Catacombs of Callixtus

Explore the largest Christian catacombs in Rome.

The Catacombs of Saint Callixtus are not only the most famous of Rome’s Christian catacombs, they’re also one of the oldest official cemeteries of the Church of Rome. Visit the tombs of popes, martyrs, and half a million Christians in this subterranean complex.

Highlights

  • Discover the Crypt of the Nine Popes, known as “the little Vatican” of the cemetery.
  • Marvel at the mosaics and frescoes covering the walls of the Crypt of St. Cecilia – the patron saint of music.
  • Try to decode the carvings of early Christian symbols found on the walls and tombs – see if you can spot the phoenix!

Tickets & Prices

Find out which ticket best suits your needs with this handy guide below.

Standard Admission Fee 

With this ticket, you can enjoy a 45-minute guided tour of the catacombs and its highlights with an official live tour guide. You’ll delve deep into the history of the cemetery and learn about the period of Christian persecution in Rome; hear interesting stories about some of the occupants of the tombs; discover the meaning behind the mystifying symbols etched into the stone.

  • Reserve your ticket online. Simply choose the language you wish to hear the tour in, select the date of your visit and your ideal time slot, fill in your personal details, and receive a confirmation email.
  • On the day of your visit, you’ll pay at the ticket office, after showing confirmation of your reservation (either in printed or digital form). Both cash and all major cards are accepted.
  • You’ll then wait at the flag of your language until called by your tour guide.
  • Tours are conducted in Italian, English, Spanish, French, German, and Polish.

Concession Tickets

With this ticket, you’ll experience the same booking process and guided tour as the standard admission ticket. Find out if you’re eligible for a concession ticket below.

This ticket is intended for:

  • Children from ages 7 to 16.
  • Students of archeology, architecture, art history, or cultural studies, up to 25 years of age (with proof of eligibility).
  • Priests, novices, or seminarians (with proof of eligibility).
  • School groups.

Free Admission

This ticket also grants you the full experience provided by the standard admission ticket, and the booking process is also the same. Some individuals are eligible to enjoy a free admission ticket. Find out below if this applies to you.

This ticket is intended for:

  • Children under the age of 7.
  • Disabled visitors and their companions.
  • Students from the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology
  • Salesian brothers of don Bosco, and sisters of Mary, Help of Christians
  • Professors, teachers, and catechist teachers accompanying groups of 15 and over.
  • Two complimentary tickets for groups of at least 35 people, when paying the standard admission fee.
  • Licensed tour guides (with proof of eligibility).
  • Researchers who make a request to the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archeology.

Catacombs of St. Callixtus: Guided Tour

Experience a 40-minute guided tour with a live guide with this immersive ticket. Discover the history behind this underground cemetery, and walk around the tombs of the early popes and martyrs buried here.

This ticket is very similar to the standard admission ticket. Buy this ticket if you want the option to pay for your ticket online, and to have the flexibility of free cancellation.

  • Choose the date and time slot that best suits you online. Enter your personal details and pay by credit/debit card, PayPal, or AliPay.
  • The tickets will be sent to your email which you can then print out or show directly from your smartphone.
  • Arrive ten minutes before your intended tour. Show your ticket and you’ll be directed to your guide.
  • Free cancellation until 23:59 on the day before your visit.
  • Guides available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Additional Information:

  • The catacombs are open every day except Wednesdays from 9:00 – 12:00 in the mornings, and 14:00 – 17:00 in the afternoons. The ticket office closes at 16:50.
  • Wheelchairs are not permitted within the catacombs, and those with severe mobility issues may encounter walking difficulties.
  • It is forbidden to take pictures or videos inside the catacombs.
  • Remember to bring something to cover up, as it’s chilly and humid down in the catacombs!

What to see and do 

Here’s a list of what you can expect to experience during your tour of the catacombs.

