Going Rome Underground Catacombs

Catacombe-di-santa-Priscilla_Roma_1_2-jpg Visiting Rome’s Catacombs by Christian Horlick

It’s another hot summer’s day in Rome and you want to escape the heat, relax, and experience some of the city’s antiquities.  Where do you go? Underground to the catacombs. There are many to visit that date back from between the 4th  ? 1st centuries A.D. along via AppiaRome_Procession-in-the-Catacomb-of-Callistus Antica.

Since burial inside Rome’s walls was forbidden during these early times, the richer and more fashionably pagan Romans were buried along the Appian Way heading out of Rome. And here the Christians, due to persecution, were forced to be buried and hold their religious ceremonies in a series of secret maze-like tunnels beneath the tombs of their persecutors.

Tourists are only allowed to visit a small fraction of the approximately 300 kilometers of catacombs that stretch beneath the suburbs of Rome. But year round, the temperature of these burial sites remains at a constant 55?f (13?c). So, they are the ideal place to escape the strangling hold of Rome’s un-air-conditioned  heat.

Among the largest and most important of Rome there is the San Callisto (Catacombs of St. Callixtus: Via Appia Antica, 110/126, 00179 Roma | Tel: +39.065130151) ), contains almost 22 kilometers of underground mazes. It once held over 500,000 Christians, 16 Popes, and St. Cecilia on four levels. San Callisto offers the best overall history of the catacombs. There are unscheduled tours throughout the day in several languages. Just buy your ticket (?5) and listen for a group of people who speak your language and stand with them until a tour guide comes along.

Via Appia Antica, 110 – 00179 ROMA
Pnone. (+39) /;
Openings 9.00 – 12.00; 14.00 – 17.00(17:30 daylight saving time) Entrance ticket € 5.00 Reduced 3.00 The ticket entitles you to a guided tour.
Closed: Wednesday
Annual closing: February

Bus ATAC 118; 218

The most impressive of the catacombs is San Sebastiano (v. Appia Antica, 136). These catacombs are located beneath the church of San Sebastiano which houses an actual arrow pulled from the body of St. Sebastian, as well as a footprint of Jesus Himself. Both relics are located behind an iron and glass cage, within the church, that doesn’t allow one to get too close to scrutinize their authenticity, but hey, that’s faith. The catacombs are said to have once been the temporary home for the bodies of Peter and Paul. Beware, the catacombs of San Sebastiano close every day between 1:00 and 2:30 for lunch.

Via Appia Antica, 136 – 00179 ROMA
Tel. (+39)

Openings 9.00 – 12.00; 14.00 – 17.00(17:30 daylight saving time) Entrance ticket € 5.00 Reduced 3.00 The ticket entitles you to a guided tour.
Annual closing: mid November mid December
closed on Sundays
Annual closing: February

Bus ATAC 118; 218; 660

The catacombs of Santa Domitilla (v. d. Sette Chiese, 430; not far from the other two burial sites) houses an intact portrait of Christ and his Apostles from the 3rd century. Catacomb of Domitilla is one of the largest cemeteries in the underground Rome.

Via delle sette chiese, 282 – 00147 ROMA
Tel. /; fax
Openings 9.00 – 12.00; 14.00 – 17.00(17:30 daylight saving time) Entrance ticket € 5.00 Reduced 3.00 The ticket entitles you to a guided tour.
Closed: Tuesday
Annual closing: January
ATAC bus 714

Dug out mostly in the 2nd century A.D., Catacombe di Priscilla (via Salaria, 430) contains the presumably, first recorded depiction of Mary.

Via Salaria, 430 – 00199 ROMA
Tel. (+39 ) /; Fax;
Openings 9.00 – 12.00; 14.00 – 17.00(17:30 daylight saving time) Entrance ticket € 5.00 Reduced 3.00 The ticket entitles you to a guided tour.
Closed: Monday
Annual closing: August
ATAC bus 86; 92; 310

Most of these catacombs can be found by taking bus 218 from San Giovanni. Get off at the third, or so stop, at a fork in the road where there is a large sign fastened to a salmon-colored building that reads, “Catacombe S. Callisto, a 900 m.” It’s nice to walk this 900 meters, through fields of flowers and ruins, to the catacombs.

Quote: The catacombs are an ideal place to escape the strangling hold of Rome’s
un-air-conditioned  heat.

Fosse Ardeatine

Located near the catacombs of San Callisto and San Sebastiano is Fosse Ardeatine (up the road from the main entrance of San Callisto, on via Ardeatine).
Roma-fosse-ardeatineFormerly a quarry, Fosse Ardeatine is now a memorial to 335 Italians shot by the Nazis. In 1944, the Italian Resistance had exploded a bomb, killing 35 Nazis, and as a reprisal 10 Italians were murdered for every Nazi that died.

The bodies are now housed here in an underground mausoleum. On each tomb you can see a photograph of the person shot, along with his name, age, and occupation. Beyond this, it is possible to walk through the caverns, where they were shot, and see holes in the sides of the rock made by the bullets.

Up the hill is a museum with paintings dedicated to those who had died, newspaper articles, and photographs depicting the incident.


Catacombe-di-Santa-Agnese_2CATACOMBS OF ST AGNESE
Via Nomentana, 349-00162 ROMA
Tel. & Fax (+39) 0761.74.50.6406.86.10.840
Open: 9:00 to 12:00 / 16:00 to 18:00
Weekly rest: Sunday morning and holidays
Annual closing: November
ATAC bus 90; 60; 36

The young Roman martyr Agnes was buried in this catacomb, died violently in just 12 years. The cult of Agnes began soon after his martyrdom, his tomb was even then visited by Romans and foreign pilgrims.
On the tomb of Agnes, in the catacomb, Pope Honorius I (625-638) commissioned, replacing an earlier building of the time of Pope Symmachus (498-514), the current basilica, basement, with narthex, nave and two aisles and women’s gallery. The apse is decorated with a beautiful mosaic representing Agnes between Popes Honorius and Symmachus. The catacomb is rather badly preserved as it has been continuously busy over the centuries.

