The Catacombs of Rome are ancient underground cemeterial areas mostly built by the Christian communities of the first four centuries AD.
They were usually dug in tuff outside the ancient walls of the city, as the dead could not be buried inside the city.
Today over 40 catacombs still exist underneath the territory of Rome covering approximately 150 kilometres on multiple levels
The oldest nuclei of the Roman Catacombs date back to the end of the 2nd century. Before then, Christians were buried together with pagans but , as the community’s numbers increased it became necessary to create collective cemeteries. To solve the problem of space and thanks to the ease with which it was possible to dig into the soft tuff under the city, they were built underground with tunnels and on various levels.
At first the Catacombs were used exclusively for funeral purposes and for the cult of the martyrs buried there. In the 3rd century in Rome alone there were 25 cemeteries, some of which were property of the Church. In 313 Christianity became a legitimate religion and initially many Christians wanted to be buried near the martyrs.
But by the 5th century burials in the Catacombs were almost abandoned but these underground burial grounds continued to be a pilgrimage destination.
Full tickets € 10.00
Reduced tickets € 7.00
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Address: Via Appia Antica, 136
From Colosseo or Circo Massimo metro station on Line B:
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Visiting the Rome Catacombs plunges us into the world of the early Christians with an extremely strong emotional and sensorial impact.
The darkness, the air we breathe and the confined spaces all strike our senses. Even more moving are the signs of a profound piety for the dead, glowing peacefully with the certainty of the Resurrection Christ promised to all believers.
The Catacombs of Saint Sebastian, located along the ancient Appian Way, represent one of the very few Christian cemeteries that have always been accessible throughout the centuries.
The name of the pozzolan caves where they began to be built (ad Catacumbas) was later given to all underground burial places, which began to be known as Catacombs.
Initially it was a site for pagan burials, as the three beautiful mausoleums bear witness to. Then the tunnels began to be dug for the burial of several martyrs, the best-known of whom was Saint Sebastian, a Roman soldier who died during the persecutions of Diocletian and whose martyrdom (tied to a pole and killed with arrows) has widely inspired painters and sculptors throughout the centuries.
But in the 3rd century AD this site also saw the birth of a devotional centre dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul: at the time of the Emperor Valerian (253-260), during a ruthless persecution of the Christians, in fear of their burials being desecrated, the Christians of Rome secretly transferred the bodies of the Apostles Peter and Paul to this site, considering it more protected.
Thus from 258 AD and for around 70 years the cult of the Saints Peter and Paul began in this sacred site that was named Memoria Apostolorum. Beneath the floors of the current basilica, halls have been found (so-called triclia) where, according to an ancient Roman custom, ritual banquets, known as refrigeria for the dead, took place.
These banquets were certainly also dedicated to the two Apostles as several graffiti invoking Peter and Paul, written in Latin, Greek and Aramaic, cover the walls of the tricliahide
Entrance and guided tour in the great underground cemeteries of Rome
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