Roman Catacombs

Roman Catacombs

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Explore and learn all about the dark history of Rome that is buried deep into the grounds of the Eternal City with a visit to the catacombs of Rome. Catacombs are large underground cemeteries used between 2nd and 5th centuries by the Christians and Jews of Rome. They are made up of endless narrow tunnels that form a labyrinth of underground passages stretching for several miles. Early Christians and Jews, from martyrs to farmers, ended up being buried and worshipped in these catacombs. The catacombs also house art galleries exhibiting olden fresco paintings and sculptures about mythical subjects from the Old Testament. A trip to the Catacombs Rome is one of the most exciting experiences for many visitors of Rome. These catacombs are found on the Appian Way, also known as Via Appia Antica. A walk along the Appian Way through the large tombstones give you a glimpse of ancient Rome thus taking you back in time and history. Sixty Roman Catacombs were discovered in the 16th century but only five of them are open at present for public. Visit the famous Catacombs of Rome like Catacombs of St Domitilla, Catacombs of St Callixtus and Catacombs of St Sebastian to discover the hidden history of Rome and the beginning of Christianity.

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Roman Catacombs
Catacombs of San Sebastiano

The Catacombs of San Sebastiano and are named after San Sebastiano who was a soldier but was martyred for having converted to Christianity. Here you can find the Baroque Basilica of Saint Sebastian which is one of the seven pilgrimages in Rome. In the first left chapel, there is a statue of Saint Sebastian and his remains are kept in the crypt. Location: Via Appia Antica, 136 Opening time: Monday to Saturday – 9 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 5 PM

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Roman Catacombs
Catacombs of San Callisto

The Catacombs of San Callisto are composed of underground tunnels that stretch for 20 kilometres. These catacombs which were built with few private chambers and a funeral area were extended by Saint Callixtus and became the official cemetery of the Catholic Church. You can find the remains of 50 martyrs and 16 pontiffs here. Location: Appia Antica, 110/126 Opening time: Thursday to Tuesday – 9 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 5 PM

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Roman Catacombs
Catacombs of Priscilla

The Catacombs of Priscilla run 35 metres below the ground level and house 40 burial remains including six Popes. The catacombs are well known for the Cubicle of the Velata where you can find important fresco paintings of the first representation of Virgin Mary, Old Testament and Greek Chapel. Location: Via Salaria, 430 Opening time: Tuesday to Sunday– 9 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 5 PM

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Roman Catacombs
Catacombs of Domitilla

The Catacombs of Domitilla are large structures that run for more than 17 kilometres. Discovered later in 1593, these catacombs are named after the granddaughter of Vespasian. The Domitilla Catacombs were managed by Divine Word Missionaries, a Roman Catholic Society of Priests and Brothers at the request of the Vatican. Location: Via delle Sette Chiese, 280 Opening time: 9 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 5 PM

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Roman Catacombs
Catacombs of Sant’Agnese

Named after Saint Agnes of Rome, the Catacombs of Sant’Agnese were constructed for the preservation and veneration of the remains of this virgin martyr. Her bones are now conserved in Sant'Agnese fuori le mura church built over the catacombs while her skull is sustained in the side chapel of Sant'Agnese church in Piazza Navona. Location: Via Nomentana, 349 Opening time: 9 AM to 12 PM and 4 PM to 6 PM The catacombs are closed on Sunday mornings and Monday afternoons.

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Roman Catacombs
Catacombs of via Anapo

The Catacombs of Anapo date back to the end of the 3rd century or the start of the fourth century. They are known for the long art gallery that split into several branches. These underground passages contain a plethora of fresco paintings about biblical subjects taken from the Old and New Testaments. Location: Via Salaria

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History of Roman Catacombs

The Roman Catacombs are underground burial places that were used between the 2nd century and the first half of the 5th century. The word catacomb means ‘next to the quarry’ is based on the fact that the first evacuations used as burial grounds were dug on the outskirts of Rome near a quarry. Since the early Christians of Rome did not have enough money to build fascinating tombs, they were forced to bury their dead people beneath the grounds owned by them on the Appian Way. The corpses were buried in a sheet and buried in the niches. Some saints and martyrs, Jewish people and pagan citizens of Rome were also buried along with the common Christians in these catacombs. During the middle ages, these catacombs were no longer used and hence they were virtually forgotten. They were not rediscovered until the 16th century when Antonio Bosio accidentally found these underground passages in 1578. By the 18th century, the Catacombs of Rome became a tourist attraction and still remains a popular tour for the visitors of Rome who are interested in history.

