A Jacobite Gazetteer - The Vatican

Tomb of the Stuart Kings

Stuart Sarcophagus
Stuart Sarcophagus

In 1766 the body of King James III and VIII was laid to rest in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica. On July 16, 1807, the bodies of King Henry IX and I and King Charles III were laid beside it, that of Charles III having been brought from Frascati where it had reposed since 1788. Three separate tombstones were erected on the site.

Until 1938 the bodies of the three Stuart kings were buried where the tomb of Pope Pius XI now stands. This is on the left side of the crypt towards the front; it is immediately to the right as one enters from the stairwell leading down from the basilica.

In August 1938 the bodies were moved to a new location slightly further east on the left side of the crypt between the tombs of Pope Innocent XIII and Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val. This move was made necessary owing to the fact that Pope Pius XI had chosen the former location for his own tomb. In 1939 a single travertine sarcophagus was erected over the three bodies. 1 A bronze pillow sits atop the sarcophagus on which is placed a bronze crown. On the front of the rounded top of the sarcophagus are two roundels each with a Greek cross. On each end is a roundel with the chi-rho symbol. On the front of the sarcophagus is an inscription identical to the first six lines of the inscription on the Monument to the Stuart Kings in the basilica above:

To James III,
son of James II, King of Great Britain,
to Charles Edward,
and to Henry, Dean of the Cardinal Fathers,
sons of James III,
the last of the Royal House of Stuart.

The three tombstones which stood over the graves until 1939 can now be seen at the Pontifical Scots College.

The current entrance (2001) to the crypt is down a staircase beneath the pillar of Saint Andrew. It is no longer possible to enter the left aisle of the crypt where the tomb is located. It can only be seen from the front of the crypt (near the tomb of Pope Pius XI) or from the right aisle of the crypt (near the tomb of Pope Benedict XV). There is no fee to enter the crypt.


1 "Resting-Place of the Last Stuarts: New Tomb in St. Peter's", The Times (March 21, 1939): 19d. On March 20, 1939, Cardinal Hinsley, Archbishop of Westminster, formally entrusted the new tomb to the care of the Chapter of the Vatican Basilica. It is widely held that the cost of the new sarcophagus was paid by Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (commonly called "King George VI").

Image 1 (Stuart Sarcophagus): © Michael E. Andrews 2001.

This page is maintained by Noel S. McFerran (noel.mcferran@rogers.com) and was last updated April 27, 2004.
© Noel S. McFerran 2000-2004.