Tickets and Entry for the Catacombs
St Domitilla is open every day except Tuesday. Tickets cost €8 and can be bought online (via a slightly antiquated booking system) or at the ticket office. Opening hours: 9:00-12.00, 14.00-17.00.
St Callixtus is open every day. Tickets cost €8 and can be bought online or at the ticket office. Opening hours: 9:00-12.00, 14.00-17.00.
St Sebastian is open every day except Sunday, and is closed in December. Tickets cost €8 and can be bought at the ticket office; advance booking via phone or email is for groups only. Opening hours: 10.00-17.00.
To make the most of your visit, we suggest joining our tour of the catacombs in Rome, which includes an in-depth visit to St Domitilla.
What To See At The Catacombs
The frescoes in the catacombs of St Domitilla were recently restored to stunning effect. Particularly impressive are a ceiling fresco of Christ and a richly decorated crypt known as “the room of the bakers”. These restored areas of the catacombs will soon be open to the public, along with a new museum.
You’ll notice lots of Christian symbols, such as a dove carrying an olive branch and an anchor – the latter represents salvation in God and the soul’s arrival in the harbour of eternal life. These symbols are some of the earliest examples of Christian art in Rome.
St Domitilla contains some beautiful examples of pagan art too. Look out for the painted cubiculum dating back to the 3rd century AD, which is decorated with the pagan myth of Cupid and Psyche.
The tunnels are extremely impressive – they stretch for miles and are up to 70 feet high in some parts.
These catacombs contain an area dedicated to the popes nicknamed “the little Vatican”. Nine popes were buried here, and you can still see the original Greek inscriptions near the tombs.
There are some evocative Christian frescoes containing traditional symbols such as the fish, the dove and the phoenix. Some of the most significant artworks are located in a small group of chambers which were once family tombs.
Although the remains of St Cecilia are no longer here, you can see the crypt where she was once buried.
The highlight of a tour of the catacombs of St Sebastian is a chance to see some Ancient Roman tombs. These tombs were originally part of an overground pagan graveyard; the burial chamber contains some remarkably well-preserved stucco decoration.
The crypt of St Sebastian no longer contains his body, but there’s a bust of the saint attributed to Bernini.
There are many impressive examples of ancient art. Look out for the paintings in Jonah’s cubicle and the vivid frescoes in the three mausolea.
Catacombs are definitely not for the claustrophobic – keep in mind that you’re walking through narrow, underground tunnels which were dug out by hand.
As Christian burial places, catacombs are considered sacred, so dress appropriately. Make sure your shoulders are covered, and avoid shorts or short skirts.
The catacombs offer their own guided tours, but the quality is variable and in some cases you’ll get a sermon along with your tour – most of the guides are monks or priests. For a more objective and in-depth tour of the catacombs, join our group tour of San Domitilla.
When visiting the catacombs of St Sebastian, make sure you also pay a visit to the church of the same name (San Sebastiano fuori le mure). There’s a statue of the saint as well one of the arrows that allegedly struck him, and part of the column which he was tied to during his martyrdom.
Don’t miss the church of Domine Quo Vadis, which is just across the road from the church of St Sebastian. According to legend this 9th century church was built on the spot where St Peter had a vision of Christ. As he was on his way out of Rome, fleeing Nero’s persecution, Peter saw Christ and asked “Lord, where are you going?” (“Domine quo vadis”). Christ replied that he was returning to Rome to be crucified again, giving Peter the courage to return to Rome himself. The church contains footprints in marble that are believed to be those of Christ.
There aren’t many places to eat near the catacombs, so you may want to bring a packed lunch and picnic in the nearby park. Alternatively, for a simple lunch go to the Appian Way Café (Via Appia Antica 175), which is just after the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella. Just opposite the catacombs of St Sebastian is the restaurant L’Archeologia (Via Appia Antica 139) – it’s not cheap, but the food is excellent.
Before you head down the Appian Way, here’s some background reading on the catacombs:
Rick Steves: Time Travel on Rome’s Ancient Appian Way
The Catacombs of St Callixtus
Atlas Obscura: The Catacombs of St Sebastian
Daily Mail: Domitilla frescoes revealed after renovation