Building of the Caetani Chapel was completed in 1296. It was built upon the wishes of Pope Boniface VIII to hold the mortal remains of illustrious people linked to the Pope of Anagni and also to celebrate the spiritual and political power that he and his lineage were conferred with.
The striking ciborium supported by two columns, resting along the eastern wall, is Caetani’s sepulchre. There are two burial sarcophagi, the smaller of which is decorated with a mosaic illustrating five heraldic shields of the Caetani family. It is believed that the Caetani family was originally of the seaside city of Gaeta, hence the two waves set against a golden background on the family coat of arms and indeed the name ‘Gaetani’ itself, which the more courtly ‘Caetani’ derives from.
The fresco framed by the ciborium was originally painted between 1296 and 1297 but has since been repainted several times over the course of the centuries. At the heart of the fresco is a depiction of The Virgin sitting on the throne, holding a benedictory Child. To the right of the central image is St Stephen and to the left, it is believed, Thomas Becket Archbishop of
Canterbury. They are introducing two kneeling men, illustrious members of the Caetani family:: the man on the right is Roffredo II, influential Count of Caserta and brother of Pope Boniface VIII, while the man on the left, who originally had a cardinal’s hat by his knees, used to be Cardinal Benedict II Caetani. Due to unfortunate restorations, carried out not only prior to 1749 but also in the course of the 19th century, the cardinal’s hat has been lost and the cardinal was turned into a Franciscan friar, identified as Blessed Andrea Conti, maternal uncle of Pope Boniface VIII.
Now please make your way down to the lower floor, which is accessible by means of the staircase you will find as you exit the Caetani Chapel. We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that you may visit the Crypt, labelled Number 10, only once the lights have switched on and only after having visited Areas 8 and 9 which precede it. We recommend entering the Crypt as soon as the lights come on, which will allow you a full twenty minute visit. Please exit the Crypt via the opposite staircase once the automated lights have switched off. We would also like to remind you not to lean against any of the walls, columns or lighting, and to please respect the request for silence.