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Catacombs of Saint Agnes | Resting Place of the Virgin Martyr

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What are the Catacombs of Saint Agnes?

Catacomb of Saint Agnes, or Catacombe di Sant'Agnese in Italian, is a subterranean necropolis in Rome, named after Saint Agnes, a virgin and martyr. This ancient labyrinth of tombs, embedded within the monumental complex of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura, is a testament to Rome's early Christian history. The catacomb itself spans three levels, divided into four regions, each carrying its unique narrative of the past. This historic place is devoid of any significant paintings, but the epigraphic testimonies make it an intriguing landmark for history enthusiasts.

Quick Facts about the Catacombs of Saint Agnes

  • Official name: Catacombs of Saint Agnes
  • Address: Via Nomentana, 349, 00198 Rome, Italy
  • Date of discovery: Early 16th Century
  • Timings: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: 9 AM-12 noon and 3 PM- 6 PM; Sunday: 3 PM - 6 PM.
  • Function: Underground burial site for early Christians, including Saint Agnes.

Why Visit the Catacombs of Saint Agnes?

Why Visit the Catacombs of Saint Agnes?
  • Historical significance: A visit to this place offers a glimpse into the persecutions of early Christians and the reverence they held for their martyrs.
  • Spiritual significance: Learn about Saint Agnes, the patron saint of virgins and martyrs.
  • Cultural education: The Catacomb of Saint Agnes features many epigraphic testimonies that provide insights into the religious practices and burial customs of the 3rd and 4th centuries.
  • Architectural interest: The subterranean structure, divided into four regions, reflects the unique architectural methods employed during the time.
  • Serene escape: Enjoy a break from the chaos of Rome's busy streets with a peaceful walk through the serene and beautiful catacombs.

Plan Your Visit to the Catacombs of Saint Agnes

Catacombs of Saint Agnes' Opening Hours
Catacombs of Saint Agnes Location

What to See Inside Catacombs of Saint Agnes?

The catacomb is situated on three levels and is divided into four distinct regions, each carrying unique historical and architectural features.

Region I

Region I

This is the oldest part of the catacomb, dating back to the 3rd century. It is located under Via di Sant’Agnese and was part of the pre-Constantinian epoch. Despite the absence of significant paintings, this area is rich with epigraphic evidence that provides valuable insight into the burial customs and practices of early Christians.

Region II

Region II

This area started developing in the 4th century, however, it suffered significant damage due to relic hunters. The effects of these unlawful activities are evident in the region's altered topography and the loss of potential historical artifacts.

Region III

Region III

This is the largest region in the entire hypogeum complex, dating back to the 4th century. It mainly extends under the monastery associated with the basilica and Via Nomentana. Notably, this region was once connected to the nearby Coemeterium Maius. The region was found relatively intact by Armellini, the first to excavate it, due to a layer of silt that preserved it from the diggers. Today, many artifacts discovered in this region are displayed in the Vatican Museums.

Region IV

Region IV

Region IV lies between the current basilica and the ruins of Constantine's basilica. This region developed after Emperor Constantine built his basilica, leading to the destruction of the pagan necropolis above the catacomb. Interestingly, many plates with inscriptions from the pagan cemetery were used to build the steps accessing the fourth region, thereby preserving them to this day. This region holds the oldest dated inscription in the entire catacomb - an epitaph from 314 AD dedicated to a man named Sisinnius.

History of Catacomb of Saint Agnes

In the second half of the 3rd century, the area was used as a hypogeum cemetery. It is presumed that the cemetery was owned by the martyr Saint Agnes's family. Situated near the imperial property, the catacomb complex was developed over time. 

Pope Liberius constructed a memorial in Saint Agnes's honor during his papacy (352-366), which Pope Symmachus (498–514) later transformed into a small basilica. This basilica was replaced by a larger one by Pope Honorius I in the 7th century, which led to some damage to the original cemetery.

The original burial nucleus was enlarged in the 4th century, creating three new regions. The fourth region was used by Emperor Constantine, to build a basilica dedicated to Saint Agnes, and the mausoleum of Santa Costanza, which is the final resting place of his daughters, Constantina and Helena. This construction led to the destruction of a 2nd-century pagan necropolis,

After a period of abandonment, the catacomb complex was rediscovered in the early 16th century by Dominican friar Onofrio Panvinio. It was later studied by Antonio Bosio in his work "Subterranean Rome". The 18th century saw considerable damage inflicted by relic hunters, particularly in the second region. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, key figures like Mariano Armellini and Augusto Bacci undertook excavations, aiding in preserving and understanding the catacomb's history. The fourth region was finally studied in-depth during the 1970s by Umberto Maria Fasola, providing crucial insights into its past.

Catacomb of Saint Agnes Today

The Catacombs of Saint Agnes are an important archaeological site that offers valuable insights into early Christian burial practices and the persecution faced by early Christians. Visitors to the site can learn about the history of the catacombs, view the decorative features, and pay their respects to Saint Agnes. Today, the catacombs serve as a reminder of the early Christian faith and the strength of Saint Agnes's conviction.

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Frequently Asked Questions About the Catacombs of Saint Agnes

What are the Catacombs of Saint Agnes?

The Catacombs of Saint Agnes is an underground cemetery complex located on the Via Nomentana in Rome. They are one of the first Christian burial sites in Rome.

Who was Saint Agnes, and why was she buried here?

Saint Agnes was a Christian martyr from the 3rd century, buried here as the catacomb was owned by her family.

When was the Catacombs of Saint Agnes built?

The Catacombs of Saint Agnes date back to the 3rd century AD.

What is the historical significance of these Catacombs of Saint Agnes?

The catacombs represent early Christian burial practices, and they contain historical artifacts from the 3rd to 5th centuries.

Where are the Catacombs of Saint Agnes located?

The Catacombs of Saint Agnes is located on the Via Nomentana, about 5 miles outside of Rome.

Are the Catacombs of Saint Agnes open to the public?

Yes, the Catacombs of Saint Agnes are open to the public with specific visiting hours.