, Italy
2. St. Anicetus (#11) –> Palazzo Altemps, Rome
3. St. Sorter (#12) –> San Martino ai Monti, Rome
4. St. Eleutherius (#13) –> Santa Susanna, Rome
5. Vigilius (#59) –> Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti, Rome
6. St. Paschal I (#99) –> Santa Prassede, Rome
7. John XVIII (XIX) (#142) –> St. John Lateran or San Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome
8. Honorius IV (#191) –> Santa Maria in Aracoeli, Rome
9. Eugene IV (#208) –> San Salvatore in Lauro, Rome
10. Callistus III (#210) –> Santa Maria de Monserrato degli Spagnoli, Rome
11. Pius II (#211) –> Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome
12. Alexander VI (#215) –> Santa Maria de Monserrato degli Spagnoli, Rome
13. Pius III (#216) –> Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome
So that is -13 [i.e., minus 13].
However, that has to be offset by 2 popes that are not on the marble tablet, but are indeed buried at St. Peter’s. These two are: Stephen (II) (#92) & John XI (#126).
Then we have Leo VIII (#132). Nobody knows where he is buried. Some suspect that he is indeed buried at St. Peter’s. So he gets the benefit of the doubt.
We also have the same problem with the pope hat succeeded him, Benedict V (#133). Again nobody can determine where he was buried. However, in his case, people are not as sure whether he is buried at St. Peter’s.
So here is how the numbers reconcile. 148 on the tablet. But we know 13 were translated away. So that is 148-13 which gives us 135. Then we have to ADD Stephen (II) and John XI. That takes us up to 137.
Whether we then add Leo VIII and Benedict V dictates whether we go with 138 or 139.
OK? Get the drift. Study the list.
We also need to take into account that today’s magnificent Basilica, in its current grandiose form, now the second largest in the world, hasn’t always been there.
Initially, c. 60 AD, it was an open field, on top of a mound, on the outskirts of Rome. There was no building or structure. We have to take it on faith that those that succeeded St. Peter (#1) were buried close to him.
St. Anacletus (#3), c.76/79 – c.88/92, had a monument (possibly a chapel) built over St. Peter’s tomb. That was the first structure.
In the fourth century, at the behest of Emperor Constantine the Great a small Basilica was built on this site – the so called Old St. Peter’s or the Constantine Basilica. St. Leo ‘the great’ I (#45), in 461, was the first pope to be buried in this Basilica.
In the sixteenth century, Julius ‘the warrior pope’ II (#217), of the Sistine Ceiling fame, commissioned Donato Bramante, the great Italian architect, to build a bigger, grander Basilica around the by now dilapidated old structure. In time the incomparable Michelangelo Buonarroti, having finished the ceiling, designed the imposing timeless dome. Bramante had to do away with nearly all the papal tombs that were located in the old Basilica. Many of the remains were transferred to new locations within the new Basilica.
THE DEFINITIVE LISTS
Please click the pictorial icons below for THE definitive lists of where the popes are buried. They are both relatively small PDFs; i.e., under 150KB.
The color coding in the ‘Final Burial’ column, in the WHERE ALL THE POPES ARE BURIED list, is used to demarcate the different locations, with the most popular of the locations assigned a specific color to facilitate identification.
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