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On the trail of the Illuminati through Rome on your own

Full description of Illuminati tour of Rome with map

When I devoured Dan Brown's bestseller “Illuminati” in 2003, I decided at some point to look for the locations of the Illuminati tour in Rome myself.

If you just want to read the Illuminati tour and don't want to get any background information about the history, jump to the beginning of the description and click here.

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The story in the book "Illuminati"

In the book, an assassin hired by the Illuminati holds four cardinals captive as hot contenders (i preferiti) apply to the succession of the recently deceased Pope and should be elected in the concave taking place at the same time.

In the sign of the four elements earth, air, fire and water, the killer kills the clergy in a gruesome way one after the other. Science versus religion - enemies for decades.

Before that, antimatter was stolen from the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, with which the entire Vatican is to be destroyed.

The professor of art history and symbologist Robert Langdon is now chasing breathlessly through Rome with the help of a poem by John Milton in order to find the killer and the antimatter on the path to enlightenment.

On the trail of the Illuminati through Rome

Conveniently, the four crime scenes and all secondary scenes in the book are located at well-known sights in Rome.

Follow the footsteps of the Illuminati through Rome with me. Explore the mysteries, solve the riddles and myths of the Illuminati like Robert Langdon, discover the altars of science and find the Church of Enlightenment.

There are numerous tours that you can find under "Illuminati tour of Rome“Can book. The tours are - in my opinion - all very expensive (Provider at the end of the article).

On your own, at your own pace - why spend a lot of money on a tour?

I'll show you how it's done, because I went on the Illuminati tour on my own on my trip to Rome. I had read the book again just before my trip to freshen up.

How much time for the Illuminati tour?

Since we for the Vatican Museums, St. Peter's Square, St. Peter's Basilica with dome and Castel Sant'Angelo (here for the report) with breaks a full day I would suggest you two days plan for the Illuminati tour.

However, one thing must be clear to you:

Not everything in the book is historically or geographically correct. Dan Brown bends the historical facts or the actual location of a scene so that it fits into the plot of his thriller. Fiction meets reality - poetry meets truth.

What you need:

  • Recommended: Read Dan Brown's book Illuminati before traveling.
  • A city map of Rome
  • A valid ticket for the subway, bus and metro (if you don't want to walk everything)

You can walk the tour in the chronology of the novel or in a logical order. I am showing both options here.

If all of this is already too exhausting for you, I recommend one Book Illuminati tour with Rent a guide (55 euros). Here you will be driven around in a minivan and the guide will tell you everything in German.

Prehistory to Rome: CERN near Geneva

Harvard professor and symbolology specialist Robert Langdon received a mysterious call in the middle of the night: A researcher was found murdered in his laboratory at CERN near Geneva. An ambigram * is branded on his chest: "Illuminati".

Langdon will be flown directly in a futuristic airplane within 64 minutes (!) From Boston to Geneva.

* ambi = all-round; readable from both directions

For all the curious:

CERN is not as closely guarded as mentioned in the book. You can even take part in free guided tours. However, you should register up to 6 months in advance.

Who wants to know how dangerous antimatter really is:

CERN reacted to the success of the book and film and set up an extra page.

Chronological order of the Illuminati tour of Rome:

Use the table of contents for quick navigation!

  1. The Vatican
    - Vatican Gardens
    - Swiss Guard offices
    - Apostolic Palace
    - Vatican secret archives
    - Sistine Chapel
  2. Pantheon
  3. Piazza del Popolo - Church of Santa Maria del Popolo (Chigi Chapel)
  4. St. Peter's Square
  5. Piazza Barberini
  6. Santa Maria della Vittoria church
  7. Piazza Navona
  8. Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Four Rivers Fountain)
  9. Castel Sant'Angelo / Passetto di Borgo (escape route Castel Sant'Angelo> Vatican)
  10. St. Peter's Basilica
  11. Tiber Island

To the map with the fastest route of the tour: click here.

1. The Vatican

Vatican gardens

In the Vatican, most of the action takes place in the book and film. Right at the beginning, Robert Langdon and Vittoria Vetra land on the helipad in the Vatican and are taken through the Vatican Gardens to the offices of the Swiss Guard.

Buy tickets to visit the Vatican

Visiting the gardens is only possible within a booked tour in the minibus. I was told that there is an absolute ban on photography on this tour. You can still take a look at the gardens: From the dome of St. Peter's Basilica you can see the administrative headquarters and in front of it the flower-shaped coat of arms of the current Pope. In the far corner of the gardens is also the helipad.

