Catacombs of Callixtus (Catacombe di San Callisto)

Catacombs of Callixtus (Catacombe di San Callisto)

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The Catacombs of St. Callixtus

They are on the right of the Appian Way, after the church of "Quo Vadis?".

The catacombs of St. Callixtus are among the greatest and most important of Rome. They originated about the middle of the second century and are part of a cemeterial complex which occupies an area of 90 acres, with a network of galleries about 12 miles long, in four levels, more than twenty meters deep. In it were buried tens of martyrs, 16 popes and very many Christians.

They are named after the deacon Callixtus who, at the beginning of the third century, was appointed by pope Zephyrinus as the administrator of the cemetery and so the catacombs of St. Callixtus became the official cemetery of the Church of Rome.

In the open area are two small basilicas with three apses, known as the "Trichorae". In the Easter one were perhaps laid to rest pope Zephyrinus and the young martyr of the Eucharist, St. Tarcisius.

The underground cemetery includes several areas. The area of the Popes is the most important and venerated crypt of the cemetery, called "the little Vatican" as it was the official burial place of nine popes and, probably, of eight dignitaries of Rome's 3 rd century Church. In the walls you can still see the original inscriptions, in Greek, of five popes. On four tombstones, near the name of the pope, there is the title of "bishop", since the Pope was regarded as the head of the Church of Rome, and on two of them there is the Greek abbreviation of MPT for "Martyr".

The Crypt of St. Cecilia: the popular patron saint of music. Of a noble Roman family, she was martyred in the 3 rd c. and entombed where the statue now lies.
She was venerated in this crypt for at least five centuries. In 821 her relics were transferred to Trastevere, in the basilica dedicated to her.
The statue of St. Cecilia is a copy of the celebrated work sculptured by Stefano Maderno in 1599.
The crypt was all covered with mosaics and paintings (beginning of the IX Century). On the wall, near the statue, we see an ancient painting of St. Cecilia in an attitude of prayer lower down, in a small niche, is a fresco representing Christ holding a Gospel. On the right side is the figure of St.Urban. On the wall of the shaft is the painting of three martyrs: Polycamus, Sebastian and Quirinus.

Passing through imposing galleries full of loculi, we reach five small chambers, truly family tombs, commonly known as the cubicles of the Sacraments, and particularly important for their frescoes.
The frescoes can be dated to the beginning of the III century and represent symbolically the sacraments of Baptism and of the Eucharist. We find depicted also the prophet Jona, a symbol of the resurrection.

Catacombe di San Callisto

These are the largest and busiest of Rome’s catacombs. Founded at the end of the 2nd century and named after Pope Calixtus I, they became the official cemetery of the newly established Roman Church. In the 20km of tunnels explored to date, archaeologists have found the tombs of 16 popes, dozens of martyrs and thousands upon thousands of Christians. Tours (in English and many other languages) last about 45 minutes and give a good idea of the seemingly endless corridors stretching underground.

The patron saint of music, St Cecilia, was also buried here, though her body was later removed to Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. When her body was exhumed in 1599, more than a thousand years after her death, it was apparently perfectly preserved, as depicted in Stefano Maderno’s softly contoured sculpture, a replica of which is here. On tours, the guides offer many good details of early Christian life. When the grounds are open, to reach the catacombs use the nearly 1km access road in lieu of the parallel stretch of the Via Appia Antica. It's much quieter, with shady trees and sweeping views.

Appian Way and Catacombs

The Appian Way, or Via Appia Antica, was one of the most important roads leading from the city of Rome to the south (eventually leading to Brindisi, the gateway to the Adriatic). Since it was illegal to bury people inside the city walls, many families established mausoleums along the Appian Way. Early Christian communities, who buried bodies instead of cremating them, dug out over 200 miles of catacombs. The area is now a Regional Park. You can get a feel for the countryside in this video clip from Rick Steves.

