Where are Popes buried? Final resting place of Pope Benedict, where is Pope John Paul II buried - can I visit

The former Pope has joined his predecessors, including Pope John Paul II, in a special Papal burial site in the Vatican

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Pope Benedict XVI was laid to rest on Thursday (5 January 2023) following his death on New Year’s Eve.

The former head of the Catholic Church, who became the first Pope to resign in 600 years back in 2013, had long battled failing health before passing away. In a modern day first, his funeral was presided over by his successor Pope Francis.

An estimated 100,000 people, including Royals from across Europe and thousands of Christian clerics, gathered in the Vatican City to pay their respects to Pope Benedict at his burial mass. His cypress coffin has been placed in a special vault underneath St. Peter’s Basilica alongside many of his papal predecessors.

But where exactly are Popes buried - and can you visit to pay your respects?

Pope Benedict XVI’s coffin will be interred today (image: AFP/Getty Images)Pope Benedict XVI’s coffin will be interred today (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Benedict XVI’s coffin will be interred today (image: AFP/Getty Images)

When did Pope Benedict XVI die?

Pope Benedict passed away on the morning of 31 December 2022. A statement from Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said: “With pain I inform that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died today at 9:34 in the Mater Ecclesia Monastery in the Vatican.”

The former Pope had been unwell for some time. Indeed, his failing health was the reason why he was forced to resign in 2013 - the first time a Pope had done so since 1415 when Pope Gregory XII stepped down. Benedict was lying in state from 2 January until 4 January before his 5 January funeral.

Where are Popes buried?

The ex-Pope has been buried under St. Peter’s Basilica in what are known as the Vatican Grottoes. They date back to the 1600s, when the modern day Basilica was constructed.

According to the Reuters news agency, he has been laid to rest alongside 91 other Popes - including the most recent internment from 2005, Pope John Paul II, and the only English Pope, Adrian IV.

The Vatican Grottoes are under St Peter’s Basilica (image: Getty Images)The Vatican Grottoes are under St Peter’s Basilica (image: Getty Images)
The Vatican Grottoes are under St Peter’s Basilica (image: Getty Images)

Also present in the Grottoes are Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, Saint Ignatius of Antioch and several descendants of the Catholic Stuart dynasty, which was ejected from power in the UK by protestant King William III in 1688. Some of the other prominent historical figures buried there date back to the 10th century.

Only one pope in the last century has not been laid to rest at St. Peter’s Basilica. Pius XI was buried in the Chapel of Saint Sebastian after his death in 1939. In all, there have been more than 260 Popes since St Peter, who is buried close to the Grottoes in the Vatican Necropolis.

Can I visit Pope Benedict’s tomb?

Now the funeral has ended, you will be able to visit the Vatican Grottoes where Pope Benedict’s body has been interred. The tomb of Pope Benedict XVI under St Peter’s Basilica can now be visited by the public.

The Vatican announced on Saturday (7 January) that the public could visit the tomb from Sunday (8 January) morning. The site’s opening hours are the same as those of St. Peter’s Basilica (7am to 7pm from April to September, and 7am to 6pm between October and March), and your entry ticket to the main site will also give you access to the Grottoes.

But you can also purchase a two-hour guided tour with a Vatican expert for €33 (£29). To buy tickets in advance, you should visit the Vatican website.