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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Via Salaria 430, Rome, Italy
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Founded: 2nd century AD
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in Italy


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User Reviews

Stephy Newton (33 days ago)
I came here as part of my solo trip in Rome, hoping for a bit of culture and history without solely following the tourist traps. The catacombs were very interesting and I would say brilliant value for money, as we received an hour tour with plenty of great facts. (I’m sorry I don’t remember the name of the guide doing the English tour, but thank you!) Would definitely recommend for something a bit more quiet and different, plus means you get to experience the looooovely nearby park which was an absolute highlight of the trip.
A.G. M. (43 days ago)
Vast network of catacombs but only a small portion can be visited. To walk along the narrow passages and see some interesting frescoes chapels and tombs is truly an experience.
Becky T (3 months ago)
The tour was amazing and informative. Ours went a little long at 55 minutes and was packed full of interesting information about the history of catacombs from the early inception in 3rd century AD up to the present where it’s run by the Vatican. I’m not doing it justice but it has been a highlight for me. We pre booked the English tour and may not have needed to, though the tours just before and after ours looked quite full so probably is recommended. Note photos are not allowed inside. Facility wise, they have two clean toilets and some seating at the beginning but not inside. The air is a little stale as it’s underground but it’s fairly well lit and has a decent path, and not really claustrophobic inside. It’s a little far north but easily accessible by taxi or bus.
Pong Lenis (4 months ago)
This was a very lovely place to visit, I had a tour guide take us down when I went so it was much more enjoyable to hear some of the interesting history of the place. It’s very well kept and maintained, they have some artwork and some creepy dark places to see. I really enjoyed the time I spent here and would definitely recommend visiting this catacomb.
Ger Sierink (5 months ago)
Francesco was a great guide, very knowledgeable and very friendly too! Buying tickets in advance wasn't necessary for us, as we got there about twenty minutes before the next tour and we were able to just get tickets on the spot, but your mileage may vary depending on the day - we went on a Sunday afternoon. The tour itself was wonderful, about 45 minutes to an hour long, and absolutely worth the price (especially if you're an (art) history student, in which case you even get a discount). Taking photos unfortunately isn't allowed inside the catacombs, but the highlights are available as high-quality 50ct postcards.
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