There are various ways of getting from central Rome to the Appian Way

    • Bus 118 from Circo Massimo Metro stop (goes to Terme di Carcalla, Porta San Sebastiano, Domine Quo Vadis, and Catacombe San Callisto & San Sebastiano)
    • Bus 660 from Colli Albani Metro stop (goes to Cecilia Metella)
    • Bus 218 from San Giovanni Metro stop (goes to Porta San Sebastiano, Domine Quo Vadis, and not too far from Catacombe San Domitilla)
    • Archeobus - a €15 hop on-and-off open-air bus that runs from various spots in central Rome to various spots along the Appian Way. --> as of 2015 may not be running? (there is an old site still but with lots of broken links)
    • Car - you can park at the Catacomb of San Callisto (41°51.58'N 12°30.65'E), as well as at various places along the road itself. Note that the Appian Way is closed to motor traffic on Sundays.
    • Metro - it's a hike, but you can get off on various metro stops like Colli Albani and then walk through the Caffarella park on your way to the Appian Way
    • Train - to Torricola, see "Walking the Road," below.

    The Appian Way Park Website Map (original is downloadable here as PDF) is quite good it shows in darker brown which parts of the Appian Way still have the original stones. There's a smaller version on the park website, and you can download brochures (such as "AppiaAntica_eng") that explain some of the sites.

        (Catacombs of St. Callixtus). Open every day but W 8:30-12 and 2:30-5:30 (closes at 5 from Nov to Mar, closed Feb). One of the largest catacombs, which was the burial site for several early popes. Via Appia Antica 110, 06-5130-1580. (Catacombs of St. Sebastian). Open every day but Sun 9-12 and 2-5 (closed mid-Nov to mid-Dec). Slightly less famous than St. Callixtus, but also interesting. The church above contains the remains of St. Sebastian, an early Christian martyr who famously survived being shot by arrows (you will recognize paintings of him throughout Rome). Via Appia Antica 136, 06-785-0350.
      • Catacombe di San Domitilla (Catacombs of St. Domitilla). Open every day but Tues 8:30-12 and 2:30-5 (closed Jan). Located just off the Appian Way, just West of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, Frommer's recommends this as the best tour. Via di Sette Chiese 283, 06-511-0342.

      The road runs for about 9 miles from the Porta San Sebastiano (Saint Sebastian gate) to the town of Cecchina. The best time to walk along the road is on Sunday, since it is closed off to motorized traffic. Here are some landmarks you will see along the way and tips for where to walk:

        • The first 0.5 miles from Porta San Sebastiano to Domine Quo Vadis - skippable, lots of traffic. Domine Quo Vadis means, "Lord, Where are you going?" which is supposedly what St. Peter asked on this spot, where he was told to go to Rome to face his crucifixion. When they finish renovating the church, you can once again see Jesus' footprints inside (the originals are now in the San Sebastiano church). Porta San Sebastiano has the Museo della Mura, where you can learn about Rome's walls and defenses (open every day but Mon 9-2, 06-820-59-127), which used to let you up on the walls but apparently doesn't anymore.
        • The next 1 mile from Quo Vadis to San Sebastiano catacombs is best done on the "high road" inside the San Callisto catacomb complex--basically follow the cyprus-lined road through the gate labeled "San Callisto."
        • The next mile, where traffic dies down and occasionally you'll see the big, original stones of the Appian Way, complete with chariot wheel ruts from thousands of years of traffic, features three Roman ruin sites:
          • Circo Massenzio - a "circus" designed for chariot racing
          • Tomb of Cecilia Metella - huge round castle-looking mausoleum dedicated to a Roman noble woman
          • Capo di Bovo - outdoor ruins including several tile mosaics

          . probably the best part to walk is the 3 miles from Circo Massenzio to Casal Rotondo.

          • Parco della Caffarella (Valley of Caffarella Park) - to the east of the Appian Way, not far from the catacombs, a valley that runs past a number of temples and other ruins. See this map for points of interest the park website also has a nice map (and this more general one in PDF).
          • Parco degli Acquedotti (Aqueduct Park), which has cool arched aqueducts featured in films such as La dolce vita. You can reach the park via the Giulio Agricola metro station or bus 557 from Subaugusta metro station the park website has a nice map.

          The following restaurants are in the area and recommended by various sources:

          Catacombe di San Callisto (Catacombs of St. Callixtus)

          Our Rating Hours Thurs–Tues 9am–noon and 2–5pm Transportation Bus: 218 Phone 06-5130151 Prices Admission 8€ adults, 5€ children ages 7–15 Web site Catacombe di San Callisto (Catacombs of St. Callixtus) Other Closed late Jan to late Feb

          These catacombs are often packed with tour-bus groups, and they run perhaps the most standard tour, but the funerary tunnels are phenomenal. They’re the first cemetery of the Christian community of Rome, and burial place of 16 popes in the 3rd century. They bear the name of St. Callixtus, the deacon whom Pope St. Zephyrinus put in charge of them and who was later elected pope (a.d. 217–22) himself. The complex is a network of galleries structured in four levels and reaching a depth of about 20m (65 ft.), the deepest in the area. There are many sepulchral chambers and almost half a million tombs of early Christians.

