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Catacombs of Domitilla | Discover Rome's Largest Underground Burial Site

RomeRoman Catacombs TourCatacombs of Domitilla

What is Domitilla Catacombs?

The Domitilla Catacombs are part of a network of almost 40 catacombs that lie under the city of Rome, which served as a burial place for more than half a million people from many different social classes. It is one of the oldest and largest catacombs in Rome, dating back to the second century AD. 

The frescoes and numerous sculptures that adorn the walls and ceilings reflect early Christian art and imagery. The beautiful depictions of saints, biblical scenes, and other symbolic figures offer a glimpse into the early Christian faith.

Quick Facts about Domitilla Catacombs

Catacombs in rome
  • Official name: Catacombe di Domitilla
  • Address: Via delle Sette Chiese, 282, 00147 Roma RM, Italy 
  • Date of opening: The catacombs date back to the 1st century AD and were in use until the 5th century AD.
  • Timings: 9 AM to 12 noon and 2 PM to 5 PM, daily except for Tuesdays.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: Since 1980
  • Function: Burial site for early Christians

Why Visit the Domitilla Catacombs?

rome catacombs
  • Journey into history: Explore the ancient catacombs and delve into the intriguing world of early Christianity in Rome.
  • Marvel at the ancient Christian art: See the intricate frescoes and sculptures revealing early Christian iconography and history dating back to the 2nd century AD.
  • Architectural wonders: Admire the intricate labyrinthine design of the catacombs, showcasing the impressive engineering skills of the ancient Romans.
  • Learn about early Christianity: Understand how the Christian religion emerged and evolved in Rome, see graves and relics of early popes, and explore early Christian worship traditions.

Plan Your Visit to Domitilla Catacombs

Rome Catacombs

What are the Domitilla Catacombs Opening Hours?

  • Timings: From Monday to Sunday, 9 AM to 12 noon and 2 PM to 5 PM 
  • Closed: Tuesdays
  • Best time to visit: The catacombs can be very busy during peak season (June to September), so visiting during the low season (October to March) can be a good option. It is recommended to visit the Domitilla Catacombs in the early morning or late afternoon on weekends to avoid crowds.
Domitilla Catacomb Gmap Location

Where are the Domitilla Catacombs Located?

Address: Via delle Sette Chiese, 282, 00147 Roma RM, Italy 

The Domitilla Catacombs are located near the ancient Appian Way, just outside the city center of Rome.

What’s Inside the Domitilla Catacombs?

Basilica of Nereus and Achilleus

Basilica of Nereus and Achilleus

The Basilica of the Holy Martyrs Nereus and Achilleus is an ancient basilica church in Rome. It was built over the Catacombs of Domitilla and is dedicated to two early Christian martyrs, Nereus and Achilleus. The church was originally built in the 4th century and was restored several times over the centuries. The present structure dates back to the 17th century. The frescoes in the basilica were painted by Giovanni Lanfranco in the 17th century and depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The frescoes are considered to be some of the finest examples of Baroque art in Rome.

Jesus with the apostles

Wall Paintings

Inside the enchanting Catacombs of Domitilla, you will find a treasure trove of wall paintings that offer a glimpse into various aspects of life and faith during ancient times. Biblical figures come to life on the walls, such as Jesus with the apostles, Noah's ark, and Daniel courageously facing the lions. The Virgin Mary with the child, Adam, Eve, Jonah, and the Good Shepherd are also portrayed, showcasing the spiritual beliefs and narratives of early Christianity. You will also see non-biblical figures including representations of Spring and Summer, and scenes featuring the legendary figure Orpheus. The paintings reflect the cultural fusion of pagan and Christian influences prevalent during that era.

History of the Domitilla Catacombs

Rome Catacombs History

The Catacombs of Domitilla were commissioned by the Domitilla family and were actively used as a burial site from the first to the fifth centuries AD. These catacombs, spanning an impressive 15 kilometers in distance, lie over 16 meters underground, approximately 2 kilometers south of the famous Appian Way. 

Rediscovered in 1593 by the archaeologist Antonio Bosio, the catacombs comprise more than 26,000 tombs, each holding the remains of early Christians. Unlike other Roman catacombs, the Domitilla Catacombs still preserve the mortal remains of individuals, making them a unique and poignant site of remembrance.

Over the years, restoration efforts have been undertaken to preserve and enhance the catacombs. In 2017, restorers utilized laser technology to restore two rooms, allowing for a clearer view of the intricate frescoes adorning the walls. The restoration process involved the removal of layers of algae, smoke deposits, and a chalky substance, revealing the vibrant colors and intricate details of the frescoes. Only 12 out of approximately 70 rooms have been fully restored to date.

Catacombs of Domitilla Today

The Domitilla Catacombs is one of the most important and largest catacombs in Rome. It is estimated that more than 150,000 Christians were buried in this cemetery, which makes it one of the most significant archaeological sites in Rome. Apart from being a burial site, the catacombs also served as a meeting place for early Christians to pray and worship in secret.

Today, the Domitilla Catacombs continue to captivate visitors from around the world, offering a unique window into the past. This historical site stands as a testament to the resilience and devotion of early Christians, preserving their stories for future generations. Today, it serves as a place of pilgrimage. 

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Frequently Asked Questions About Domitilla Catacombs

What are the Domitilla Catacombs?

The Domitilla Catacombs are an underground burial site located in Rome.

How old is the Domitilla Catacombs?

The oldest parts of the catacombs date back to the 2nd century AD, but expansions took place until the 5th century AD.

Who was Priscilla, and why are the catacombs named after her?

Visitors will see underground burial chambers, ancient Christian art, and relics of early Christian martyrs.

Is there a dress code for visiting the catacombs?

Visitors are recommended to dress modestly and avoid wearing shorts or sleeveless tops out of respect for the religious significance of the site.

Is the Domitilla Catacombs accessible for people with disabilities?

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the site, the catacombs are not easily accessible for people with mobility issues. However, there is a virtual reality tour available that can provide a similar experience.