The Catacombs

The Catacombs—ancient memorial to the many Christian martyrs, extending throughout the city in an amazing labyrinth

The visit

This experience allows you to take part in the most unique of the Roman pilgrimages, the catacombs: the city’s vast underground cemeteries. Naples, Syracuse and Chiusi also have them, but only in Rome do they extend throughout the city in an amazing labyrinth of tunnels, rooms and underground churches. They are the result of the patient and courageous work of “fossatore” and the faith of those who buried their loved ones here. It is an ancient memorial to the many Christian martyrs—victims of persecution by the Roman emperors.

With this itinerary you will explore the catacombs of Domitilla and the guided tour will allow you to understand its entire religious, historical and architectural heritage. The vast catacomb of Domitilla in Via delle Sette Chiese bears the name of a martyr of the first century, Flavia Domitilla, who was banished and confined to the island of Ponza. On the island, in fact, the cell where she endured the long martyrdom was worshipped.

You will be accompanied by a highly qualified guide who will illustrate the history and characteristics of subterranean Rome.

A bit of history...

The Catacombs of Domitilla are one of the largest cemeteries of subterranean Rome and stems from some cemeteries built on land belonging to Flavia Domitilla, which she donated to her freedmen. The great basilica is an unexpected element with its three naves where the light comes from high above creating a special, picturesque atmosphere. Also the basilica’s cemetery of Saints Nereus and Achilleus, martyrs in the time of Diocletian is very beautiful. The frescoes relating to Apostles Paul and Peter, with scenes of their lives and one of the primitive depictions of the Miracle of the Spring, prove to be very intriguing.

Other large areas excavated in recent times have brought to light arched niches, frescoes and other architectural elements. The most recent excavations in 1960 found niches, mausoleums, urns and many fragments of inscriptions and sculptures. The Christian generations that have followed have enriched and adorned these environments, leaving traces of their art, culture and liturgies. In particular, there are numerous frescoes with scenes related to the Gospel, the sacraments and the Old Testament, as well as numerous allegorical figures relating to Jesus and the Apostles.