          Entering the catacombs, you see the most important crypt, concealing the remains of nine popes. Some of the original marble tablets of their tombs are preserved. Also commemorated is St. Cecilia, patron of sacred music (her relics were moved to her church in Trastevere during the 9th c.). Farther on are the Cubicles of the Sacraments, with 3rd-century frescoes.

          Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.


          The word catacombs comes from the Latin root word catatumbas meaning either “among the tombs” or, according to other translations from the original Late Latin, “next to the quarry”. The later translation stems from the first excavations done to create the catacombs system, which was conducted outside of Rome near the quarry. [4]

          The Etruscan civilization, which dominated a territory including the area which now includes Rome from perhaps 900 to 100 BC, like many other European peoples, had buried its dead in excavated underground chambers, such as the Tomb of the Capitals, and less complex tumuli. In contrast, the original Roman custom had been cremation of the human body, after which the burnt remains were kept in a pot, urn, or ash-chest, often deposited in a columbarium or dovecote. Rome faced two problems in the 2nd century CE: overpopulation and a lack of land. The city was growing, and many of the buildings were four or five stories tall. Since burials were not allowed inside the city walls, and early Christians did not agree with the pagan practice of cremating their dead, communal underground cemeteries provided a practical alternative. [5] From about the 2nd century AD, inhumation (burial of unburnt human remains) became customary, either in graves or, for those who could afford them, in sarcophagi, often elaborately carved. By the 4th century, burial had overtaken cremation as the usual practice, and the construction of tombs had grown greater and spread throughout the empire. Jews and Christians preferred burial due to the idea of preserving the dead body for the resurrection. Considerable tracts of the ancient roads leading out of Rome and other Roman cities, like the Via Appia to this day, had monumental tombs running alongside them. These would inevitably cost a fortune to construct, whereas clearly in digging out of the catacombs would be less expensive.

          Despite widespread popular modern ideas, these tunnels were probably not used for regular worship at first, but simply for burial. However, extending pre-existing Roman customs, memorial services, and celebrations of the anniversaries of Christian martyrs took place there. There are sixty known subterranean burial chambers in Rome. They were built outside the walls along main Roman roads, like the Via Appia, the Via Ostiense, the Via Labicana, the Via Tiburtina, and the Via Nomentana. Names of the catacombs – like St Calixtus and St Sebastian, which is alongside Via Appia – refer to martyrs that may have been buried there. However, about 80% of the excavations used for Christian burials date to after the time of the persecutions. [6]

          Through research, it has been found that the population's diet consisted of freshwater fish. Sample D9-W-XVI-8, considered to be a two-year-old child, shows that children in Ancient Rome were breastfed and this child, in particular, had not yet been weaned off its mother. This results from the fact that the δ15N values had not begun to decline. [7]

          Fish had intertwined secular and religious aspects in Roman society. For one thing, it was a staple of the daily diet. [8] [7] It also had a variety of significance for Christians, for whom it was not only a common food, as for other Romans, but featured as a symbol in Christian iconography and was consumed at meals held to commemorate the dead.

          Roman law forbade burial places within city limits and so all burial places, including the catacombs, were located outside the walls of the city. The first large-scale catacombs in the vicinity of Rome were dug from the 2nd century onwards. They were carved in tufa, a type of volcanic rock which is relatively soft to dig into but subsequently hardens, [9]

          Christian catacombs existed as a burial ground for early Christians accompanied by inscriptions and early wall art. Although catacombs were of Jewish origin in the first century, by the end of the sixth century there were over 60 Christian catacombs. These catacombs served as a connector for various Christian communities through the underlying concepts of socio-economic status shown within the art. Additionally, the art showed a story of how Christians in the first couple of centuries viewed the world and their idealistic view of how it should be.

          Christian art in the catacombs is split into three categories: iconographic, stylistic, and technical. From the first to the sixth century, the art in Roman Christian catacombs progressively went into phases as well: an early phase, an Old Testament phase, and a New Testament phase.

