The tunnels of the Catacombs of Rome (in Italian: Catacombe di Roma) are as famous as the Catacombs of Paris. The tunnels seem sinister. Where you can easily wander for hours, a guide is mandatory.
Most of the Catacombs of Rome are outside Rome on the famous Via Appia and Appia Antica, but they were also found under St. Peter’s Basilica.
1,300 kilometers long
The system of corridors measures over 1,300 kilometers in length with approximately 40 different catacombs. You will not only find Christian graves, but there are also Jewish and heathen graves. These graves are much older.
Best time to visit the Catacombs of Rome:
Catacombs of Domitilla
The catacombs of Domitilla can only be visited by a guided tour. Logically as it is the oldest but also the largest catacombs of Rome. According to archaeologists, they date from the 2nd century. These catacombs consist of four floors, where more than 150,000 people are buried. You will also find an underground basilica here. These catacombs are also known for the frescoes that tell about Christianity from a distant past.
Location: Piazza Navigatori / Via delle Sette Chiese
Catacombs of Sint-Calixtus
According to many, the catacombs of St. Calixtus are the most impressive. They are located near the Catacombs of Domitilla and also date from the 2nd century AD. Here sixteen popes and about thirty martyrs are buried. The papal crypts are considered the most beautiful ones found within the catacombs. There also are many galleries, graves, and chapels in the brown tuff. Most of the bones of the deceased are now gone. Take a tour to learn why the Christians and their martyrs are buried here.
Location: Via Appia.
Catacombs of Priscilla
Priscilla’s Catacombs are also special. Various frescoes have also been discovered here. These date from the 2nd and 4th century AD. Here you will also find beautiful frescoes. And if you want to visit multiple catacombs, it should definitely be there.
Location: Via Salaria
The Vatican Necropolis
Rumor is that the apostle Peter is buried at the Vatican Necropolis. The Vatican Necropolis is located under the famous St. Peter’s Basilica. Much is unclear about who is buried here. Pope Pius XI commissioned an investigation of the underground cemetery between 1940 and 1949. Several graves were discovered during the excavations, as well as an inscription with ‘Peter is here.’ And human bones. Which would indicate the apostle buried was here. However scientific evidence for this has never been found. In addition to possibly Peter, various popes are also buried here. If you want to visit these catacombs, you must request it.
Location: Sint Peters Basilique
Guided tours at the Catacombs of Rome
In order to get a better understanding of the history of the Catacombs of Rome and the stories behind the martyrs, I can recommend a guided tour. It will give you a more in-depth experience of this ancient venue.
Inside the Catacombs of Rome, it is much cooler than outside. Make sure you bring a jacket. A torch can also be useful, though you can use the light of your mobile phone.
Photography inside the Catacombs of Rome
Photography of frescos or graves inside the catacombs is difficult as there is very little light. You can try to up-pen your iso and lower the aperture. The best is to use a tripod so you can prevent any movement. However, during a guided tour there is not much time to prepare each photograph.