The Mamertine Prison

Opening hours Visits are by timed multimedia tours, starting every half-hour from 8:30am. Tours last roughly an hour and must be booked in advance at www.operaromanapellegrinaggi.org

Ticket prices €10 / €5 (free for under 6s).

At the northwest corner of the forums is the Mamertine prison, once known as the Tullianum. This small, dank cell, now forming the basement of the church of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami, housed numerous prisoners of the empire including vanquished kings Vercingetorix and Jugurtha and, according to Catholic tradition, Saints Peter and Paul.

Prisoners were dropped into the cell through a hole in the ceiling, but modern visitors have the use of a flight of stone steps. And while the prisoners were likely to find themselves garotted and dumped in the sewers, the modern exit is by way of a giftshop.

The Mamertine prison

The dramatic cell of the Mamertine Prison

Things to See

The first room you enter has a plaque listing the various martyrs to have suffered in the Mamertine Prison, along with the names of the emperors at the time.

Down a short flight of steps, and just visible through a grating in the floor of the upper room, is the prison itself, an unpleasant and cramped room with a low ceiling.

Here you can see the bars to which St Peter is said to have been chained, and a pool of water in which he is said to have baptised visitors. A small altar bears the inverted cross, a symbol of St Peter which refers to his crucifixion: he asked to be crucified upside down, so that he would not seem to be emulating Christ.

Visiting the Mamertine Prison

The Mamertine Prison is at the north-west corner of the forum, at the bottom of a long flight of steps leading up to the Piazza del Campidoglio.