Sightseeing Tours of the Christian Rome & Catacombs Tour

tour duration

4 Hours

start time

09:00 AM & 02:00 PM
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat

meeting point

Pick-up at your hotel, more details at booking

Excursions from the Christian Rome & Catacombs Tour

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Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls

Rome - St Paul outside the walls

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls belongs to the papal basilicas in Rome. It is one of the four most important basilicas in Rome along with Saint Peter’s Basilica, the papal Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran and the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The first Basilica was built in 314 by the emperor Constantine the Great. It was built on the same place where Saint Paul was buried, his grave now situated five meters under the altar. It was the biggest Christian monument in the world up until Saint Peter’s Basilica was built.

Things to see

During Theodosius the Great’s reign, pagans temples were banned so the emperor renovated the basilica by building five naves, getting his inspiration from another ancient basilica located on Trajan’s Forum.

In 1823, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was almost entirely destroyed by fire. The reconstruction of the basilica was ordered by Pope Leo XII and he gave this task to the architect Pasquale Belli. The interior was decorated by Poletti and the new basilica was rebuilt according to the original plans; only the façade was new.

Miraculously, the cloister from the 13th century survived the fire and it is still possible to admire its beautiful columns sculpted from different colored marbles. Some 36 frescoes represent the events of Saint Paul’s life, as well as pieces from the former basilica and a few sarcophagi, can all be found inside the basilica. In the middle of the courtyard, a marble statue of Saint Paul stands, created by the sculptor Giuseppe Obici in 1850. Pilgrimages to the Basilica have been organized since the first Holy Year of 1300.

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is the property of the Holy See and it has been listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Catacombs

Rome - Catacombs  - detail
Rome - Catacombs  - interiorRome - Catacombs  - columnRome - Catacombs  - statue

The Eternal City boasts more than 40 different catacombs and no less than thousands of different tombs. During the first century, Christians did not have their own dedicated cemetery so they would bury their dead wherever they had a piece of land outside the walls of the city. When people began building catacombs, for practical reasons they erected them close to the main city roads such as Via Appia, Via Ostiensis or Via Tiburtina.

Only five catacombs are open to the public, some of them very well known. These are the Catacombs of Callixtus, the Catacombs of San Sebastian, the Catacombs of Santa Domitilla (near Via Appia) and the Catacombs of Priscilla (near Via Nomentana).

Things to see

The Catacombs of Callixtus are one of the biggest and most famous in Rome. They appeared during the second century and are located close to the small church of Domine Quo Vadis, on the Via Appia Antica. Several martyrs and many Christians were buried there, along with 16 popes. These catacombs were named after the deacon Callixtus who was in charge of the cemetery under Pope Zephyrinus. Later, the Catacombs of Callixtus became the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. All the tombs which compose it are spread over more than 20 kilometers. The pope area and the crypts are the most ancient parts of the Catacombs of Callixtus.

 

The Catacombs of San Sebastian were discovered after the First World War. Situated on three different levels, they are about 12 km long and could shelter more than 100 000 bodies. These catacombs were named after the martyr Saint Sebastian who was also buried here.

The Catacombs of Santa Domitilla are about 17 km long and were used until the 5th century. These catacombs are particular for the 50 000 children’s bones found during excavations.

Appian Way

Rome - Appian Way
Rome - Appian Way - Ruins

The Appian Way offers visitors a glimpse into the past of the ancient republic of Rome. Also known as the “Regina Viarum” (“Queen of the Roads”), its construction began in 312 B.C. The Appian Way was initially built with a military purpose but later became a great road in order to expand trade between Rome and the other provinces. Only two years after the start of its construction, road connected Rome to Capua in the province of Caserta in Campania.  When the Appian Way connected Rome to Brindisi in Apulia, it had reached about 600 kilometers in length and 4.15 meters in width. The post office noted an improvement to its services; it took only around 14 days to deliver mail from Rome to Brindisi. Thanks to the Appian Way, administration and tax collection also improved.

Things to see

The road is located in the south-eastern part of Rome and is lined with Roman monuments as well as Jewish and Christian graves that were built along the way. These funeral monuments were erected by important Roman families in order to grant them an eternal position in history. The Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella is one of the most famous monuments along this road. Caecilia Mettela belonged to a prominent Roman family, the daughter of the consul Quintus Metilus Creticus. She married Publius Licinius Crassus whose father was part of the First Triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great.

While walking along the ancient road, you can also discover the ruins of the Villa of Quintili. In 151 A.D. the Quintili brothers chose to build their villa on this great location because it offers a wonderful view of the Roman countryside. This villa served as a model for several painters across different time periods. The Appian Way is now a protected regional park spreading over 3500 hectares.

Aurelian Walls

Rome - Aurelian Walls
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Between 270 and 275, Emperor Aurelian decided to build walls in order to protect the city of Rome against the barbarian invasion. The construction started in 271 and lasted ten years. This brick wall was 19 kilometers long, 8 meters high and 3.5 meters thick, and included a tower every 30 or so meters. Although built in a rush, the walls included several military buildings and no less than 20 gates to allow access to the city. Not only that but the Aurelian Walls also included  houses (some small windows can still be seen) and ancient monuments such as the aqueduct of Acqua Marcia Antoniniana, the Porta Maggiore (Larger Gate), the Pyramid of Cestius and the Amphitheatrum Castrense.

Things to see

The Emperor Maxentius reinforced the walls in 354, doubling the height of some sections of the wall and apparently adding a ditch which was never completed. Many other changes appeared under the reign of Honorius (393-423), namely the improvement of both the wall and its towers. In 403, the Tomb of Hadrian was included in the wall and became a military building. Despite these many improvements, the Visigoths led by Alaric entered the city in 410.

The Porta San Paolo (“Saint Paul Gate”) is located on the ancient Via Ostensis. This road connected Rome to Ostia Antica. Originally, Porta San Paolo was named Porta Ostiensis however it was renamed after the basilica located near the gate. Its defensive system has survived time practically intact and has been preserved just as it was first installed.

Unfortunately, only 13 kilometers of the Aurelian Walls remain today; they are also obsolete as the city has long since expanded outside the protection of these walls.