Catacombs of Rome

Over 1,300 Kilometers of Catacombs with Frescos and Human Bones

The Catacombs of Rome are numerous tunnels with underground cemeteries. You will find them in the various neighbourhoods, but also near Rome. Researchers still find catacombs, some with colourful frescoes and human remains. These are the sights of the Catacombs of Rome. This article also contains the best tips for your visit.

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.

Catacombs at Via Appia

Most of the Catacombs of Rome are outside Rome on the famous Via Appia and Appia Antica, The Via Appia was the main Roman road. But they have also been found, for example, under St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.

1,300 Kilometers of Catacombs of Rome

The system of corridors measures over 1,300 kilometres 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. I find these catacombs the most beautiful ones of 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 can also see an underground basilica. 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. You'll see the tombs of sixteen popes and about thirty martyrs. 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. More than half a million Christians are also buried here. You can also only visit the catacombs with a guide. Take a tour to learn why the Christians and their martyrs are buried.

Location: Via Appia 

De Catacomben van Rome.

Catacombs of Priscilla

Priscilla’s Catacombs are also special. Various frescoes have also been discovered. These date from the 2nd and 4th century AD. In these catacombs 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

Rumour 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 at this famous spot. 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 on this spot. However scientific evidence for this has never been found.

In addition to possibly Peter, also various popes have been buried in this necropolis. A visit of these catacombs is only upon request.

Location: Sint Peters Basilique

Accommodation in Rome

For your city trip it is smart to book your hotel, hostel or bed & breakfast early. There are plenty to find in or around the center. And if you book early they are often cheaper. The later you book, the higher the prices in general. This certainly applies to the high season.

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.

In fact, you will find countless galleries, tombs and chapels in the brown tuff in all catacombs. Incidentally, most of the bones of the deceased are gone. Although you can still see here and there.

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. Flashlight is not allowed. 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.

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