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The Mamertine Prison is an infamous ancient prison situated at the foot of Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy. Originally it was called the Tullianum. At that time it faced imperial fora of Nerva, Vespasian, and Augustus. A bit odd to be considered a monument due to being a prison, this site enjoys a good rank among popular historical attractions in Italy. In classical Rome, jails and prisons were not as common as these days. Criminals were punished in other ways such as execution and exile. Out of the few ancient lock-ups, Mamertine Prison has survived where the Bible’s most hallowed saints were held.
A Day in Life at the Infamous Mamertine Prison
There are two ominous underground cells in the Mamertine Prison. These are the places where the vanquished enemies of the country were captivated. Many of them eventually died either due to strangulation or starvation. Among prominent prisoners, the most famous ones include the indomitable Gaul Vercingetorix, Goth Jugurtha, and St. Peter.
There is trapezoidal shaped room in the upper part which dates back to the 2nd century BC. The walls of the room are built with blocks of tufa. Look at the right and you will see a plaque with the names of more famous prisoners and when and how they died. There’s also another plaque listing the saints and martyrs who were imprisoned here. Along with them, the name of the important pilgrim visitors and their persecutors are also added. If you see at the back, there’s an altar having busts of Saint Paul and Saint Peter. The room is a perfect visiting location for those who want to get a closer look at the life of prisoners held here.
Step down and you will reach the lower room. Shaped in circular style, the room is called the Tullianum. It’s made of blocks of peperino placed by each other without mortar. In ancient times, this room happened to be the innermost part of the whole complex. It was a secret place where prisoners were condemned and strangled.
A small altar constructed here is one of the most popular highlights of Mamertine Prison. Probably, it’s because this is where St. Peter baptizing his mate prisoners. An extra-sinister air is provided by the upside-down cross hung on the red marble front. This is symbolic of the Cross of St. Peter where he was crucified, like other saints, upside down.
As you walk next to the altar, you will find a round opening in the floor. This is what gives access to a spring. Since Classical times, this spring has surfaced in the floor. The reason why visitors come to see this place is that it is believed that Saint Peter miraculously created it for baptism. People come here to get cure of their wounds, illness, and problems as it is believed to have healing properties.
How to Get Tickets?
Tickets to Mamertine Prison can be purchased online or directly from the main entrance of the prison. Queues are generally moderate and, therefore, you can expect getting tickets in some 10 minutes.
How To Get Around?
You can walk around to explore the Mamertine Prison and all major attractions nearby, including the upper and lower floor, that are at comfortable walking distance from each other.
What Should I Wear?
While visiting the Mamertine Prison, you can wear anything that makes you feel comfortable. Anything from jeans to shorts, skirts, denims, suits, trousers, gowns, and everything will suit the occasion as long as it goes well with the temperature and climate.
Best Time to Visit
Mamertine Prison is open all year round, except on Sundays, so you can plan a trip at any time as long as you are comfortable with the prevailing climate.
Will I Need a Guide?
You do not need a guide to reach or move around Mamertine Prison. Moving around is comfortable and all the required information is available on this website.
How To Get There?
Overseas visitors, the nearest touch point is the grand Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, aka Fiumicino International Airport, which is some 32 km from Rome. Comfortable accommodations are available around the airport and you may ask the hoteliers to arrange a round trip for you to the prison. From the airport, you can take a taxi, metro, or bus to reach Mamertine Prison.
Ensure you wear comfortable clothing depending upon the weather. Winters in Rome can be extremely cold so make sure you pack a few extra layers.