I’m sure we’ve all read or heard the conspiracy theories as to what’s really hiding inside the Vatican. These range from the Holy Grail and proof of God (which if they had, they would flaunt mercilessly) to secret rooms built by advanced beings hidden under the cistine chapel. But what is actually in there? Is it exciting or is it a bit more mundane? Are there even any clues as to where such secrets could be hidden?
First off, let’s explore what the Vatican is. The Vatican is a city state in the middle of Rome that is ruled over by the Pope and acts as a sort of focal point for the Catholic church. It is recognised as an independent nation which technically means that it can A) Be invaded (Hitler apparently wanted to try…) and B) Enter Eurovision. Out of those two I would opt for the latter because it would be much funnier. Especially if they won. Where would they hold it for a start?
According to the official plans, documentation and what not, this is what I have discovered:
St Peters Basilica: (Basilica Papale di St Pietro in Vaticano)
Whenever anybody mentions the Vatican this is what you immediately think of. It’s the big domed building you see all the time. Type Vatican into Google images and this is what comes up. The untrained mind would immediately assume this is where they keep the good stuff, if indeed there is any good stuff …
Erm… That’s not likely. Big and imposing and as famous as it might be, that building is actually kind of insignificant to Catholicism… It’s a church… Nothing more, nothing less… Just… A church. It’s not even an important church in the grand scheme of things. The pope’s personal church is in the apostolic palace and it’s not even the main church of Catholicism, that’s located somewhere else. Granted, it is used on some days of the year (like special Christmas Masses and such) But other than that it is a big, vast building full of tourists, with very few places to hide anything, like in any Church.
Except… There is the tomb of St Peter and the Vatican Necropolis underneath.
Vatican Necropolis: (The Scavi)
Ahhh… Now this is more like it. The actual tomb of St Peter… There’s got to be something in there!
Really? Would you stick an important artefact with a load of dead bodies? No… Didn’t think so. Chances are it’s not even the tomb of St Peter and probably, actually, just of some early Christian peasant. They did some excavating in the forties and they found an early christian burial ground there, all those Christians who were executed during Nero’s purge after the great fire of Rome. What they claim are the bones of St Peter are probably just some random bones they found. And the fact that St Peter was even executed in Rome at all is only based on a superstitious myth that isn’t even in the Bible. Its one of those things they say happened but actually they probably made it up circa seventeen hundred years ago.
It’s also apparently the tomb of the Julii, One of the most ancient of Roman families. Yet, for some reason, the tomb is a mash-up of Christian and Pagan-Romano burial… Which suggests to me that it’s a fake (and knowing them probably is!)
They appear to have removed the section on the necropolis from the Vatican website but from what I saw when it was there there’s very little chance of them hiding anything, unless they’ve got things hidden in the sarcophagi, which isn’t likely. So my bet is that there isn’t anything down there. So we move next door, in a clockwise direction…
Now this is weird… Because I couldn’t find anything about it apart from on the map. But I looked up the word Petrine and apparently it means: Peter… So this could be a museum about St Peter? Well I did a bit more digging and on when looked at on an aerial photograph it appears to be a car park… It’s nowhere near the right place for the tomb so what the hell is it? Could there be something under the car park? If anything were hidden in the Vatican… What better place than a building that doesn’t exist?
I did find another building, a church refered to as Santa Maria Della pieta in Camposanto nearby that wasn’t on the original plans… but that’s just a church and is nothing like a ‘Museum.’ Although Pieta is awfully similar to Peter and therefore Petrine.
Palace of the Holy Office:
Once you work out what this building is, it’s scary. It houses something called The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith … And they are basically the modern-day version of the Inquisition… Yes… THAT inquisition… The one that tortures people to get them to confess to heresy. Apparently the previous Pope once headed this thing (which is made all the worse considering he was also once a member of the Hitler Youth… Seriously… he doesn’t do himself any favours!)
A curious thing is that this building is directly behind the car park where the ‘Petrine Museum’ is supposed to be, which makes me think that could be some sort of diabolical trophy room where they keep the severed heads of their victims.
This is where, if the Pope suddenly decides he wants to meet you, you must go. It’s his meet and greet place if you like. Nothing spectacular and most likely not hiding anything. It’s also where Eurovision would be held, should the Vatican ever enter and win.
Teutonic College: (Pontifico Collegio TeutonicoSanta Maria dell anima)
This is another weird one. It’s where they educate GERMANS for a role in the priesthood. Why Germans specifically? I honestly have no idea. But you’ve got to admit that it’s weird. And, humorously, someone has claimed on Wikipedia that Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, is buried there (She isn’t… Shes in Windsor!)
