The Catacombs of Rome

The locations of all places are shown on my Google-Earth Map

Google-Maps (increase the magnification, this map is in 3-D)

The Catacombs of Rome are underground necropolis related to the Etruscan underground cemeteries. There are at least forty, some discovered only in recent decades. 
Though most famous for Christian burials, there are Jewish and "heathen" graves either in separate catacombs or mixed together. They began to be dug in the 2nd century AD as a solution to overcrowding of cemeteries and shortage of land. 

While past students have written, and much of the public today still thinks, that catacombs came about to help persecuted Christians to bury their dead secretly, this myth has been debunked:  Among other reasons, catacombs always were placed along major highways (which would have meant they couldn't be kept secret for long), pagans also used catacombs although their religion was legal, and most catacomb building took place after Christianity's legalization. 
Their art (frescoes) are rudimentary and primitive compared to Roman painting, or the older Etruscan necropolis, but they depict the slow emergence of Christian themes and symbols, and therein lies their art-historical importance. 

There is a northern group on or near Via Salaria and a better known southern group along Via Appia Antiqua. - Not all are accessible without special introductions. 

Northen Catacombs along Via Salaria

Catacomb of Priscilla
430 Via Salaria
, 2nd-14th cent AD

The Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria is situated in what was a quarry in Roman times, currently located beneath the basilica San Martino ai Monti. This quarry was used for Christian burials from the late second century through the fourth century. Some of the walls and ceilings display fine decorations illustrating Biblical scenes. 

Access to the murals may require special permission

Ceiling fresco in the Cemeterium Maius, part of the large Catacomb of Priscilla, painted c.320-40. The central figure of the Good Shepherd is surrounded by images of Adam and Eve, Moses striking the rock, Jonah under the gourds, and a woman at prayer. 
Text and photo from

Agape feast or Last Supper (3rd cent)

One of the earliest Madonnas, 2nd cent. Photo from Wikipedia
The wikipedia 
article is full of errors.

Via Salaria 430 (enter through the cloister of the monastery of the Benedictines of Priscilla. Buses 86, 92, 310 from Termini station), ☎ tel.: 06-86206272 fax.: 06-86398134, [2]. 8.30 - 12.00 and 14.30 - 17.00 closed Mondays. Euros 6. 

Mausoleum of Lucilius Peto
Vis Salaria 125, across from Villa Albani
, 1st cent AD
temporarily closed

The tumulus

Tomb chambers below

Catacombs of Sant'Agnese
Via Nomentana 349

Chapel of St. Sabina in the catacombs.

The catacombs of St. Agnese are below the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura. (see there)
Via Nomentana 349 - tel. 06 861 08 40 ( closed on Sunday mornings and on Monday afternoons) 
Buses: 60 (from Piazza Veneizia) and 90 (from Termini) 

Southern Catacombs in the Vicinity of Via Appia Antiqua

See my Google-Earth Map for Locations in the Campagna

Mausoleum of St. Helena
Via Casilina 641
Built 330 byConstantin for his mother St. Helena

Sarcophagus of Helena, Vatican Mueum 328 

The Mausoleum of Helena, next to the Catacombs of Marcellinus and Petr, was built by Emperor Constantine I between 326 and 330, originally as a tomb for himself, but later assigned to his mother, Helena, who died in 328. 
Via Casilina, 641, 00177 Roma
Far out - access by Regional Trains: San Marcellino Station - Roma Pantano Line

Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter
Next to St. Helena's Tomb,
Via Casilina 641, 4th cent-AD
The Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter are situated on the 3rd mile of Via Casilina in Rome, near the church of Santi Marcellino e Pietro a Duas Lauros. Their name refers to the Christian martyrs Marcellinus and Peter who, according to tradition, were buried here, near the body of St. Tiburtius. 

In 2006, over a thousand skeletons were discovered in these catacombs; the skeletons were stacked one on top of each other and still bore the togas they were buried with. 

Burial camber, murals before 5th cent AD 

Jonah being thrown to the whale (4th cent)

Adam and Eve (before 5th cent) 

Via Casilina, 641, 00177 Roma
Chiese Parrochiale S. Marcellino A Torpignattara , Via Casilina, 641, 00177 Roma, Italy, +39 06 241 9446 
Regional Train: San Marcellino Station - Roma Pantano Line, ATAC station: Berardi 

Catacombs of Callisto
Via Appia Antica  110, 1st cent AD
One of the more accessible catacombs of Rome included in most tours

These catacombs were dug after AD 150, with some private Christian hypogea and a funeral area directly dependent on the Catholic Church. It takes its name from the deacon Saint Callixtus, proposed by Pope Zephyrinus in the administration of the same cemetery - on his accession as pope, he enlarged the complex, that quite soon became the official one for the Roman Church. The arcades, where more than fifty martyrs and sixteen pontiffs are buried, form part of a complex graveyard that occupies fifteen hectares and is almost twenty km long. It covers an area of 15 hectares and contains an estimated half-million tombs. 
Although started in the 2nd Century, San Callisto has had many more recent burials, including 16 popes. The burial arcades are almost 20km long. Entry is €6 and includes a guided tour in several languages.

