When you think of Rome, you most likely think of one of three things: the food, the Colosseum and Vatican City. However, there are also tons of tucked away places in Rome off the beaten path that make for excellent things to do in Rome. One of which are the Catacombs of Rome, underground burial sites in and around the city. So, here’s our guide to the best Catacombs of Rome. Read this, and take note so you know which ones to visit when you visit Rome.
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Catacombs of Domitilla
Located about 15 minutes outside Rome are the hidden Catacombs of Domatilla. Early Romans created that Domitilla Catacombs due to a shortage of space for graves in Rome, similar to why the Paris Catacombs were created. Not a lover of death and bones? The Catacombs of Domitilla are also home to many incredible frescoes, dating back as early as 360 A.D. If you’re interested in touring this ancient burial site, The Roman Guy offers a guided tour with private, luxury transportation and Rome catacombs tickets.
Many of the frescoes portray the transportation of grain to Ostia, probably representing the profession of those buried there. There’s even a fresco dating back to the 2nd century depicting The Last Supper. You may be wondering how many bodies are buried in the Catacombs of Domitilla, and the answer may surprise you. An estimated 150,000 bodies are buried at this site.
Via Appia Antica
Translating to “The Appian Way,” Via Appia Antica is one of the original seven roads leading into Rome. It’s lined by ancient Roman catacombs and is a great site to explore off the beaten path. During their functional period, the catacombs that line the Appian Way were common burial sites for both Christians and Pagans.
Since ancient Rome did not allow burials within the city walls, these catacombs became popular, as they were outside of the city limits. Here, you can explore thousands of underground burial chambers. If you’re looking for the true catacombs experience with bones and all, head to the Capuchin Crypt instead. Despite how cool they are, the catacombs along Via Appia Antica do not have any bones on display for the public to see.
St. Sebastian Catacombs
These specific catacombs are known for the many symbols carved into the walls. Explore the sacred symbols such as the anchor and the fish, one of the earliest Christian symbols to date. These tombs are thousands of years old! However, you can still draw similarities to modern grave sites. Observe the small marks on each tomb, recognizing what each person did for a living. Objects such as coins and jewels are also quite common on these tombs.
Catacombs of St. Callixtus
If you’re already on Via Appia Antica, duck into the intriguing Catacombs of St. Callixtus, or San Callisto. Declared the official catacombs of the Church of Rome, the San Callisto Catacombs date back to the 3rd Century A.D. These catacombs get their name from Deacon Callixtus. Appointed as the administer of the cemetery at the beginning of the third century by Pope Zephyrinus, one of the main attractions of San Callisto Catacombs is the Crypt of the Popes. These crypts, used to contain the tombs of several popes from between the second and fourth centuries.
Saint Priscilla’s Catacombs
Located on via Salaria in Rome, the captivating Catacombs of Priscilla are filled with classic biblical artwork. If this sounds right up your alley, head on over to these catacombs to see frescoes dating back to as early as the second century. One of the most famous frescoes on the walls is up for profound debate.
According to some people, this reddish brown nebulous fresco depicts Mary holding Jesus as an infant. However, it’s hard to tell. Visit these catacombs yourself to make your own interpretation of this disputed artwork! Seven early popes are buried in these catacombs, rightfully earning this space the title of “Queen of Catacombs.”
Capuchin Crypt in Rome
If bones are what you’re after, head to the Capuchin Crypt in the historic center of Rome. Dating back to 1645, the Capuchin Crypt is not technically a catacomb. However, it fits hand-in-hand with the spooky atmosphere of the Roman catacombs. Why head here? Well, this place is the final resting place of around 4,000 monks.
Adorned with the bones of these ancient monks, these rooms are more than a bit eerie. While underground burial sites in Rome typically require a hike to the outskirts of the city, the Capuchin Crypt is easy to add to a day of sightseeing alongside the Pantheon, Colosseum, Vatican and Spanish Steps.
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