View photos of the Vatican Gardens on the Vatican side

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Swiss Guard offices

Unfortunately, we are not allowed here either. Incidentally, as mentioned in the book, the uniform was not designed by Michelangelo.

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Apostolic Palace

With a ruse with a phone call, Robert and Vittoria manage to be let out of the locked room and taken to the Camerlengo.

Poetry and truth.

The Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca is the Pope's personal assistant. The fact that he meets the two in the papal office is the result of Dan Brown's fantasy. The fact is that the Apostolic Constitution stipulates that the camerlengo has to seal the Pope's study and private chambers after his death. Of course, this part of the Vatican remains closed to us as well.

The papal accommodation and his study are located in the Apostolic Palace. When you are in St. Peter's Square, there is a large bronze gate on the right of the colonnade. The Swiss Guard will deny you entry, but with a little luck you can go up the Königstreppe (Scala Regia) that Bernini built.

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Vatican Secret Archives

Next, Langdon and Vittoria are given permission to search the secret archives for a document from Gallileo, which is supposed to help them in their search for the path to enlightenment. On the way are the four churches, the altars of science, which are supposed to lead to the Church of the Illuminati.

Of course, we are also not allowed to look at the secret archives. Over 20,000 books are stored here. Only researchers with a letter of recommendation from a respected institute may have a chance to take a look.

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The Sistine Chapel

Here the cardinals wait for the four missing cardinals to arrive to begin the conclave.

At the end, Robert Langdon shows you the video that Maximilian Kohler secretly recorded in the Camerlengo's office shortly before his death for the purpose of clarification.

The Sistine Chapel is north of St. Peter's Basilica and is across the street from it Scala Regia connected. As a tourist you can only get access by visiting the Vatican Museums (tips and the best time to visit the Vatican Museums)

The highlight of this tour is the Sistine Chapel. It is particularly famous for Michelangelo's ceiling painting, which took 4 years to complete: "The Creation of Adam" is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It shows how God breathes life into Adam with an outstretched finger.

Another highlight is Michelangelo's “Last Judgment”, which adorns the wall behind the altar. Incidentally, there is an absolute ban on photography inside. But who does it? I don't believe anyone ...

Since 1492, the Sistine Chapel has also been the place where the cardinals elect the new Pope in a conclave. For this purpose, the chapel is hermetically sealed. There are no exceptions to the opening as in the book.

I advise you to order tickets for the Vatican Museums in advance on the Internet. The queues at the entrance are enormous. When we visited, the line was several hundred meters long and went around some of the corners of the walls.

Costs: 16 euros + 4 euros advance booking fees.

Opening hours: Closed on Sundays except for the last Sunday of the month. Then entry is free and the rush is even greater.

When is the best time to visit the Vatican?

2. Pantheon

The poem in Galileo Galilei's book gives clues to the path of enlightenment through Rome. Santi's earthly tomb - Santi's earthly tomb. The famous artist Raffael is meant here. Santi his last name. Raphael's grave is in the Pantheon. So Robert and Vittoria quickly make their way there.

The Pantheon was built in 125 AD and is the best preserved structure of antiquity. It is an architectural masterpiece: the dome is huge and measures 43.3 meters in diameter - exactly as much as the total height of the building. Incidentally, the diameter of the dome in St. Peter's Basilica is 1.40 meters smaller.

Truth and poetry.

A mistake is also hidden in the chapter on the Pantheon: Dan Brown has Langdon claim that the Pantheon is the oldest Catholic church in Rome. But this is the former papal residence of San Giovanni in Lateran, which was built in the 4th century.

The main source of light inside comes from the huge 9-meter hole in the middle of the dome - also known as the oculus. Not only light and fresh air, but also rain falls through the opening.

That is why 22 drainage holes are embedded in the marble floor in the middle, which drain the water into cisterns. The oculus originally served as a kind of chimney for smoke from ceremonial cremations. At the very first riddle, Langdon is very wrong when he thinks that the aforementioned demon hole is the opening in the Pantheon.

Info: The Pantheon is located in Piazza della Rotonda, in the middle of Rome between Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain.

Entry is free.

