Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Friday 26 February |
Saint of the Day: St. Paula of St. Joseph Calasanz
home iconTravel
line break icon

The largest catacombs in Rome soon will be opened to the public


Antoine Mekary | Aleteia

Daniel Esparza - published on 06/02/17

The Catacombs of Domitilla are back in business after 25 years of restorations.

The Catacombs of Domitilla will soon open their doors again to the public after 25 years of restoration work, i.Media learned at a press conference organized on May 30, 2017. Alongside its neighboring catacomb of St. Callixtus, the catacombs of Domitilla are the largest, the oldest, and the best preserved of them all.

These catacombs take their name from the owner of the surrounding land, Flavia Domitilla, who was converted by St. Peter before being executed under the Emperor Trajan in the first century. It was she who, on her land, ordered the construction of a first buried funeral gallery, called a “hypogeum.” Over the centuries, the tunnels have lengthened to 12 km. They spread over 4 levels, and contain around 26,000 graves.

Covering a large period in the history of the Roman empire, tombs, hollowed out and decorated between the 1st and 5th centuries, allow us to contemplate the evolution of funerary ornaments, both pagan and Christian.

“These tombs represent the roots of our deep identity, the roots of Rome and Christendom,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, director of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, which financed the restoration work. Thanks to laser and scanning technologies developed by German and Austrian institutes, half of the 70 frescoes in the underground labyrinth were discovered.

The bakers’ room

Among the chambers, one of the most impressive is perhaps the so-called “room of the bakers.” Covered almost entirely with wall decors, it houses an immense image illustrating the stages of the supply of bread in Rome by the Annona — the institution in charge of this task — from the transport of cereals to the final distribution of bread.

Another excavation campaign at the end of the 19th century made it possible to find the semi-buried basilica of Nereus and Achilleus, named after two martyred contemporaries of Domitilla buried in the catacombs. The fully restored building will also be part of the course accessible to the public.

A mini-museum, built near the entrance of the basilica, will display exceptional sarcophagi, made in Greek marble. The official opening to the public is planned before the end of June.

See the exclusive images here!

ArchaeologyChurch History
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
J-P Mauro
A song to celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines
V. M. Traverso
The 9 oldest images of Mary
Lucandrea Massaro
This 3D “carbon copy” of Jesus was created using the ...
Bret Thoman, OFS
Padre Pio says this is a sin that’s difficult to forgive &#...
Palm Sunday
Philip Kosloski
10 Lenten traditions you might see at Mass
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.