Lady praying 

The Good Shepherd, Calistus' catacomb


To reach the Appian Way from Termini station, take the 714 bus from outside the station, and change at the 6th bus stop (St Giovanni Laterano) to the 218 bus, which will take you all the way to the main entrance of the San Callisto catacombs and then on to San Domitilla catacombs and the Fosse Ardeatine. 
Beware that buses in this area are not reliable, particularly in the morning or evening rush hours when journeys can be delayed or even arbitrarily cancelled. From the main sites along the Appian Way,
consider returning to Rome with a walk through the Caffarella Park, which will bring you to Metro Line A (2.8 km - see GE map) Colli Albani-Via Appia Antica Station 

Catacombs of Callisto, Via Appia Antica 110-126 (Located in a large diamond-shaped park between the Appian Way and Via Ardeatino. To reach the Appian Way, see above. If you don't fancy the 1km walk from the main entrance, the 118 goes further along the Via Appia and you can enter the catacombs through a small gate to the right at the third stop. Beware, however, that the 118 runs only every 40 minutes and is not reliable.), ☎ +39 06 513 01580. 9.00 - 12.00 and 14.00 - 17.00. Closed Wednesdays The price of admission is € 8.-; reduced: € 5.-
Reference: sacred- destinations 
also: catacombe-roma  

Fosse Ardeatine

National Monument of German atrocities 1944

Via Ardeatina 174 ( End of (?) 218 bus takes you to the entrance. 300m east of catacombs of San Domitilla).

This was the site of the slaughter in 1944 of 335 Italians, including many Jews from the ghetto, in retaliation for a partisan attack on German troops in Rome. The caves where the massacre took place are now a National Monument and Memorial Cemetery and can be visited daily. 

Catacombs of Domitilla
Via delle Sette Chiese 280

Christian wall paintings 2nd-4th-cent. 
The large and impressive Catacombs of Domitilla are spread over 15 kilometers of underground caves. 

The Domitilla Catacombs are unique in that they are the oldest of Rome's underground burial networks, and the only ones to still contain bones. They are also the best preserved and one of the most extensive of all the catacombs. Included in their passages are a 2nd-century fresco of the Last Supper and other valuable artifacts.

Unfortunately the parts with the best frescoes can only be visited with organized tour-operated groups at much higher prices

Orpheus as Christ (2nd-3rd century)

Christ among the Apostles (4th cent)

Via delle Sette Chiese 280 (continue on the 218 from the entrance to San Callisto. Get off at the junction with via delle Sette Chiese and walk northwest for 200m.). 9.00 - 12.00 and 14.00 - 17.00. Closed on Tuesdays and in January.. The Catacombs of Domitilla are considered to be the best preserved of all Roman catacombs – but the frescoes are not shown without special dispensation!

Catacombs of San Sebastiano
Same area: underneath Church of San Sebastiano,
3rd cent AD

The Church and Catacombs underneath

The Catacomb of San Sebatiano, founded in the 3rd century, is located beneath a church of the same name on the Via Appia Antica, beyond the Catacomb of San Callisto. It was dug out in a rock quarry in a valley, and was thus referred to by the description in catacumbas from the Greek word for "sunken valley." Since this was the only underground cemetery to be maintained after ancient times, all other ones came to be called "catacombs" when they were discovered. 

The Church of San Sebastiano has been in continous use ever since. It was restoredy by Pope Hadrian I (772-95) and remodeled in the 12th or 13th century. Excavations of the catacombs were undertaken from 1892 to 1961. 

(Bus 118 to the entrance. Bus 218 to Fosse Ardeatina then turn left on foot along Via delle Sette Chiese for 400m.). 9.00 - 12.00 and 14.00 - 17.00. Closed Sundays and 15 Nov. to 15 Dec.. 

Catacombs of Santa Comodilla
Via Ostiensis near St. Paolo Fuore le mure, 2nd cent AD

One of the earlyest necropolis. These catacombs, on the Via Ostiensis, contain one of the earliest images of a bearded Christ. They originally held the relics of Saints Felix and Adauctus.

Bearded Christ, from catacombs of Comodilla