Visit Rome’s Catacombs for Free(!) on October 12th

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October 12th, 2019 marks Rome’s second annual Catacombs Day. This year’s Catacombs Day is the second ever – and what a treat it is for any visitor to Rome! Nearly all of Rome’s Catacombs will be free to enter.

Not only that, but some areas of the Catacombs which are normally closed will be open for one day only, like the Basilica of St. Tecla and the Museum of the Tower, with statuary from the San Callisto Catacomb.

So, grab a comfortable pair of closed-toe shoes and a sweater (trust us, it gets cold down there!) because we’re going to tell you about all the Catacombs which are open, on Rome’s second annual Catacombs Day.

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Life After Death

Each year Rome’s Catacombs Day has a special theme. Last year it was an exhibition of St. Paul, and this year, the theme is ‘Life After Death’. The idea of resurrection in heaven and other visions of the afterlife will be explored through the story of Jonah.

Infamously, Jonah was swallowed into the belly of the whale. His tale is one of forgiveness – life after death can also mean life renewed by repenting sin. Jonah’s story is one that most fascinated Early Christian Rome. Depictions of his trials and tribulations are all over the Catacombs; which is why he inspired 2019’s theme.

If you’re an Italian speaker who wants to know about Jonah and the Catacombs, look into the brochure and specially selected readings.

Free Entry to Rome’s Catacombs

On every other day of the year, expect to spend when you visit these Catacombs – but not on Rome’s Catacombs Day! Enjoy free access to all the below sites and discover Rome’s underworld.

San Callisto

You can visit Rome’s most famous Catacomb for free on October 12th, 2019. These Catacombs were named after San Callisto, a Pope of the 2nd century. Nearly all 3rd century Popes can be found inside these Catacombs alongside some of the earliest examples of Christian art.

San Sebastian

The Catacomb of San Sebastian was the first to be known as a catacomb, or catacumbas in Latin, which literally means ‘place of the hollow’, because of its proximity to a tuff mine. As well as being, quite literally, the original catacomb, San Sebastian is also famous for its 2nd-century tombs, Chapels, frescoes, wall-carvings, and mosaics. Any art lover would enjoy a visit to San Sebastian.  

Domitilla

Rome’s Catacombs of Domitilla was the largest underground Christian century in the world for much of late antiquity. Today, it’s the only Catacomb in Rome that still contains bones!

What makes the Catacombs of Domitilla so fascinating is how it also accommodates pagan bodies. Expect to see early images of Christ crucified alongside a casually louche Bacchus. If you choose to visit for free, keep your eyes peeled for the earliest depiction of the Last Supper – otherwise, join us for a tour!

Priscilla

If you’re looking for a series of crypts with a distinctly maternal vibe, Rome’s Catacombs of Priscilla is for you. Priscilla was known as ‘the mother of Catacombs’ in the 3rd century because it was founded by a woman, run by nuns and is home to the earliest representation of the Virgin Mary.

Sant’ Agnese

In these Catacombs, you’ll find the burial place of St. Agnes, a young saint who was martyred at the age of 12. Tortured to death in various horrible ways – accounts differ, but some feature vein piercing, throat-slitting, beheading, and other terrors – his cult spurned fascinated devotion in the Early Christian world. Constantine was said to be a fan.

Saints Marcellinus and Peter

The Catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter are quite small by Rome’s standard; they only accommodate 15,000 bodies. Marcellinus and Peter were martyred here during Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. Legend states that these Catacombs marked the place Marcellinus and Peter were forced to dig their graves with their own hands.

Saint Pancreas

The Catacombs of Saint Pancreas aren’t too flashy, but never mind – it’s the perfect Catacomb experience for a minimalist. Admire the carefully crafted architecture of the underground cemetery and walk around the lovely Villa Doria Pamphili park afterward.

St. Lawrence

Admire the Catacombs of St. Lawrence, resplendent in beautifully rich artwork and labyrinthian rooms, stretching for miles. Constantine loved this saint and there are the ruins of a 3rd-century basilica dedicated to him on this site. A perfect choice for a visitor staying in Southern Rome.

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Free Tours Of Exclusive-Access Regions of the Catacombs

You can normally visit these areas of the Catacombs on appointment only – and hope you’ll get in! But on October 12th, 2019, you’ll be able to visit these areas in small tour groups. Just make sure you email [email protected] in advance.

Museum of the Tower and Crypts of Lucina

Learn about the Christianization of Rome and admire marble monuments taken from the San Callisto Catacombs in the Museum of the Tower and Crypts of Lucina. Admire pagan sarcophagi alongside Early Christian marblework.

Museum and Catacomb of Praetextatus

See some of the best examples of Christian sarcophagi in the Museum and Catacomb of Praetextatus. Enjoy some great classical marblework too – including a fascinating arch depicting the myth of Achilles and the Hunt.

Catacomb of St. Tecla

The Catacombs of St. Tecla keep it simple. Admire a small, early 4th century Christian Basilica, and the burial place of St. Tecla – who we know absolutely nothing about! Admire the 22 chambers of the Basilica, adorned in beautiful red Roman frescoes.

Museum of Domitilla and the Fornai Region

Hold onto your hat – the Museum of Domitilla promises some fantastic Early Christian artwork and history of Rome’s Christianization. The perfect way to complement a visit to the Catacombs of Domitila.

Hypogeum of the Aureli

The Hypogeum of the Aureli promises a fascinating experience of Late-Roman history. Visit the tomb of the Aureli, a wealthy family of freedman – former slaves. Admire the lower floor’s beautiful frescoes with scenes from Greek mythology.

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Rome’s Catacombs Day

There you have it! If you have a passion for Early Christian history, then you’ll know where you’ll be on October 12th. Discover the secret Rome, lying below the city streets, rich in history, eerie tales, and remarkable Early Christian artwork.

by Annie Beverley

 

 

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