One of the most fascinating sights found beneath the streets of Rome, a city steeped in history, is the network of catacombs that twist and turn beneath the city's surface. These expansive tunnels and tombs are filled with interesting stories from ancient times.
While the Catacombs are primarily known as burial grounds, they were not always used for this purpose. They have served as hiding places for Christians during times of persecution, as well as a secret meeting place for early Christians to worship. During the Middle Ages, they also served as a pilgrimage site with people from all over Europe visiting the tombs of the martyrs and praying for their intercession.
The Roman Catacombs are made up of different levels, with each containing a unique set of chambers and passageways. Some are as deep as 65 feet, with hundreds of rooms that form an intricate web of interconnected rooms. The harmonious convergence of these levels creates an architectural marvel, and exploring these levels provides a glimpse into the complexity and ingenuity of the catacombs' construction.
The Roman Catacombs showcase many early Christian symbols, including depictions of fish and doves. You will also find Christian symbolism in the artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and inscriptions. These artworks depict biblical scenes, religious symbols, and early Christian beliefs, offering a window into their faith and culture.
The Catacombs are believed to be the resting place of many popes including St. Peter, who, according to tradition, was buried in a necropolis on Vatican Hill, near the site of the present-day St. Peter's Basilica. This sacred site has drawn countless pilgrims throughout the ages. Another prominent pope believed to be buried in the catacombs is St. Paul. The Catacombs of San Callixtus, often called the "Little Vatican," are considered the burial place of numerous popes, including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.