In the southern suburbs of Rome, at the Via Appia Antiqua.
From the motorway Grande Raccordo Anulare (Great Ring Road) use exit 24 or 27. Uscita 24 Roma centro - Fosse Ardeatine, follow Via Ardeatina to the Fosse Ardeatine, public parking opposite the Catacombs. Uscita 27 Via Cristoforo Colombo, follow Via Cristoforo Colombo towards the center. All catacombs are located in this area, entrances and parking lots are signposted.
Le Catacombe di San Callisto:
MAR to JUN Thu-Tue 8:30-12, 14:30-17.
JUL to SEP Thu-Tue 8:30-12, 14:30-17:30.
OCT to JAN Thu-Tue 8:30-12, 14:30-17.
Catacomba di Sant'Agnese: MAR to JAN Mon 8:30-12, Tue-Sat 8:30-12, 16-18, Sun 16-18.
Catacomba di Santa Priscilla: MAR to JUN Tue-Sun 8:30-12, 14:30-17. JUL to SEP Tue-Sun 8:30-12, 14:30-17:30. OCT to JAN Tue-Sun 8:30-12, 14:30-17.
Catacomba di Domitilla: MAR to JUN Wed-Mon 8:30-12, 14:30-17. JUL to SEP Wed-Mon 8:30-12, 14:30-17:30. OCT to JAN Wed-Mon 8:30-12, 14:30-17.
Catacomba di San Sebastiano: MAR to JUN Mon-Sat 8:30-12, 14:30-17. JUL to SEP Mon-Sat 8:30-12, 14:30-17:30. OCT to JAN Mon-Sat 8:30-12, 14:30-17.
Closed on Christmas, New Year's Day and Easter. 
|Fee:||Adults EUR 5, Children (6-15) EUR 3, Soldiers EUR 3, Police EUR 3, Disabled free. Groups: School Children EUR 3, Teacher/Group Leader free. |
James Stevenson (1978):
Rediscovered Monuments of Early Christianity.
Hardcover: 179pp, W.W. Norton & Company; (November 1978), ISBN: 0500020914
J. R. Elsner (1998): Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph, The Art of the Roman Empire Ad 100-450 (Oxford History of Art). Paperback: 320 pp, Oxford Press; (November 1998), ISBN: 0192842013. amazon.com
Matilda Webb (2002): The Churches and Catacombs of Early Christian Rome, A Comprehensive Guide. Paperback: 324 pp, Sussex Academic Pr; (February 2002), ISBN: 1902210581. amazon.com
Philippe Pergola, Mahvash Alemi (Illustrator), E. Mitchell (Illustrator) (2002): Christian Rome, Early Christian Rome: Catacombs and Basilicas: Past and Present. Paperback: 98 pp, Getty Trust Pubn; Spiral edition (March 2002), ISBN: 8881621010. amazon.com
Leonard V. Rutgers (2000): Subterranean Rome. Paperback: 153 pp, Peeters; 1 edition (March 9, 2000), ISBN: 9042908572. amazon.com
Le Catacombe di San Callisto, The Catacombs of St. Callixtus, Via Appia Antica, 110/126, 00179 Roma, Tel: +39-06-51301-580 (during visiting hours) or +39-06-51301-51, Fax: +39-06-51301-567,
Catacomba di Sant'Agnese, The Catacombs of St. Agnes, Via Nomentana 349, 00162 Roma, Tel: +39-06-8610840.
Catacomba di Santa Priscilla, The Catacombs of Priscilla, Via Salaria, 430, 00199 Roma, Tel: +39-06-86206272, Fax: +39-06-86206272.
Catacomba di Domitilla, The Catacombs of Domitilla, Via delle Sette Chiese, 282/0, 00147 Roma, Tel: +39-06-5110342, +39-06-5133956, Fax: +39-06-5135461.
Catacomba di San Sebastiano, The Catacombs of St. Sebastian, Via Appia Antica, 136, 00179 Roma, Tel: +39-06-7887035, Fax: +39-06-7843745.
Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, Via Napoleone III, 1, 00185 Roma, Tel: +39-06-446-5610, Fax: +39-06-446-7625, E-mail:
|Last update:||$Date: 2011/12/13 08:58:17 $|
|~200||first graves dug.|
|313||tolerance was granted to Christians, the use of catacombs declined.|
|~400||the Church returned to bury exclusively above ground.|
|400-800||catacombs sacked and damaged by Goths and Longobards.|
|~800||the Pope ordered to remove the relics of the martyrs and the saints to the city churches for security reasons, the catacombs were no longer visited.|
|~1600||rediscovered by Antonio Bosio.|
|~1850||explored by Giovanni Battista de Rossi.|
|1929||as a part of the Lateran Treaty the Christian catacombs became Vatican territory.|
The Via Appia was probably the most important road of the old Rome, leaving the city to the southeast. In the plains around Rome it runs abolutely straight towards the former cities Capua, Tarentum and Brundisium. This plain consists of tufa, a certain kind of limestone which is deposited by limestone rich water. Tufa has certain characeristics: it is rather soft, at least as long as it is not dried, it is lightweight and it is stable. All this is very usefull for building underground tunnels. It is easy to dig, sometimes it is cut with saws, it is rather easy to transport and the danger of collapses is rather low. All those facts make it a good rock for building underground.
The early Christians of Rome did not have their own graveyards, they were buried beneath non-Christian Romans. This was a little problematic, as the burying rites differed. At this time during the first and second century most Romans were cremated, which was not acceptable to Christians, because of their faith in the resurrection. But there was also a problem of space, as burying requires a lot of space. Along the Via Appia several huge Roman family tombs existed, and some of the grave owners were converted Christians. They opened the graves to their brethren in the faith, and the Christians started to dig their catacombs below those family tombs.
The Christians were persecuted during the second and third century until in 313 with the Edict of Milan tolerance was granted. This is the time in which the catacombs were built. But despite the legends, the catacombs were just graveyards and not hiding places. Being well known to Roman authorities they were still open most of the time since the Romans respected the dead.
During the centuries numerous catacombs were built. There are approximately 1,000 kilometers of tunnels below Rome, but they are not connected. There are catacombs up to 5 levels deep, with huge stairs and air vents. The biggest single catacomb is 16km long.
The catacombs were still used after the Edict of Milan, but a century later the Church returned to bury exclusively above ground. It was now possible for Christians to buy plots of land without fear of confiscation, to have places of worship, and to build churches both inside and outside the city. Barbarians from the North, Goths and Longobards, invaded Italy and attacked Rome. They also sacked and damaged the catacombs, until at the beginning of the 9th century the Pope ordered to remove the relics of the martyrs and the saints to the city churches. Now the people stopped to visit the catacombs and they were forgotten until Antonio Bosio (1575-1629), nicknamed the Columbus of subterranean Rome rediscovered them 800 years later. During the 19th century the catacombs were explored archaeologically by Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822-1894), the father of Christian Archaeology.
Today most catacombs are closed to the public, because of security reasons, to protect those important archaeological sites and in respect to the dead which are buried there. But five catacombs are open to the public. The most visited catacomb is the Catacomb of St. Callixtus at the Via Appia. Two more are at the same road, the others are nearby.
|Main Index | Italy | Lazio | Roma|