03/05/2013 07:33 am ET Updated Mar 05, 2013

Vatican Photos Document Catholic Headquarters' Catacombs In 1950 (PHOTOS)

As cardinals from around the world gather in Rome to begin choosing a new Pope following the surprise resignation of Benedict XVI last month, has published a collection of unique images of the Catholic headquarters shot more than half a century ago.

Nat Farbman traveled to the Vatican for LIFE in 1950 and documented "The Search for the Bones of St. Peter," the quest of a group of excavators to locate the skeleton of St. Peter in the tombs and catacombs of the Vatican.


Deep in the earth below the great basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome the clink of pickaxes and the scrape of shovels in the hands of workmen have been echoing dimly for 10 years. In the utmost secrecy, they have penetrated into a pagan cemetery buried for 16 centuries. Architects feared they might disturb the foundations on which rests the world’s largest church. But the workmen, with careful hands, pushed forward finally to the area where, according to a basic tenet of the Catholic Church, the bones of St. peter were buried about A.D. 66.

Only a select few of Farbman's images made it into the March 27, 1950 issue. However, many were published this week on the website.

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The Vatican In 1950