          Excavators (fossors) built vast systems of galleries and passages on top of each other. They lie 7–19 metres (23–62 ft) below the surface in an area of more than 2.4 square kilometres (590 acres). Narrow steps that descend as many as four stories join the levels. Passages are about 2.5 by 1 metre (8.2 ft × 3.3 ft). Burial niches (loculi) were carved into walls. They are 40–60 centimetres (16–24 in) high and 120–150 centimetres (47–59 in) long. [ citation needed ] Bodies were placed in chambers in stone sarcophagi in their clothes and bound in linen. Then the chamber was sealed with a slab bearing the name, age, and the day of death. The fresco decorations provide the main surviving evidence for Early Christian art, and initially show typically Roman styles used for decorating homes – with secular iconography adapted to a religious function. The catacomb of Saint Agnes is a small church. Some families were able to construct cubicula which would house various loculi and the architectural elements of the space would offer support for decoration. Another excellent place for artistic programs were the arcosolia.

          The complex system of tunnels that would later be known as the catacombs were first excavated by the Etruscan people that lived in the region predating the Romans. These tunnels were first excavated in the process of mining for various rock resources such as limestone and sandstone. These quarries became the basis for later excavation, first by the Romans for rock resources and then by the Christians and Jews for burial sites and mass graves. [10]

          In 380, Christianity became a state religion. At first, many still desired to be buried in chambers alongside the martyrs. However, the practice of catacomb burial declined slowly, and the dead were increasingly buried in church cemeteries. In the 6th century, catacombs were used only for martyrs’ memorial services, though some paintings were added as late as the 7th century, for example, a Saint Stephen in the Catacomb of Commodilla. Apparently, Ostrogoths, Vandals and Lombards that sacked Rome also violated the catacombs, presumably looking for valuables. By the 10th century, catacombs were practically abandoned, and holy relics were transferred to above-ground basilicas.

          In the intervening centuries they remained forgotten until they were accidentally rediscovered in 1578, after which Antonio Bosio spent decades exploring and researching them for his Roma Sotterranea (1632). Archeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822–1894) published the first extensive professional studies about catacombs. In 1956 and 1959 Italian authorities found more catacombs near Rome. The catacombs have become an important monument of the early Christian church. [7]

          Responsibility for the Christian catacombs lies with the Holy See, which has set up active official organizations for this purpose: the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology (Pontificia Commissione di Archeologia Sacra) directs excavations and restoration works, while the study of the catacombs is directed in particular by the Pontifical Academy of Archaeology. The administration of some sites is entrusted on a day-to-day basis to local clergy or religious orders who have an activity on or adjacent to the site. The supervision of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus by the Salesian Fathers is well known. In the last years, with the growth of the internet, updated information is often available online, with an indication of a current street address, opening hours, fees, availability of guides in the different languages, size of groups permitted, and public transport. Like other historical sites in Italy, the catacombs are often not accessible at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week and may require online pre-booking.

          Roman catacombs are made up of underground passages (ambulacra), in the walls of which horizontal niches (loculi) were dug. These loculi, generally laid out in sequences (pilae) one above the other from floor or waist level, could each contain one or more bodies. A loculus large enough to contain two bodies were referred to as a bisomus. Another type of burial, typical of Roman catacombs, was the arcosolium, consisting of a curved niche, enclosed under a carved horizontal marble slab. Cubicula (burial rooms containing loculi all for one family) and cryptae (chapels decorated with frescoes) are also commonly found in catacomb passages. When space began to run out, other graves were also dug in the floor of the corridors – these graves are called formae.

          The Roman catacombs, of which there are forty in the suburbs or former suburbs, were built along the consular roads out of Rome, such as the Via Appia, the Via Ostiensis, the Via Labicana, the Via Tiburtina, and the Via Nomentana. With the exception of the Via Ostiensis (Italian: Via Ostiense), these ancient Latin terms are also the current Italian names for these roads.

          Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter Edit

          These catacombs are situated on the ancient Via Labicana, today Via Casilina in Rome, Italy, near the church of Santi Marcellino e Pietro ad 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.

          Catacombs of Domitilla Edit

          Close to the Catacombs of San Callisto are the large and impressive Catacombs of Domitilla [11] (named after Saint Domitilla), spread over 17 kilometres (11 miles) of caves.

          In the beginning of 2009, [12] at the request of the Vatican, the Divine Word Missionaries, a Roman Catholic Society of priests and Brothers, assumed responsibility as an administrator of St. Domitilla Catacombs. [13]

          Catacombs of Commodilla Edit

          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. Excavations on the Commodilla were conducted by Franciscan archaeologist Bellarmino Bagatti (1933–34).