Address: Piazza della Rotonda

Opening hours:Daily: 8.30 a.m. - 7.30 p.m., Sundays 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., public holidays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

3. Piazza del Popolo; Santa Maria del Popolo Church (Chigi Chapel)

When the two are horrified to find that they are looking in the wrong place, it is almost too late. With the help of a Roman guide, they find out that Santi's earthen grave is not Raphael's grave itself, but a grave designed by him in the Santa Maria del Popolo Church.

As mentioned in the book, you don't need just one minute for the route and the distance is not just 1.5 km. On foot, yes - a full 2.6 km by car and anyone who has already driven in Rome knows how dense the traffic is often here.

The route described in the book is also not so easy to get to, as you only get to Via della Scrofa if you drive at least one one-way street backwards.

Piazza del Popolo

The Piazza del Popolo is one of the largest squares in Rome. Langdon realizes how “created” the place for the Illuminati must be: The square is oval, in the middle there is a mighty 24 meter high Egyptian obelisk made of red granite and the fountain around the obelisk with its four Egyptian lions seems predestined as a symbol of the Secret society.

The imposing city wall Porta del Popolo shows a "sun over a triangular pile of stones" as Langdon recognizes: "A light over a pyramid", a symbol of the Illuminati.

But here, too, Dan Brown fantasizes a little: It is the family coat of arms of Fabio Chigi, who was elected Pope in 1655.

The cairn consists of six stones and thus the symbol for the six hills of Siena, where the Chigi family comes from.

Santa Maria del Popolo and the Chigi Chapel

Robert and Vittoria enter the church through the broken side entrance. You are looking for the Chigi Chapel, which has to hide behind one of the eight niches covered by construction work and in it the Demon’s hole - the demon hole.

Facts versus fiction.

According to the book, the church is “The church of Santa Maria del Popolo stood diagonally on the slope of a hill that bordered the south-eastern edge of the piazza. It protruded from its surroundings like a stranded battleship… ”. You won't find the church here.

The church is in the north of the square, the entrance is directly at the Porta del Popolo. And one more little detail:

“Vittoria stared searchingly into the alley. 'Do you think there could be a third entrance?' Langdon doubted it '. "

But if you stand right in front of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, there is no alley to be discovered far and wide. The church stands free in the corner of Piazza del Popolo. Therefore we choose the main entrance, which you will not find the said alley.

The inconspicuous facade of the Santa Maria del Popolo Church in Rome, built in the middle of the 15th century, belies the splendor inside.

After entering you will find the Chigi Chapel inside on the left in the second niche. The first altar of science. It was designed and built by Raffael within three years.

If you are looking for a tile set into the wall with a reference to the grave of Alexander Chigi, you will not find it here. Alexander's real first name was Fabio and he was only elected Pope Alexander VII when he was elected. Agostino and Sigismondo Chigi are buried in the chapel.

The interior of the chapel is dominated by shiny red marble. You can see two pyramids on the two side walls. For us an unusual sight in a Christian church. But then Egyptian symbols were often used, also for Christian churches.

On the floor you finally discover the mosaic you are looking for: a kneeling skeleton on a stone slab that closes the entrance to the grave cave: The demon hole.

The first cardinal with the brand "Earth" was found here. However, it is not possible to descend into the underground crypt. Neither does entering the chapel.

Contrary to what is claimed, not all frescoes and sculptures are by Bernini. If you look up, you will discover impressive images in the dome. Designed by Raffael and implemented by the sculptor Lorenzetto. Here the creation of the planets is represented.

In the rear right part of the chapel is Bernini's "Habakkuk and the Angel". The two figures point in opposite directions. The book says “Let angels guide you on your lofty quest.” The angel could even point in the right direction, because the next station on the path of enlightenment brings us to St. Peter's Square.

The church contains artistic treasures that tourists often overlook in the shadow of the great sights. Inside this church there are two paintings by Caravaggio (on the left in the Cerasi chapel next to the altar) and frescoes by Pinturicchi in the Della Rovere chapel.

Opening hours: Monday - Saturday: 7 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. - 7 p.m., Sundays 7.30 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. - 7.30 p.m.

4. St. Peter's Square

The angel's finger in the Chigi Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo shows Robert Langdon the way to the next stop: St. Peter's Square. The goal is a marble block embedded in the ground in the immediate vicinity of the 27 m high Egyptian monolith in the middle of the square. The second cardinal with the brand "Air" is found murdered at the foot of the obelisk. Here, too, Robert and Vittoria are too late.

