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The Mamertine Prison in Rome with the altar commemorating the incarceration of Saints Peter and Paul.
The Mamertine Prison (also referred to as the Tullianum or Carcere Mamertino) was a prison (carcer) located in the Forum Romanummarker in Ancient Rome. It was located on the northeastern slope of the Capitoline Hillmarker, facing the Curia and the imperial fora of Nerva, Vespasian, and Augustus. Located between it and the Tabularium (record house) was a flight of stairs leading to the Arx of the Capitoline known as the Gemonian stairsmarker.


The origins of the prison's names are uncertain. The traditional derivation of "Tullianum" is from the name of one of the Roman kings Tullus Hostilius or Servius Tullius (the latter is found in Livy, Varro, and also Sallust); there is an alternative theory that it is from the archaic Latin tullius "a jet of water", in reference to the cistern. The name "Mamertine" is medieval in origin, and may be a reference to a nearby temple of Mars, or to the legend of St. Peter, whom tradition holds to have been imprisoned there before his martyrdom: the legend states that Saints Martinian and Processus, supposedly his warders, were converted and baptized by Peter before being martyred themselves.


The entrance to the prison records the tradition that it is the place where Saint Peter and Saint Paul were imprisoned
The Prison was constructed around 640-616 BC, by Ancus Marcius. It was originally created as a cistern for a spring in the floor of the second lower level (there were two, the lower of which was where prisoners were kept by lowering them through the floor of the upper room), but eventually a passage between the cistern drain and the Cloaca Maxima was constructed, reputedly for flushing out dead bodies.

Typically, only higher profile prisoners were kept in the prison, usually foreign commanders who were defeated and became the centerpiece in a Roman triumphant procession. They usually remained incarcerated until they were paraded and strangled in public, unless they happened to die of natural causes first (Roman law did not recognize imprisonment itself as punishment). The prison was also used in 63 BC to hold the members of the Second Catilinarian Conspiracy, including Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura, just prior to their executions for their alleged plot to overthrow the Roman Republic.

It is not known when the prison went out of service permanently, but the site has been used for Christian worship since medieval times, and is currently occupied by two superimposed churches: S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami (upper) and S. Pietro in Carcere (lower). The Cross on the altar in the lower chapel is upside down, since according to tradition Saint Peter was crucified upside down.


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