Why visit the Catacombs of Rome?

The Catacombs of Rome is a walk through the dark history of the city to discover and explore the ancient underground cemeteries used by the Christians of Rome. You will find funeral remains of the burials made in these underground alleys many centuries ago. A journey through the dark and humid corridors of the catacombs help you understand about illegal religion and the plight of first Christians, Jews and pagans of the city. You can also witness underground art galleries featuring important Christian artworks in these catacombs. You will find enchanting fresco paintings and small framed paintings in the catacombs.

What are the Catacombs nowadays?

 Roman Catacombs

There are more than sixty catacombs in Rome but only five of these are accessible now by the public.

  • Catacombs of San Sebastiano run for 12 kilometres and are named after soldier San Sebastiano who was martyred for converting to Christianity.

  • Catacombs of San Calixto are composed of 20 galleries and the burials of 16 pontiffs and several Christian martyrs.

  • Catacombs of Priscilla are known for the beautiful fresco paintings preserved for the history of art.

  • Catacombs of Domitilla are 15 kilometres long underground passages discovered in 1593.

  • Catacombs of Saint Agnes are named after Agnes who was buried in the site of these catacombs.

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Facts About Rome's Catacombs

Roman Catacombs

The 5th century Catacombs were rediscovered in the 16th century by Antonio Bosio, who lost his way in the tunnels of St. Domitilla. The Roman Catacombs which are accessible today are only a fraction of the total catacombs and many underground tunnels are still hidden. The Catacombs of St. Domitilla is named after a Christian woman, Domitilla who was buried in a mausoleum on the site of the catacombs which was later named after her. Some saints who were buried in the Catacombs were moved later. For instance, St. Cecilia was first buried in St. Callixtus but later her body was moved to a cathedral in Trastevere. Similarly, St Sebastian, St Peter and St Paul who were buried in Catacombs di Sebastian are no longer found there.

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Know Before You Go

Tips for visiting Roman Catacombs
How to get to the Catacombs

  • Roman Catacombs allow visitors as a part of a guided trip tour and not individually due to the fragile environment of the location.

  • The Catacombs Rome gets chilly even in summer and hence do not forget to carry warm clothes like sweaters and jackets. Wear comfortable shoes like sneakers or boots as the pathway is narrow and jagged.

  • Since the Catacomb Roma is a revered place, it is necessary that visitors cover their shoulders and thighs while visiting the crypts.

  • Individuals suffering from claustrophobia should refrain from entering the Catacombs.

  • Visitors with limited mobility are not allowed to enter as the site is not wheelchair accessible. You are not allowed to bring baby strollers also inside the Catacombs.

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Roman Catacombs FAQs

Are the Roman catacombs worth seeing?

The Roman Catacombs are worth the visit as they are a gateway to explore the hidden history of Rome buried beneath the grounds of the city. They depict the historical tale about illegal religion, underground worship and burials. The Catacombs are also an art gallery where you can witness significant Christian artworks.

How many are buried in Roman catacombs?

Hundreds of thousands of Roman Christians, Jews and also people who adhered to other pagan Roman religions are buried in the Catacombs of Rome.

Are Rome Catacombs open?

There are more than 60 Rome Catacombs out of which only five are open and accessible by the public. These catacombs are managed by the organisations and offer guided tours for the visitors.

Are the catacombs cold?

Yes the Catacombs are cold throughout the year due to the underground nature of the site. The temperature in the basement of the Catacombs is constantly 16oC even in summer.

Who is buried in the Catacombs of Rome?

First Christians of Rome, Jewish people and pagan citizens are buried in the Catacombs of Rome. Some people who were buried here are identified as saints and martyrs but majority of the burials are ordinary Christians of Rome.

Which catacombs are best to visit in Rome?

The most enthralling catacombs to visit in Rome are Catacombe di San Callisto, Catacombe di Priscilla, Catacombe di San Sebastiano, Catacombe di Domitilla and The Vatican Necropolis.

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