          Catacombs of Generosa Edit

          Located on the Campana Road, these catacombs are said to have been the resting place, perhaps temporarily, of Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix, Christian Martyrs who died in Rome during the Diocletian persecution (302 or 303). [14]

          Catacombs of Praetextatus Edit

          These are found along the via Appia and were built at the end of the 2nd century. They consist of a vast underground burial area, at first in pagan then in Christian use, housing various tombs of Christian martyrs. In the oldest parts of the complex may be found the "cubiculum of the coronation", with a rare depiction for that period of Christ being crowned with thorns, and a 4th-century painting of Susanna and the old men in the allegorical guise of a lamb and wolves.

          Catacombs of Priscilla Edit

          The Catacomb of Priscilla, situated at the Via Salaria across from the Villa Ada, probably derives its name from the name of the landowner on whose land they were built. They are looked after by the Benedictine nuns of Priscilla. [15]

          Catacombs of San Callisto Edit

          Sited along the Appian way, these catacombs were built 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 were buried, form part of a complex graveyard that occupies fifteen hectares and is almost 20 km (12 mi) long.

          Catacombs of San Lorenzo Edit

          Built into the hill beside San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, these catacombs are said to have been the final resting place of St. Lawrence. The church was built by Pope Sixtus III and later remodeled into the present nave. Sixtus also redecorated the shrine in the catacomb and was buried there. [16]

          Catacombs of San Pancrazio Edit

          Established underneath the San Pacrazio basilica which was built by Pope Symmachus on the place where the body of the young martyr Saint Pancras, or Pancratius, had been buried. In the 17th century, it was given to the Discalced Carmelites, who completely remodeled it. The catacombs house fragments of sculpture and pagan and early Christian inscriptions.

          Catacombs of San Sebastiano Edit

          One of the smallest Christian cemeteries, this has always been one of the most accessible catacombs and is thus one of the least preserved (of the four original floors, the first is almost completely gone). On the left-hand end of the right-hand wall of the nave of the primitive basilica, rebuilt in 1933 on ancient remains, arches to end the middle of the nave of the actual church, built in the 13th century, are visible, along with the outside of the apse of the Chapel of the Relics whole and fragmentary collected sarcophagi (mostly of 4th-century date) were found in excavations.

          Via a staircase down, one finds the arcades where varied cubicula (including the cubiculum of Giona's fine four stage cycle of paintings, dating to the end of the 4th century). One then arrives at the restored crypt of S. Sebastiano, with a table altar on the site of the ancient one (some remains of the original's base still survive) and a bust of Saint Sebastian attributed to Bernini. From here one reaches a platform, under which is a sandstone cavity ad catacumbas which once may have been named "ad catacumbas", thus giving this and all other tombs of this type their name. 3 mausolea of the second half of the 2nd century (but also in later use) open off the platform. The first one on the right, decorated on the outside with paintings of funereal banquets and the miracle of the calling out of Cerasa's demons, on the inside contains paintings (including a ceiling painting of a Gorgon's head) and inhumation burials and has a surviving inscription reading "Marcus Clodius Hermes", the name of its owner. The second, called by some "tomb of the Innocentiores" (a burial club which owned it), has a refined stucco ceiling, Latin inscriptions in Greek characters, and a graffito with the initials of the Greek words for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour". On the left is the mausoleum of Ascia, with an exterior wall painting of vine shoots rising from kantharoi up trompe-l'œil pillars.

          A room called the "Triglia" rises from the platform, roughly in the middle of the basilica and cut into from above by the present basilica. This covered room was used for funereal banquets the plastered walls have hundreds of graffiti by the devotees at these banquets, carved in the second half of the 3rd to the beginnings of the 4th century, with appeals to the apostle's Peter and Paul. From the "Trigilia" one passed into an ancient ambulatory, which turns around into an apse: here is a collection of epitaphs and a model of all the mausolei, of the "Triglia" and of the Constantinian basilica. From here one descends into the "Platonica", construction at the rear of the basilica that was long believed to have been the temporary resting place for Peter and Paul, but was in fact (as proved by excavation) a tomb for the martyr Quirinus, bishop of Sescia in Pannonia, whose remains were brought here in the 5th century. To the right of the "Platonica" is the chapel of Honorius III, adapted as the vestibule of the mausoleum, with interesting 13th-century paintings of Peter and Paul, the Crucifixion, saints, the Massacre of the Innocents, Madonna and Child, and other subjects. On the left is an apsidal mausoleum with an altar built against the apse: on the left wall, a surviving graffito reading "domus Petri" either hints at Peter having been buried here or testifies to the belief at the time the graffito was written that Peter was buried here.

