National Geographic : 1957 Apr
© National Geographic Society 438 Domed Crown of Vatican City Is St. Peter's Church, the Largest in Christendom A place of soothsaying (vaticinatio) in pagan times, Vatican Hill was already an arena of death when Nero built his Circus at its foot. Here he had countless Christians tortured and burned alive. Tradition says the Apostle Peter was crucified head down in the Circus. In the 300's the Emperor Constantine reared a basilica above his grave. Replacing that older sanctuary, this renowned edifice took more than a century to build. Recent excavations beneath the dome confirm existence of a cemetery with a tomb believed to be St. Peter's.