The catacombs are underground areas that were born between the end of the second and the beginning of the third century AD, used for the burial and funeral commemoration of the members of the Christian community.
These burial grounds were dug mainly in the tuff as well as in other types of soil characterized by ease of processing and great resistance, such as to guarantee the creation of complex systems of tunnels and cubicles structured on different floors. Some of these rooms are richly decorated, others have housed the tombs of the martyrs who during the Middle Ages attracted the devotion of numerous pilgrims.
Located on Via Salaria, the catacomb is spread over two floors and probably takes its name from a Priscilla of the Acili senatorial family, whose name occurs in one of the inscriptions of the hypogeum of the Acili on the first floor.
Its origin is different from that of the other catacombs as initially the place was an arenarium, then abandoned.
Christians began to use the large and irregular galleries that make up the first floor of the catacomb towards the beginning of the third century, building around twenty niche tombs and digging hundreds of niches in the walls.
In an adjacent area there is the cryptoporticus with the Greek Chapel and a large underground environment, born as a noble family burial ground and then connected to the catacomb.
Among the martyrs buried in Priscilla we remember the brothers Felice and Filippo, who were martyred, probably under Diocletian, together with their mother St. Felicita and the other five brothers Alessandro, Marziale, Vitale, Silano and Gennaro.
Numerous popes were also buried in Priscilla: Marcellino (296-304), Marcello (308-309), Silvestro (314-335), Liberius (352-366), Siricius (384-399), Celestino (422-432) and Vigilius (537-555).
In the hypogeum of the Acili, originally a cistern of water, the inscriptions of the Acili have been found and exhibited. Inside Villa Ada there is the Basilica built by Pope St. Silvestro in correspondence with the tomb of Felice and Filippo. In an area near the basilica a Museum has been set up which collects hundreds of fragments of sarcophagi found during the excavations in the area of the catacomb.
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The oldest name of these places dug underground was our and most common "cemetery", a word that derives from the Greek and means "place of rest". When Christians laid down the bodies of their deceased loved ones they were certain that they were only asleep for a long sleep, awaiting the awakening of the resurrection. For this reason the catacombs are not sad dark slums, but they are a secret world that opens to the pilgrim with all the beauty, faith and memory of those who believed in Christ and in his word of hope.
In the vault of an Arenario gallery, next to a stucco Good Shepherd, the oldest representation (early 3rd century) of the Virgin and Child and the prophet Balaam pointing to the star appears. The Velata cubicle also opens in the central Arenario.
The three important moments in the life of the deceased are represented in the lunette on the back wall: marriage, motherhood and faith.
Worthy of note is the so-called "Greek Chapel", datable to the advanced third century: the chapel consists of a rectangular room interrupted in the middle by an arch that divides it into two bays, the second of which has the walls opened by three large niches in one of which are traced inscriptions in Greek, which give the name to the environment. The decoration, datable to the second half of the third century, consists of ornamental frescoes and biblical subjects that cover the vault and the upper part of the walls.
The Basilica built by Pope Sylvester (314-335), in addition to hosting his tomb and that of his other successors, monumentalizes the burial of the martyrs Felice and Filippo.
In the building leaning against the basilica, you can visit a museum dedicated to the sculptures found during the excavations of the complex.hide
The Catacomb of Saints Marcellino and Pietro. The cemetery "at the two laurels".
The Catacomb of Saint Agnes. The memory of the young Roman martyr.