          Catacombs of San Valentino Edit

          These catacombs were dedicated to Saint Valentine. In the 13th century, the martyr's relics were transferred to Basilica of Saint Praxedes.

          Catacombs of Sant'Agnese Edit

          Built for the conservation and veneration of the remains of Saint Agnes of Rome. Agnes' bones are now conserved in the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura in Rome, built over the catacomb. Her skull is preserved in a side chapel in the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Rome's Piazza Navona.

          Catacombs of via Anapo Edit

          On the via Salaria, the Catacombs of via Anapo are datable to the end of the 3rd or the beginning of the 4th century and contain diverse frescoes of biblical subjects.

          Jewish catacombs Edit

          There are six known Jewish catacombs in Rome, two of which are open to the public: Vigna Randanini and Villa Torlonia.

          The Jewish catacombs were discovered in 1918, and archaeological excavations continued for twelve years. The structure has two entrances, one on via Syracuse and the other inside Villa Torlonia. The catacombs extend for more than 13,000 square metres (140,000 sq ft), and date back to the period between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and possibly remained in use until the 5th century. There are almost a century of epitaphs, but these do not show any examples of a particular relief, beyond some rare frescoes showing the classic Jewish religious symbols. Jewish Catacombs are distinguished from their Christian counterparts by various signs as well as the fact that Jewish people did not visit the dead in the Catacombs. Parts of the Old Testament and the symbol of a candlestick with seven-branches have been spotted on the walls of Jewish Catacombs. [8]

          Due to high levels of humidity and temperature, bone preservation has been negatively affected in the catacombs. Scientists are unable to identify the sex of the dead due to the lack of preservation in the bones. [7]

          The other catacombs are not open to the public because of the instability of their structure and the presence of radon.

          In the Catacombs of Rome, there are many different pieces of artwork. Most artworks are religious in nature some depicting important Christian rites such as baptism, or religious scenes and stories such as the story of "The Three Hebrews and the Fiery Furnace" or biblical figures such as Adam and Eve.

          Catacombs of Saint Callixtus

          While the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus are not the only early Christian catacombs in Rome, they are definitely the most exemplary, a reputation sustained by both their tourist popularity and by the fact they were deemed “catacombs par excellence” by the very founder of Christian archeology, Giovanni Battista de Rossi, which is of no little importance for their prestige from both a scientific and a tourist point of view.

          The catacombs bear the name of Callixtus who, at the time they were constructed (in the 2nd decade of the 3rd century), filled the position of deacon of Rome (under Pope Zephyrinus). Callixtus was later elected pope, and eventually martyred for his Christian beliefs. It is believed (though not known with certainty) that he was the one who commissioned the construction of the catacombs. The basis of this impressive 19 kilometers long network of stratified (5 layers) underground tunnels already existed before the decision to turn it into the nowadays spectacular catacombs (that is, the preexisting “hypogea”, meaning precisely “under the ground”).

          The catacombs were created as repository for the tombs of popes and Christian martyrs. The crypt of the popes (capella dei papi) inside the catacombs, as well as the rest of the tunnels, hosted the tombs of 16 popes (placed here until the 4th century, when the crypt became to crowded) and hundreds of thousands (500,000 even) of tombs of early Christians persecuted, in most cases, for their religious beliefs. Tourists who enter the catacombs nowadays will not, however, be able to see the tombs, since the catacombs were completely evacuated before the 9th century and the tombs were placed in view of safekeeping in the Church of San Silvestro in Capite (as well as in other places of worship in Rome), the menace which determined the papal authorities to do that being the fact the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus were located outside the Aurelian Walls, which made them vulnerable to the barbarian attacks.

