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From Burial Grounds to Pilgrimage Site | Tracing the Rich History of the Roman Catacombs

If you're heading to Rome, you simply cannot miss the incredible catacombs that hide beneath the city's streets. These subterranean labyrinths hold a significant place in the annals of Rome, being used as burial sites by early Christians around the 2nd century, these tombs remained undiscovered until the 16th century. Today, these catacombs are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rome, which offers a glimpse into the past and the fascinating practices of the ancient Romans.

Rome Catacombs Timeline

  • 2nd Century: Early Christians began using the catacombs as burial sites, driven by the city's stringent burial regulations.
  • 3rd Century: The catacombs expanded rapidly, and become more sophisticated, with rooms for funerary banquets and family tombs. 
  • 4th Century: Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Mila, granting religious freedom and leading to a decline in catacomb burials.
  • 6th Century: Catacombs start to be used solely for martyrs’ memorial services, unfortunately suffering from widespread vandalism.
  • 10th Century: Catacombs fell into abandonment, prompting the relocation of relics to the basilicas above ground. 
  • 16th Century: The rediscovery of the Catacombs by Antonio Bosio, a pioneering archaeologist, brings attention to this hidden underground world.
  • 17th-19th Centuries: Scholars and explorers continue to uncover and document the catacombs' intricate network of tunnels and chambers.
  • 19th Century: The catacombs became a popular destination for tourists, attracting visitors from all over the world.