Catacomb of Priscilla

Rome, Italy

The Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria was used for Christian burials from the late 2nd century through the 4th century. This catacomb, according to tradition, is named after the wife of the Consul Manius Acilius Glabrio; he is said to have become a Christian and was killed on the orders of Domitian. Some of the walls and ceilings display fine decorations illustrating Biblical scenes.

The modern entrance to the catacomb is on the Via Salaria through the cloister of the monastery of the Benedictines of Priscilla. The Catacombs of Priscilla are divided into three principal areas: an arenarium, a cryptoportico from a large Roman villa, and the underground burial area of the ancient Roman family, the Acilius Glabrio.

The wall paintings in this catacomb include images of saints and early Christian symbols, such as the painting reproduced in Giovanni Gaetano Bottari's folio of 1754, where the Good Shepherd is depicted as feeding the lambs, with a crowing cock on His right and left hand.

Particularly notable is the 'Greek Chapel' (Capella Greca), a square chamber with an arch which contains 3rd century frescoes generally interpreted to be Old and New Testament scenes, including the Fractio Panis.

The Priscilla catacombs may contain the oldest known Marian paintings, from the early third century. Mary is shown with Jesus on her lap, and the catacombs may have a depiction of the Annunciation, though the latter has been disputed.

Papal tombs

On account of the fact that seven early popes and many martyrs were buried in the cemetery, it was known as the 'Queen of the Catacombs' in antiquity. Two popes were buried in the Catacomb of Priscilla: Pope Marcellinus (296 - 304) and Pope Marcellus I (308 - 309).

Alleged relics of Popes Sylvester I, Stephen I, and Dionysius were exhumed and enshrined beneath the high altar of San Martino ai Monti, in the Esquiline area of Rome. Pope Sylvester I was likely originally buried in San Martino ai Monti, although some sources say his remains were transferred there. An unidentified papal sarcophagus discovered during the demolition of Old Saint Peter's Basilica was attributed to Sylvester I and moved to Nonantola Abbey, near the altar that contains the remains of Pope Adrian III. Other sources describe a combination of Sylvester I and Vigilius in an altar in St. Peter's.

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Address

Via Salaria 430, Rome, Italy
See all sites in Rome

Details

Founded: 2nd century AD
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in Italy

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Maria Axinte (2 months ago)
An interesting place where you can discover the history of Rome of the first centuries. The guide gave us insight on the beautiful frescoes inside and the fraternity between early christians, be it rich or poor. Impressive!
Maria Axinte (2 months ago)
An interesting place where you can discover the history of Rome of the first centuries. The guide gave us insight on the beautiful frescoes inside and the fraternity between early christians, be it rich or poor. Impressive!
Matthew Daniels (8 months ago)
Nice tour of the catacombs, very informative. We booked it very last minute and it worked out perfectly. The guide spoke good English. This is one of the oldest catacombs in Rome and contains the earliest known depiction of the Virgin Mary in art history. There were even some undisturbed tombs complete with inscriptions which were cool to see. There are no skeletons in the underground space but there are nice artifacts, frescoes, and even some graffiti from American GIs during the second world war to see. And if you have a hankering for bones, you can see both this site and the Capuchin Crypt in an afternoon easily. Recommended attraction especially for the cheap price of admission.
Matthew Daniels (8 months ago)
Nice tour of the catacombs, very informative. We booked it very last minute and it worked out perfectly. The guide spoke good English. This is one of the oldest catacombs in Rome and contains the earliest known depiction of the Virgin Mary in art history. There were even some undisturbed tombs complete with inscriptions which were cool to see. There are no skeletons in the underground space but there are nice artifacts, frescoes, and even some graffiti from American GIs during the second world war to see. And if you have a hankering for bones, you can see both this site and the Capuchin Crypt in an afternoon easily. Recommended attraction especially for the cheap price of admission.
Avery Harshman (12 months ago)
So interesting to visit and learn about the history. Highly recommend when in Rome.
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