The marble slab we are looking for with the symbol of the west wind bears the words “West Ponente” (Respiro di dio) which means “breath of God” and stands for the element of air. You can find it on the floor between the Obelisk and St. Peter's Basilica.

By the way, there are 15 more marble slabs with winches on St. Why and why, of all things, the westerly wind gives the decisive indication of the next station, only Dan Brown knows.

The first time you enter the spacious square in front of St. Peter's Basilica via Via della Conciliazione, you are impressed: 340 meters long and 240 meters wide. The semicircular colonnades, consisting of 284 columns, which are arranged in four rows one behind the other, frame the square starting from St. Peter's Basilica. Incidentally, the colonnades form the border between Vatican City and Italy.

Tip: Approximately in the middle between the fountain and the obelisk, small round plates are set into the ground on both sides. Stand on it and look at the columns of the colonnades. You will only see one row of columns. Awesome, isn't it? We also owe this ingenious construction to Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who redesigned St. Peter's Square between 1656 and 1667.

There are 140 marble statues depicting saints on the colonnades.

You know the place from TV, look for the balcony at St. Peter's Church, on which the newly elected Pope appears or gives his blessing “Urbi et Orbi”. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca comes to an end on this balcony.

5. Piazza Barberini

The marble slab on St. Peter's Square shows the way to the west. In the Vatican archives, Robert searches through a list of buildings by Bernini and comes across the sculpture "The ecstasy of St. Theresa". This stands in front of the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. You will quickly make your way to Piazza Barberini, where the church is located.

But anyone who goes to Piazza Barberini will be disappointed again: There has never been an obelisk here, but the triton fountain created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini has stood here since 1623. Warning: Don't let the pushy rose sellers annoy you here. It is best not to accept a rose.

The Hotel Bernini cannot actually be overlooked. This is where Robert and Vittoria spend their first night together after the puzzle has been solved and Robert is released from the hospital.

6. The Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria

A few hundred meters up the Piazza Barberini you will find the church on the way to the main train station opposite the 5-star hotel The St. Regis Rome.

As a normal tourist you would ignore the church. It's too inconspicuous and unadorned on the corner.

Inside you will find the Bernini statue "The rapture of St. Teresa" described in the book. Sunbeams made of gold shine in the background, which are actually illuminated with daylight from the incidence of light hidden behind the statue.

Opening hours: Daily 7 a.m.-12 p.m. and 3.30 p.m.-7 p.m.

7. Piazza Navona

The angel of the sculpture in Santa Maria della Vittoria points west with his spear. Thanks to a city map, Robert combines and realizes that the next stop for Bernini's Fontana must be the Fiumi (Four Rivers Fountain) on Piazza Navona. The next cardinal is supposed to be murdered here.

In truth, the arrow pointing northeast knows where the Olympic Stadium is.

There are many beautiful places in Rome. One of the most beautiful is without a doubt the Piazza Navona. Not only is the four rivers fountain very imposing, the church of Sant'Agnes in Agone is also an impressive building.

The piazza is always bustling with activity and one or the other of the “best ice cream parlors in Rome” can be found here. It is hard to imagine that the place could ever be as deserted as Robert Langdon finds it shortly before eleven o'clock in the evening.

8.Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Four Rivers Fountain)

In the book, Robert Langdon first climbs the base of the fountain, then the obelisk to get a better view of Rome and the direction in which the dove on the obelisk is pointing.

Through this he sees the building that must be the Church of Enlightenment.

The fountain was built by Bernini. The obelisk that rises in the middle measures 16 m high. At its tip sits a dove with an olive branch in its beak.

So how Robert can climb up here is a mystery to me. Just as he can look “across” the square. Unfortunately, the obelisk is not that high to be able to look over the buildings on the square.

How one can drown in a well is also a mystery to me. The well is only 40 cm deep:

9. Castel Sant'Angelo / Passetto di Borgo (escape route Castel Sant'Angelo> Vatican)

The Dove on the topof the obelisk on Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi shows the direction to the last station: The Castel Sant'Angelo. The Church of Enlightenment and also the place where the killer keeps Vittoria prisoner.

After the fourth element has also been found, Langdon seems to have almost reached the end of the secret Illuminati path. His talent for combination also gives him an idea of ​​the last hiding place: the Castel Sant’Angelo, one of the most famous buildings in Rome.