I’m not sure what this is to be honest… I think it’s just a place where the pope gets dressed… But apparently it also contains something called ‘The Treasury Museum.’ Before you get excited it appears there’s nothing in there except what is on display.
St Mary’s Palace:
Curiously… I couldn’t find anything about this one at first… Having a look on Street view helped a bit because it’s right on the edge. It looks a bit like a nursing home and apparently it functions as a hotel for special guests of the pope and visiting cardinals.
St Charles Palace:
This apparently used to house the Vatican Information office, but now no longer. I can’t find anything that pertains to its modern usage. Could it be they’re using it for something secret???
Vatican Train Station:
The Popes personal railway station. Hardly likely to be hiding anything. Although… The tracks continue past the railway station and appear to dip downwards on Google maps and it looks like they could go underground… Now… If there were some hidden tunnel network down there it would be the perfect place to hide something you wanted to keep hidden…
Palace of Justice:
Another creepy sounding one, also named as the Palace of the Tribunal. I found one thing stating that it’s the central office of the Vatican Police force… But I’ll come to that later as they appear to have another building… Other than that I can’t seem to find anything. It could be a court house I suppose.
Presumably where they forged the Tomb of the Julii… Probably hiding nothing.
Church of St Stephen : (Santa Stefano degli Abissini)
For some reason the national church of Ethiopia in Rome… Err… No idea why it’s here, but again, it’s probably not hiding much as it’s only small…
St John’s Tower: (Torre St Giovanni) An old medieval tower housing a spare set of apartments for the pope.
Nobody in their right mind would be stupid enough to hide secret artefacts on or under a helipad…
Old Radio Building:
Former sight of the Vatican Radio building. Now presumably disused or being used for some unknown purpose.
It appears to be a seminary for Ethiopians. A bit like the German building we saw earlier. Curious… May also explain the Ethiopian church.
St Martha’s Chapel:
Again, another church. Probably not a lot here.
Civil Administration Building:
I wouldn’t expect anything here. It looks to me like it could be an office block full of pen pushers. Nothing hidden here. Move on.
A radio station, in use this time. Nothing here.
Pontifical Academy of Sciences:
??? Aren’t the Catholic church the ones who, for the last two thousand years, have been trying to suppress science and progress? Apparently… And apparently this is a building dedicated to scientific research. Which is odd considering how Science and the church don’t get along all that often. Even odder is the fact that Stephen Hawking is a member… Yes… Really! And previous members have included Marconi, Niels Bohr, Ernest Rutherford and Erwin Schrodinger. Not people you would expect to be working in cahoots with the Vatican. You’ve got to admit… It’s odd!
Villa of Pius IV:
This is used as an extension to the above. Still no clue as to why on earth the Vatican would want an academy for scientific research…
Vatican Museums/ Art Galleries
It looks like there isn’t really much of interest here… Well, nothing secretive anyway. They get around four million visitors a year and with that many people passing through it seems like a dangerous place to hide a secret. Some of it is general art galleries and such and a few bits are old papal apartments (Like the Borgia rooms). Unless whatever you’re looking for is under the floorboards you aren’t likely to find it here.
A vast and extensive collection of seventy five thousand manuscripts and one point one million books, a hell of a lot and almost the perfect place to hide any document you don’t want found. However, most of this isn’t exciting and it’s just boring dull codexs and religious text etc.
Although they did discover The Secret History by Procopius in there around 1623, which is very peculiar. Prior to 1448 the Vatican library was all over the place, so someone must have seen it when it was transported there. Plus there’s a good chance that any damning documents would have been destroyed long ago. And as for treasure? In a library? Ha ha… Not likely.
The Vatican Secret Archives
YES! That’s got to be it! That’s got to be it, I hear you cry. It’s got the word secret in it after all. I hate to burst your bubble but the Vatican archives aren’t actually that secret. They are an archive like any other and they have some very old manuscripts in there… Plus there are quite a high number of scholars, not all paid by the pope, pouring through there each year and they have an index so one of those scholars might have noticed something by now.
However… If there were secret documents in there the Vatican wouldn’t shout about them. They almost certainly wouldn’t put them on the index and they definitely wouldn’t let anyone near them.
But again… 1448… The current Vatican isn’t that old. Yes there was a basilica on the site before the present one but it was just that, a basilica. Before that the popes lived in Avignon and before that on the other side of Rome. Anything really damning would either have been lost or destroyed long ago.
