Vatican archaeology: Digging history beneath St. Peter's

Six decades ago, an extraordinary effort was undertaken far from the ornate public realms of the Vatican: Workers meticulously excavated the tombs and other long-sealed, centuries-old chambers beneath St. Peter's. See all the photos at Life.com.

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    The oldest burial chamber found during the excavation beneath St. Peter's in Rome, 1950.
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    The tomb of the Caetennii (17 x 18 feet) was one of the richest and most lavishly decorated of all those excavated beneath St. Peter's.
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    Scene during the excavation beneath St. Peter's in Rome, 1950.
    Nat FarbmanTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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    Tomb of the Egizio featuring elaborate sarcophagi sculpted with scenes of Bacchic rites. While most of the findings here were purely pagan, there were also Christian designs -- for example, of a palm leaf and a dove.
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    Pope Pius XI, whose desire to be buried below St. Peter's nave led to the historic excavations, lies in his stone sarcophagus in renovated upper grottoes.
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    Classic sculpture adorns the Marci sarcophagus of Q. Marcius Hermes and his wife. See tons of other pics from the excavation at Life.com.
    Nat FarbmanTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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