The Crypt of the Nine Popes

Undoubtedly the highlight of the tour, the Crypt of the Nine Popes is the most important and revered of all the crypts in the catacombs. It contains the remains of nine popes and eight bishops, all from the 3rd century CE. 

On the walls above the tombs can be found the original tombstones, now cracked and falling apart, with inscriptions in Greek of five of the popes’ names. On two of them can be found the abbreviation for the word martyr.

The Crypt of St. Cecilia

The Crypt of St. Cecilia can be accessed by a narrow passage joined to the Crypt of the Popes. It was here where St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, was entombed in the 3rd century and venerated for five hundred years until her remains were moved to the basilica in Trastevere dedicated to her.

St. Cecilia, originally belonging to a noble Roman family, is one of the most famous virgin martyrs. The statue in the crypt, a copy of a work by Stefano Maderno, is said to be a representation of her body in the position it was found in when she was killed.

The room was also covered in beautiful mosaics and paintings showing St. Cecilia in an act of prayer, Christ, and other martyrs. Although faded, they can still be seen today.

The Cubicles of the Sacraments

The Cubicles of the Sacraments are a series of five small chambers of family tombs known for the impressive frescoes which decorate their walls. These frescoes date back to the 3rd century and portray the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, important initiation rituals for the Catholic church.

The Carvings of Christian Symbols

As you wander throughout the different galleries and crypts, watch out for the symbolic carvings etched into the walls and tombs. These symbols were said to have originated during a period of Christian persecution when they were unable to practice their faith openly.

Your guide will point them out and explain what the different symbols meant. Look out for some popular ones, such as the dove (divine peace), the anchor (salvation), and the phoenix (resurrection).

Directions

The catacombs can be found on one of Rome’s most ancient roads, at Via Appia Antica 110. They are located between the Church of Quo Vadis and the Basilica of St. Sebastian.

The best way is to come by bus or by car. If driving, you can make use of the catacombs’ private parking area. Entrance is only possible from the crossroads between Via Appia Antica and Via Ardeatina.

There is no metro station nearby.

Bus: 218 – ‘Fosse Ardeatine’ (from San Giovanni)

660 – ‘Appia Pignatelli/Appia Antica’ (from Arco di travertino)

118 – ‘Catacombe di San Callisto’ (from Colosseo or Circo Massimo)

Did you know that: (4 Interesting Facts!) 

  1. Although only some areas are accessible to the general public, the whole complex of the catacombs spans five underground levels over an area of 90 acres.
  2. The reason the catacombs lie so far from the historic center is because of an Ancient Roman law that prohibited the burial of the dead inside the city for health reasons.
  3. The word ‘cemetery’ derives from ‘coemeterium’ the Greek for ‘dormitory’, as for the Romans, the burial of the dead was a temporary ‘sleep’ while they waited for the final resurrection.
  4. The catacombs are located on the Appian Way, one of the earliest and most important Roman roads which are still in use today!

History

  • The Catacombs of Saint Callixtus were founded in the middle of the 2cd century CE, shortly after the Christians started burying their dead underground, at a time when they were greatly persecuted by the Romans.
  • Although probably started from family tombs, the burial grounds were open to everyone of the Christian faith and expanded over time.
  • At the beginning of the 3rd century, the catacombs became the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. Pope Zephyrinus appointed the deacon Callixtus as their administrator. It’s from him that they get their name.
  • Even after the end of Christian persecution, the cemetery stayed in use until the beginning of the 5th century, when Christians began to be buried in basilicas or above ground.
  • They were subsequently abandoned and, by the late Middle Ages, even forgotten.
  • They were rediscovered in 1854 by Italian archeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi, considered the father of Christian archeology.
  • In 1930 the Holy See entrusted the care of the catacombs to the Congregation of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
  • Today, the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus are the most popular catacombs out of the five in Rome that are open to the public and are enjoyed by pilgrims and tourists alike.
Catacombs of St. Callixtus map

Address: Catacombs of St. Callixtus, Via Appia Antica 110/126, 00179 Roma, Italy · view larger map

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