Catacombs of Latium open to the public

S. Cristina di Bolsena (VT)

Catacombe-s-cristina-di-Bolsena_viterboFor information, contact the Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament Parish of SS. Martyrs Giorgio and Cristina
Piazza S. Cristina – 01023 Bolsena (VT)
Tel. & Fax (+39) 0761.74.50.640761.79.90.67
Admission: € 4.00 – reduced € 2.00

The catacomb dates back to IV-V century, annexed to the medieval basilica of the martyr, with frescoes, epigraphs (painted and marble) and antique collection of objects from the nineteenth century excavations of the monument.

S. Eutizio presso Soriano at Cimino (VT)

Catacombe_di_santo_eutizio_viterbo_soriano_nel_cimino_For information, contact the Passionist Fathers
Convent of St. Eutizio
Via del Convento, 18-01038 Soriano del Cimino (VT)
Tel. (+39) 0761.74.50.64

Catacomb of the fourth century, adjacent to the martyr’s basilica, with pictorial remains and funeral objects; remarkable the presence of a niched tomb with frescoes depicting the Apostles Peter and Paul.

S. Savinilla at Nepi (VT)

Catacomba_S- Savinilla_Nepi-Viterbo(VT)For a visits, contact the Municipal Museum
Town Hall
Via XX Settembre 01036 Nepi (VT)
Tel. (+39) 0761.57.06.04
Catacomb of the fourth and fifth centuries, next to the eighteenth-century church dedicated to Sts. Ptolemy and the Roman Empire, which tradition says was buried in the cemetery underground; The monument preserves painted inscriptions and graffiti, late antique and medieval frescoes; the great architectural plan of the catacomb characterized by extremely wide, imposing galleries.


S. Teodora a Rignano Flaminio (RM)

Catacombe_S-teodora_Rignano-Flaminio-RomaFor a visit the City of Rignano Flaminio
Town Hall
Corso Umberto I, 17-00068 Rignano Flaminio (RM)
Tel. (+39) 0761.74.50.640761.50.91.43
Catacomb of the fourth and fifth centuries, greatly extended, with many graffiti inscriptions on the tomb closings; It is located in the modern cemetery of Rignano, at km 39 of the Via Flaminia; it is accessed from the eighteenth century cathedral dedicated to St. Theodora and the martyrs of the catacomb (Abbondio, Abbondanzio, Marciano and John).

S. Vittoria a Monteleone Sabino (RI)

Catacomba_S-Vittoria_Monteleone-Sabino-Rieti(RI)For a visit the Group “of S. Vittoria Guide”
civic Museum
Via Lucio Mummius, 11-02033 Monteleone Sabino (RI)
Tel. (+39) 0761.74.50.640765.88.40.14
Catacomb of the fourth century, next to the Romanesque church dedicated to the martyr; the cemetery was housed in existing hydraulic and sandstone cavities, carved into the limestone; The catacomb is especially important for the particular funeral architecture, characterized by niches in masonry and series of tombs built one above the other on several parallel planes.

S. Senatore at Albano (RM)

Catacombe_S- Senatore_Albano(RM)For a visit the Municipal Museum
Villa Ferrajoli
Viale Risorgimento, 3-00041 Albano Laziale (RM)
Tel. (+39); Fax (+39)

  Catacomb of the end of the III-V century, which continued to be visited until the Middle Ages as the eponymous martyr sanctuary. Located at the Convent. Carmelites of Santa Maria della Stella, on the ancient Via Appia, the monument preserves an important series of early Christian and medieval frescoes. The “historical crypt”, the center of the cult of the martyr Senator, has a remarkable monumental impact, as well as the rest of the cemetery entirely housed in the rooms of an old sandstone quarry, which, in the first half of the third century, had housed an underground funerary pay.

Catacomba Ad Decimum at Grottaferrata (RM)

Catacombe_Ad-Decimum_Grottaferrata (RM)_grottaferrataFor a visit the Latin Archaeological Group
Via del Castello, 33 – 00044 Frascati (RM)
Tel. (+39)

The catacomb located on the Via Anagnina, at km 16, at Villa Senni (Grottaferrata), dates back to the late third century and was in operation until the early decades of the fifth; It is fairly extensive and particularly important for the almost intact conservation status of some of its sectors, as well as for the many frescoes and funeral inscriptions that you keep.

S. Ilario “ad Bivium” at Valmontone (RM)

Catacombe_S- Ilario_ad BiviumFor a visit the Archaeological Group Toleriense
Via dell’Artigianato, 9-00034 Colleferro (RM)
Tel. & Fax (+39)

The catacomb is located in a rural town (called “Hilary”), located at XXX mile of the ancient Via Latina, not far from the current centers of Colleferro and Valmontone. The cemetery consists of a number of galleries and cubicles that returned epigraphic and ceramic materials (today Municipal Antiquarium of Colleferro); in front of the catacomb it covers an important outdoor air cemetery, bordered by a fence, which houses many masonry tombs or excavated in the rock (IV-VI century); of funerary area was built at the end of the eighth century, a small church (that, in fact, St. Hilary), which is one of the best preserved examples of early medieval religious buildings of Lazio.

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