And as for the whole secret thing… It’s apparently an old usage of the word personal… IE belonging to the Pope. But they could have just made that up…
Sistine Chapel: (Capella Sistina)
Another of the most famous parts of the Vatican… It’s just a chapel. Despite what Assassins Creed would have us believe, there’s no secret chambers underneath there (probably) and probably nothing hiding underneath the ceiling or the floor… Nice as they are to look at…
Although Michelangelo and his fellow ninja turtles did manage to sneak a brain onto that fresco, right behind God’s head.
Ahah… That’s got to be it… No? It’s mainly just offices and yet more chapels. There’s nothing in here unless someone’s got it tucked away at the back of a drawer.
Apart from the porn bathroom. Yes… You read that right. In the Apostolic palace there is, supposedly, a bathroom decorated with porn. Unfortunately the picture below isn’t great as it’s very deteriorated, but that’s it… It’s the Stufetta del Cardinal Bibbiena
I would take a guess that there are too many people wandering around here to hide something important.
This is actually really small considering… The Pope sleeps in one room, there’s a kitchen, a lounge and a couple of studies… And a room full of Nuns… The Pope’s private chapel is in here along with a medical suite (which probably contains enough pills and drugs to make a Columbian warlord envious) and it gets redecorated with every new pope so the chances of it being a hiding place are slim to none. I highly doubt the Pope is sleeping with some secret artefact/document under his pillow.
Vatican Post Office:
No… Theres nothing in the post office. That would be silly.
Papal Printing Office:
AKA: Where they print important documents and books about Catholicism. Nothing spectacular. Lets move on…
Yes… The apple of Eden is hiding with real apples… Now can we move on from this one?
Spectacular as it might sound this is actually a Vatican Hospital, presumably providing more health care for the Pope, as if the medical suite in the papal apartments wasn’t enough. Nothing much to see here then. Lets move on.
The home of the Vatican Newspaper. Nothing interesting will be here as when journalists find something they have a tendency to print it and show it off to the whole world.
Barracks of the Papal Gendarmes:
Remember the Palace of Justice from earlier? Well this seems to be the same thing in a different part of the Vatican. It looks to be a police station. But why have two large buildings for one purpose? I seriously don’t think crime in the Vatican is that high… Unless the Pope is dealing crack in the Sistine Chapel and is at the head of a Vatican gangsta posse who are at war with a rival gang… That is unlikely.
Charity Services of the Pope:
Yet another office building. This one for the purposes of giving to charity or for people giving money to the church. Not sure which but I doubt there is anything here.
Papal Church of St Anne: (Santa Anna in Vaticano)
Yet another church. This is the one that’s the parish church for the Vatican. Apparently its where the Vicar General to the Vatican works. He deals with the spiritual needs of the Vatican (In a place full of cardinals and THE POPE?) and the spiritual needs of people visiting… (Again… The place is full of cardinals… Why not have a rostra or something? It has to be easier!)
Barracks of the Swiss Guard
Home of those well known mercenaries the Swiss Guard… Really… They’re mercenaries… Switzerland and the Vatican aren’t the same country so that makes them mercenaries, and this is where they live. I doubt that there is anything in here apart from general mercenary stuff.
Tower of Nicholas V
Now this is interesting… It’s right in the middle of the Vatican, next to the apostolic palace, and can’t be seen from the road or elsewhere that I can find… All I could come across were the fact that it’s a tower and it exists. It’s named after Nicholas V, who is the pope who declared it was ok for the Portuguese to have slavery as long as the slaves weren’t Christian.
As for usage, that’s anyone’s guess. Could it be that this is where the secrets are hidden? It’s central, it’s obscure and there’s no hint as to any usage, either current or previous… If there is anything then my guess is that it’s here…
And that’s it. You’ll admit some parts are weird or strange or peculiar… We know the place is full of priceless artworks, manuscripts and a whole lot of religious documents (of very little significance) But what we’ve discovered is that the places where they’re hiding the ‘good stuff’ is limited to a few disused buildings, somewhere underground (either by the station or under that car park) or in that tower.
Theoretically, it could be under the floorboards as there is a hidden underground treasure room at the papal palace in Avignon…
However, the church haven’t been around this long without picking up a few sly tricks. The Vatican is only where you would expect to find any damning secrets. There’s another place where the Pope lives… The Castel Gandolfo, which comprises an entire lake and is much more secluded and better suited for hiding things than the Vatican…