The castle was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. For the first time the castle served as a mausoleum for Roman rulers. Thereafter, the Castel Sant'Angelo was expanded into a fortress of Rome. From the 10th century the Castel Sant'Angelo served as a refuge and abode for popes. It was also used as a prison or even a torture chamber.

Even Galileo was held here once. The castle now only serves as a museum.

The sculpture of the angel on the roof of Castel Sant'Angelo did not come from Bernini, as Dan Brown claims. It comes from the Flemish sculptor Pieter van Verschaffelt.

Opening hours: Daily 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. (The entrance will be closed around 6.30 p.m.)

Entry: Adults € 10.50, reduced € 7.50

Passetto di Borgo

The subterranean Passetto di Borgo described in the book - the approximately 800 meter long secret passage that leads from the Vatican to Castel Sant'Angelo is not underground, but is an above-ground, solidly walled passage.

From the outside, the Passetto looks like an ordinary wall. This escape route has already helped one or the other Pope to escape from the Vatican.

Unfortunately, access is closed to the public.

10. St. Peter's Basilica

The antimatter is hidden under St. Peter's Basilica, the most important sanctuary of the Roman Catholic Church. The cylinder is on the grave of St. Peter. There is little time left to remove the cylinder ...

St. Peter's Basilica is an imposing building. Inside there is space for around 60,000 worshipers on 15,000 square meters. Almost like a football stadium.

Almost all known builders of the Renaissance and Baroque were involved in the construction: Raffael, Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante.

Next to the altar is the bronze statue of Saint Peter on the right. Next to the statue, a staircase leads down to the Vatican grottoes. Here is the grave of Paul, on which the container with the antimatter is attached. You don't have to go as deep as described in the book: the grave is directly under the altar.

There are 99 oil lamps around the grave. Little lamp would be the more appropriate term. How the Camerlengo is supposed to have soaked his robe with it is left to the imagination of Dan Brown.

By the way: In a small niche in the immediate vicinity of the grave are the remains of Pope John Paul II. Marked with a simple Carrara marble tablet in the floor.

Tip: Visit the dome of St. Peter's Basilica by Michelangelo. The view from inside the dome into the church is overwhelming.

The panoramic view from the dome over Vatican City and Rome in good weather is unforgettable.

I started the way up on foot. 537 steps (the steps instead of a lift are manageable for everyone because they are very flat. It only becomes steep and exhausting at the end of the lift. From here there are still approx. 300 steps).

The Vatican Necropolis is a Roman burial place just below St. Peter's Basilica. Peter's tomb is also located here. These can only be visited as part of guided tours. A permit from Ufficio Scavi is required for the visit. A written registration should be made at least two weeks in advance. The number of visitors per day is limited.


  • Peter's Basilica opening times: Daily 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., October - March: until 6 p.m.
  • Dome opening times: Daily 8 a.m. - 6 p.m., October - March: until 5 p.m. (not Wednesday mornings during the general audience)
  • Tickets: With elevator: € 7; without 4 €

11. Tiber Island

After Robert's daring life and death jump from the helicopter, Robert falls into the Tiber. Right in front of the bank of the Tiber Island, where he is rescued by a doctor.

Interesting facts about Bernini:

Robert Langdon and Vittoria quickly discover that Gian Lorenzo Bernini is the unknown master of the Illuminati and created the path of enlightenment in the middle of Rome.

Bernini served under eight different popes and was hailed first as a sculptor and later as an architect.

Incidentally, Bernini died long before the Illuminati was founded.

Illuminati tour on foot - fastest way

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Guided Illuminati Tours in Rome

At my partner Get Your Guide you will find many tours on the topic of Illuminati. Since everyone has different preferences, I have them here for youOverview of the Illuminati tours linked.

Small Group Illuminati Tour

I have booked tours many times with Get your Guide and can recommend them to you. The Illuminati Tour has also received very positive reviews. Read them through and decide for yourself.

  • Cost: 55 euros
  • Duration: 3.5 hours
  • Guided tour by a local guide

Book Illuminati Tour online

The Official Angels & Demons Tour

This tour is in English. Transfers take place in an air-conditioned van. Entrance fees are included, but St. Peter's Basilica itself is not visited.

Here only the novel is retold. Participants who have done this tour so far said it was relatively boring.

What else you can do in Rome:

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