The Carcer Tullianum is Rome’s oldest prison, for many centuries a maximum security penitentiary for the enemies of Rome awaiting execution.
Also known, from the Middle Ages, as the Mamertine Prison, it is the site where according to tradition the Apostles Peter and Paul lived their final days before martyrdom.
Carcer Tullianum, Via Clivo Argentario
Date and time of your visit can be pre-booked. Visits are available every day according the following calendar:
Monday - Sunday
8.30 am – 4.30 pm (from last Sunday in October to last Saturday in March)
8.30 am - 6.30 pm (from last Sunday in March to the last Saturday in October)
The ticket counter closes one hour before
This is a unique place reminding us of the implacable justice of Rome against its internal and external enemies.
Those who entered this prison never came out of it alive.
External enemies like Jugurtha, king of Numidia, first an ally and then an enemy of Rome, and Vercingetorix, the king of the Gauls defeated by Julius Caesar, lived their final days here.
Many Romans lost their lives here too, such as the followers of Catiline, the man who around the 1st century BC tried to unsuccessfully subvert the Roman Republic, and in particular the power of the senatorial oligarchy.
It is also remembered by the Christian tradition as the site where Saint Peter and Saint Paul and many other Christian martyrs lived their last days, considered enemies of the Roman order because of their faith.
Visiting the Tullianum is an experience not to be missed.
It consists of two levels one above the other, built on the southern slopes of the Capitoline Hill near the Roman Forum.
The deeper level, known as the Tullianum, is the oldest, dating back to the 7th century BC and dug beneath the city walls protecting the Capitoline Hill in the period of the kings of Rome.
The higher level, known as the Carcer, was according to archaeologists built a century later in 6th century BC, but was restructured several times during the Republican period and the early Imperial period, when a great travertine façade was built to make the site well visible to the eyes of the city.
The prison’s position was strategic: placed at the feet of the Capitoline Hill and in front of the Forum, the centre of public life, it was a clear warning sign, the symbol of the implacable justice of Rome against its enemies.
Many historical figures were incarcerated here and were strangled to death or decapitated: these include Jugurtha, king of Numidia in 104 BC and Vercingetorix, king of the Gauls in 46 BC.
Many historians describe the horror this place aroused and the awful suffering and humiliation inflicted on those fate brought here.hide
The Acts of the Holy Apostles say that Peter and Paul, led to judgment before Nero, were incarcerated until the execution of their sentence.
Because of their position as undisputed charismatic figures of the Christian communities of Rome, according to tradition they were led to this very prison.
During their incarceration, the Apostles successfully converted their jailers Processus and Martinian and other inmates.
The two Apostles miraculously made a spring of water flow inside and baptised them.
Their walk to martyrdom began from this very place: Peter’s towards the Circus of Nero, in the area of the Vatican Hill, and Paul towards the Aquae Salviae, on the Laurentina Road.
When the prison lost its function as place of incarceration, it became a place of faith: both environments were converted to chapels and the devotion of the Apostles began. Scholars date the transformation of the prison into a church (with the name of St. Peter in Prison) back to the 4th century by the will of Pope Sylvester I.
From other historical documents it emerges that Pope Paul I (757-767) had a church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul built in the Via Sacra.
A fragment of a fresco depicting the hand of a blessing God next to the figure of a saint, today still visible on a wall of the Tullianum, dates back precisely to the 8th century.
The transformation into a place of worship has allowed the Carcer Tullianum (like the Pantheon) to remain intact over the centuries without suffering the deterioration typical of other Roman monuments.
In the 16th century a new church dedicated to St. Joseph of the Carpenters was built over the prison together with a chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross, in contact with the Carcer, for the faithful to stop and pray.hide
In the heart of Rome's imperial power: from the Tullianum to the Colosseum