Catacombs of Priscilla Tour | Discover Rome's Ancient Underground Burial Site
Quick Facts about the Catacombs of Priscilla
- Official name: Catacombs of Priscilla
- Address: Via Salaria, 430, 00199 Roma RM, Italy
- Date of opening: 2nd century AD
- Timings: Tuesday to Sunday, 9 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 5 PM
- UNESCO World Heritage Site: Yes, declared in 1980
- Function: Ancient underground burial site for Christians
Why Visit the Catacombs of Priscilla?
- Unique history: The ancient burial site, dates back to the 2nd century AD and allows you to understand how the early Christian community lived.
- Marvel at the artworks: The old frescoes here pull you back to ancient times allowing you to gain an insight into the artistic skills of early Christian artists
- Spiritual significance: Due to the high number of popes and martyrs buried here, the Catacombs of Priscilla are sometimes referred to as the “Queen of the Catacombs”.
- Unique burial practices: Explore the interesting burial practices and rituals of early Christianity, including the use of sarcophagi, ossuaries, and cubicula, which are still visible in the catacombs today.
Plan Your Visit to the Catacombs of Priscilla
What Are the Catacombs of Priscilla's Opening Hours?
- Timings: Tuesday to Sunday, 9 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 5 PM
- Closed: Mondays
- Best time to visit: The catacombs are less crowded in the early morning or late afternoon. Visitors should keep in mind that the site is not air-conditioned, so it may be more comfortable to visit during the cooler months of the year.
Where Are the Catacombs of Priscilla Located?
Address: Via Salaria, 430, 00199 Rome, Italy.
The catacombs are located just outside the ancient walls of Rome. They are easily accessible by public transportation, with several bus and tram lines stopping nearby.
What's Inside the Catacombs of Priscilla?
Tombs of the Early Christians
Visitors can explore the underground passages that contain 40,000 tombs, including the ossuary of the Acilii Glabriones, a noble family from the 2nd century AD. The catacombs have come to be known as the "Queen of the Catacombs" because of the many important early Christian figures that were buried here, including several popes and Saint Priscilla herself. Visitors can see the crypt of the popes, which contains the tombs of popes Marcellinus and Peter, as well as the famed Madonna and Child icon that was believed to have been painted by Saint Luke himself.
Early Christian Art
The walls of the tombs are decorated with frescoes that offer a glimpse into the early Christian world. One notable piece is the earliest-known painting of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding baby Jesus. The Greek Chapel within the catacombs boasts rich Pompeian-style frescoes depicting biblical episodes like Noah's ark and Lazarus' resurrection. Of particular interest is the polemic fresco "Fractio Panis," portraying individuals sharing bread, possibly performing the Eucharist. Scholars debate the gender of the figures, suggesting a potentially active role for women in the Early Church. The Cubiculum of the Veiled Woman holds a mysterious depiction of a veiled woman with surrounding images hinting at her life story.
The Greek Chapel within the Catacombs of Santa Priscilla is a notable highlight. Datable to the advanced 3rd century, this chapel features Pompeian-style paintings and stuccoes of great formal refinement. It takes its name from two Greek inscriptions painted on the walls. The chapel has a unique shape with three niches for sarcophagi and a counter for ritual banquets. One of the prominent paintings depicts a banquet, possibly referencing the Eucharistic banquet, with seven figures, including a young man breaking bread and a veiled woman. It also showcases episodes from the Old and New Testament, such as Moses making water flow from the rock and the resurrection of Lazarus.
History of the Catacombs of Priscilla
The Catacombs of Priscilla, used for Christian burials from the 2nd to the 4th or 5th century, was named after a noblewoman, Priscilla, who may have donated her land for the burial site. The catacombs housed around 40,000 tombs, including those of seven popes and notable Christian martyrs. Over time, the site fell into disuse and was subject to looting and relic removal
In the 1950s, the catacombs underwent extensive restoration and conservation efforts. Today, visitors can tour the catacombs and view the ancient Christian artworks and tombs. The restoration work aimed to preserve the site and its historical artifacts, ensuring their long-term survival. These efforts helped maintain the catacombs' structural integrity and allowed visitors to continue experiencing and appreciating this significant historical and religious site.
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Frequently Asked Questions About the Catacombs of Priscilla
The Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome are one of the oldest and most significant sites for Christian burial. The catacombs were originally used as a burial site for the Christians since the 2nd century AD. Today, the catacombs of Priscilla are not just popular as a tourist attraction but also for the religious significance they possess.
The catacombs stretch over 13 kilometers and contain approximately 40,000 tombs, making them one of the largest catacomb complexes in Rome.
Priscilla was a noblewoman who possibly donated her land for the construction of the catacombs. The catacombs were named after her as a tribute to her generosity and support for the Christian community.
Yes, the catacombs are the final resting place of several popes and Christian martyrs, including Pope Marcellinus, Pope Marcellus I, and Saints Praxedes, Pudentiana, and Philomena.
Yes, the catacombs are open to visitors. Guided tours are available, providing insights into the history, art, and religious significance of the site.
Tickets for the Catacombs of Priscilla can be purchased on-site or booked online in advance. It is recommended that you purchase tickets online to avoid the inconvenience of tickets selling out.
Visitors can explore the narrow passageways, tombs, and chambers adorned with ancient frescoes and inscriptions. You will also be able to view the oldest-known image of the Virgin Mary.
Catacombs of Priscilla are open Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm.
Flash photography is not allowed, but visitors can take photos without flash to capture the intricate details of the frescoes and the unique atmosphere of the catacombs.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the underground tunnels and limited infrastructure, the catacombs may pose challenges for individuals with mobility issues.