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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.