Not only is Rome a city full of beauty and wonders. It also keeps secret underground: kilometers of burial places of Ancient times. They are the famous catacombs, subterranean burial chambers that they were built outside the walls, along main roads as the Ancient Appian Way, the via Ostiense, the via Labicana, the via Tiburtina and the via Nomentana.
From the 2nd century AD catacombs were carved through tufa, creating a network of tunnels and galleries; bodies were placed in graves in stone sarcophagi, with a slab closing the chamber. There are different kinds of tombs, which depended on the means of the family. They are the most representative monument of the Early Christian church, where also martyrs were buried. When Christianity became a state religion, the faithful begun to bury the dead in cemeteries, the relics were trasfered and catacombs remained abandoned.
The Catacombs of Domitilla are the best preserved ones: over 17 kilometers of underground caves, some of which are now inaccessible. The visit begins with the Basilica of the martyrs Nereus and Achilleus, that were built above their tomb, and the continues with the catacombs where it can still be seen symbols, paintings and frescoes.
The Catacombs of San Sebastiano are on the Ancient Appian Way. The martyred remains of Saint Sebastian were buried here and a basilica was built over the grounds to pray the saint in the early 4th century. The stucco decorations on the celilings and the frescoes on the burial chambers are well preserved.
Another option on the Appian Way are the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, the greatest of Rome. Popes and martyrs were buried here; the underground cemetery has several areas, a gallery full of loculi, small chambers and family tombs.
The catacombs are the place in Rome that you can’t miss to fully understand the ancient history of the Eternal City.