          The site undeniably remains a place worth visiting. The spectacular and winding tunnels, which reach to even 20 meters below ground, are embellished, so to speak, with paintings and sculptures, as well as with inscriptions, which can hardly be deemed artistic achievements. On the other hand, their documentary value is unchallenged: they offer information on the life and customs of the persecuted Christians, constituting an invaluable resource for the study of the early period of Christianity. One can also easily notice the abundance of Christian symbols, such as the fish (symbol of Jesus, Son of God), the dove (symbol of the liberated soul and of the Holy Spirit), the phoenix (symbol of resurrection), and the anchor.

          The Catacombs of St.Callixtus

          In Rome some of the most intense spots are made by catacombs. Sometimes can be hard for travelers to take time and go visiting them, and the ones who made it can only be glad of the experience. The Catacombs of St.Callixtus on Via Appia Antica are maybe the one to choose

          Yes it’s a cemetery

          Maybe lots of movie makes the people think that catacombs were the place in which the early christians could have a safe heaven, the truth is that catacombs basically were their first cemeteries, and were used in just few occasions to perform religious ceremonies. Named after the Deacon Callixtus that was appointed by the Pope as the administrator of the cemetery, they date back to the middle of the 2nd century

          Size is important

          If not THE greatest, the catacombs of St Callixtus are among the greatest. This ancient cemeterial complex occupies an area of 90 acres, with a network of galleries about 12 miles long, in four levels, more than twenty meters deep.

          Catacomb of Callixtus

          Image: Wikimedia

          Other descriptors: none

          Location: Cubiculum of the sheep, Catacomb of Callixtus (Callisto), Appian Way, Rome

          Category: Frescoes

          Featured characters and locations: Moses (patriarch), Peter (apostle).

          1. DESCRIPTION

          Material: water colors on stone

          Image: The figure on the left (perhaps Moses, or at least evoking Exod 3:5: “put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground”) removes his shoes Gods presence is shown by a hand reaching from above. On the right a bearded figure strikes a rock and produces water, caught by another figure. Literature on this image varies in identifying the bearded figure as Peter or Moses.


          The water miracle is found in the Martyrdom of Blessed Peter the Apostle, attributed to Linus, and the Passio of saints Processus and Martinianus:

          But the guards of the prison, Processus and Martinianus, together with the other magistrates and those associated by way of their office, appealed to him, saying, “Lord, go where you wish, because we believe that the emperor has now forgotten about you. But that most wicked Agrippa, enflamed by lust for his concubines and the intemperance of his passion is eager to destroy you. If an order from the king were accusing you, then we would have a command concerning your execution from Paulinus—a very prominent man to whom you were handed over and from whom we received the order to guard you. After we believers in this region of the Mamertine prison were baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity in a spring brought forth from stone by prayers and the glorious sign of the cross, you went around as freely as you pleased. No one bothered you or would be doing so now, if the demonic fire that troubles the city had not taken over Agrippa so violently. For this reason we beg you, minister of our salvation, to do us this favor in return. Because you freed us from the chains of sin and demons, now depart free from prison and being fettered with chains—a cruelty that we are charged to enforce—not just with our permission but our request, for the salvation of so great a multitude.” (Lin. Mart. Pet. 5 trans. David L. Eastman, The Ancient Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul [WGRW 39 Atlanta: SBL Press, 2015])

          3. BIBLIOGRAPHY

          Cartlidge, David R. and J. Keith Elliott. Art and the Christian Apocrypha. London and New York: Routledge, 2001 (pp. 162–64).

          Cumbo, Cristina, and Fabio Cumbo. “GMS – Gammadiae Management System: cataloguing and interpretation project of the so-called gammadiae starting from the iconographic evidences in the Roman catacombs.” Conservar Património 31 (2019): 145–54.

          Dresken-Weiland, Jutta. “The Role of Peter in Early Christian Art: Images from the 4th to the 6th Century.” Pages 115–34 in The Early Reception an Appropriation of the Apostle Peter (60–800 CE): The Anchors of the Fisherman. Edited by Roald Dijkstra. Euhormos 1. Leiden: Brill, 2020 (pp. 117–18).

          Huskinson, Janet M. Concordia Apostolorum: Christian Propaganda at Rome in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries: A Study in Early Christian Iconography and Iconology. Oxford: B. A. R., 1982 (p. 132, fig. 45).

          Moorsel, Paul van. “Il miracolo della roccia nella letteratura e nellarte paleocristiane.” Rivista di archeologia cristiana 40 (1964): 221–51 (p. 244, fig. 9).

          Spier, Jeffrey. Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007 (p. 239).

