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Necropolis proves headache for Vatican car park builders

Tombs from the time of the Roman emperor Nero have been unearthed as the Vatican tried to clear space for a multi-level underground car park.

Digging for the 300-space car park began several months ago, but Vatican officials are now rethinking the project after the remains of the nearly 2000-year-old necropolis were unearthed.

Among the graves is the tombstone of Nero's secretary, along with well-preserved urns and amphorae.

Officials denied that the plans for the car park would threaten the discovery.

"Of course, no one will destroy any archaeological finds," said Monsignor Francesco Marchisano, the head of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology.

Other Vatican officials, desperate to "decongest" the Vatican, told the newspaper La Repubblica that ancient ruins were uncovered every time digging began in Italy. In this case they "did not seem that important", they said, and should not prevent the car park from being built.

"These days, even in the Vatican, it's difficult to drive around and find somewhere to park," said Archbishop Gianni Danzi, who is in charge of the Vatican's technical department.

The three-level car park is planned near a popular supermarket inside the walls of Vatican City.

The Guardian

Archeological Finds Slow Vatican Construction Project (Catholic World News)
Vatican City State
Temporary reprieve for Roman ruins (3/12/99)

12 Mar 2003