Are you thinking of adding a tour of one of the many catacombs in Rome to your itinerary? I visited the Catacombs of Callixtus (aka San Callisto) and wanted to share what my experience was like, and maybe help you decide if you want to visit it yourself.
Located along the Appian Way, Rome's first highway, the Catacombs of Callixtus are the largest of the catacombs in Rome. These catacombs span over four floors, and are over 19 km long. The catacombs are tunnel after tunnel, lined with niches carved into the walls where Christians were buried. 16 popes and a number of martyrs were also buried here.
When Christians were being persecuted when Emperor Nero was in power, the catacombs were also a place where they would hide and worship in secret.
Things you'll see:
You won't be able to enter the catacombs without a guide. Your ticket (which cost 8 euros in November 2016) includes a guided tour into the catacombs. The tour was around 30 minutes long, and there were tours available in a number of different languages: English, Italian, Spanish, German, and French.
One thing to note: if you're looking to see lots of bones here, you will be disappointed. Most of the remains have been removed or destroyed but there are still interesting things to see, which your guide will point out for you.
- Crypt of the Popes - The Crypt of the Popes is arguably the most important of the crypts here, and is also known as the "Little Vatican". This was where 9 of the popes were buried.
- Frescoes - There are a number of very old frescoes visible in the catacombs. Our guide especially pointed one out of Jonah and the sea monster.
- Crypt of St. Cecilia - St. Cecilia was a martyr, and is the patron saint of music. It is said that she was ordered to be beheaded in the 3rd century, but the sword didn't kill her and she remained alive, but mortally wounded, for three days afterwards. She was buried at the Catacombs of Callixtus before her body was later on exhumed and transferred to the church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere. Where her tomb was, you'll see a copy of the statue of her by Stefano Maderno.
- Remains from 4 AD - Our guide did take us to see some remains in the catacomb that they believe were from 4 AD. There wasn't much left of it (understandably!) and I believe he called them Alessandra, but I can't find any information on it.
Things to know before your visit:
- There are no photos allowed inside the catacombs (which explains my very photo-less post!)
- The tunnels are quite dim and narrow so if you are claustrophobic, you might want to skip out on this. I would recommend doing a quick Google search. You'll be able to see some photos of what the catacombs are like and gauge how comfortable you would be.
- Again, you'll be disappointed if you're looking to see bones. I'd recommend visiting the Crypt of the Capuchins instead if that is what you're wanting to see.
Wondering what else you can see nearby the Catacombs of St. Callixtus?
- The Catacombs of San Sebastiano are not too far away from these catacombs, if you're looking to visit more catacombs.
- The Church of Domine Quo Vadis is also just a short distance away. In this small church, you can find what is supposed to be the footprints of Jesus Christ!
- You can take a stroll down Appian Way, which as mentioned earlier, was Rome's first highway. Built in 312 BC, it's another great example of how smart ancient Romans were.
Want to get here?
Hours: Open 9AM-12PM and 2PM-5PM. Check here for updated hours.
Getting here: There is a parking lot near these catacombs if you choose to drive. Bus 218 or 118 drops you off nearby. Check here for detailed instructions.
Admission: 8 Euros (in November 2016)
Estimated time to spend here: ~30 to 45 minutes
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