          Wilpert, Joseph. Die Malereien der Katakomben Roms. 2 vols. Freiburg: Herder, 1903 (vol. 1, p. 423 vol. 2 p. 506, pl. 237, 2).


          “Catacomb of Callixtus.” Wikipedia.

          “Catacombe di San Callisto.” Churches of Rome.

          Rome Reports. “Artwork from the Roman Catacombs.” Youtube. Posted 12 April 2011.

          World Site Guides. “Catacombs of San Callisto, Rome.” Youtube. Posted 18 January 2011.

          Entry created by Charles Mishiyev, under the supervision of Tony Burke, York University ([email protected]), 5 April 2021.

          Catacombs of Rome

          Ancient places where the Christian were buried, and where they meet to prey secretly. Roman catacombs date back to the II century, and generally rose outside the city walls. Find here all information about the most important and famous catacombe in Rome.

          At bottom find also our suggestion to visit the Catacombs of Rome.


          St. Sebastian who was martyred under Diocletian in 288, was buried here.From the 3C to the 9C this was the most venerated area of subterranean Rome.

          Address: Via Appia Antica 136
          Phone ( 0039)06 78 50 350 -
          Opening Times: 9.00 - 12.00 / 14.30 - 17.00 (17.30 in summer time) closed on Sundays and from 13/11 at 11/12
          Entry: Euro 5,00

          The VIA APPIA was the <<Regina Viarum>> of ancient Rome. Here, from the first centuries the largest labyrinths of underground Christian cemeteries in all of Rome were built. Asiede from these, there are innumerable hypogea and minor catacombs for private use which no availeble or yet discovered written records can tell us about.

          Here was also built the catacomb of St. Callixtus, in the most excellent of all the cemeteries of the Christian community. Its name comes from the deacon Callixtus who, although buried in the cemetery of Calepodius on the Via Aurelia, was put in charge, during the 3rd century, of the wealth of the curch.

          Address: Via Appia Antica 110
          Phone (0039) 06 51 30 15 80
          Opening Times: 9.00 - 12.00 / 14.00 - 17.00 (17.30 in summer time) closed on Wednesdays and in February
          Entry: &euro 5,00 full price &euro 3 reduced fee

          It was built on the Via Salaria, together with other three catacombs. The catacomb of Priscilla is one among the largest and oldest in Rome, with origins that date back to the end of the 2nd century.. Priscilla was the founder of the camatery. She was a member of the patrician family <<Aclii Glabiones>> who had their hypogeum here.-

          Address: Via Salaria 430
          Phone (0039) 06 86 20 62 72
          Opening Times: 8.30 - 12 / 14.30 - 17 closed on Mondays and January
          Entry: &euro 5,00


          Flavia Domitilla was the member of a Flavian imperial family, who owned the land on wich the cemetery was built. Beside the name Domitilla, the catacomb was also known under the name of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus. This cemetery is one of the oldest and largest in the entire complex of underground cemeteries in Rome.

          Address: Via delle Sette Chiese 282
          Phone (0039) 06 51 10 342
          Opening Times:8.30 - 12 / 14.30 - 17 closed on Mondays and January
          Entry: &euro 5,00


          Placed on the Via Nomentana, it is one of the four catacombs which were built on this Via. We still do not know when St. Agnes was martyred. It could have been under Valerianus (257-58) or under Diocletian in the first years of the 4th century. Her body was buried in an area probably owned by her family.

          Address: Via Nomentana 349
          Phone: 06 86 10 840
          Opening Times: 9 - 12 / 16 - 18 closed on Mondays afternoon, Sundays and high days.
          Entry: &euro 4,00


          Catacombs and Roman Countryside Half-Day Walking Tour

          By bus and by foot, explore beyond the city walls of Rome on the Catacombs and Roman Countryside tour. Travel along the Appian Way through rolling countryside, ancient roads and underground tombs, all making for a fantastic three hour escape from the hustle and bustle of central Rome.

          Duration: 3 hours
          Price: Starting from EUR &euro48.00 per person

          Crypts and Catacombs Walking Tour - The Underside of Rome

          A trip through underground Rome to discover the crypts, catacombs, underground burial chambers and pagan temples that now lie deep below the city's surface. A fascinating way to spend 3 hours in this great city.

          Duration: 3 hours
          Price: Starting from EUR &euro54.00 per person

          Watch the video: LOST AND ALONE IN THE PARIS CATACOMBS (May 2022).