Catacombs of St Callixtus Rome
The Catacombs of St Callixtus is located on the Appian Way just outside Rome. I was biking on the Appian Way and I’m glad I stopped by to visit. The catacombs are very well preserved and provide a great insight into what life and death was like in ancient Rome.
Catacombs of St Callixtus are the first official Christian cemetery of Rome. It houses the remains of fifteen popes and saints. Also buried here are many martyrs and over five hundred thousand Christians.
It was founded at the end of the 2nd century by future Pope Callixtus I. At the time he was a deacon of Rome, and it was created under the direction of Pope Zephyrinus.
The main sights in the catacomb are the crypts of the popes. There are some important inscriptions, 3rd-century frescoes of Baptism and the Eucharist, and 6th-century frescoes of bishops. However there are no bones left in the catacombs, because they were being taken as souvenirs. There are some sealed tombs with the bones still intact in the wall. You see the chapels early Christians used to hide their practices from the pagans, and the beautiful frescos of early Christianity. The most exciting discovery was a replica statue of St. Cecilia. The original sculpture was moved to the Church of St Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome.
The tour takes you to the 2nd level of the catacombs, others being inaccessible. Each catacomb is closed on a different day of the week. You should check when it's open before making the trip there. The tunnels are high and narrow, carved in the tufa. They are well lit and ventilated.
I was happy that I stopped to see the St Callixtus catacombs. I found it to be a unique place to pay homage to all those who were persecuted for their beliefs. It is an inspiring and sobering reminder of the price of past faithfulness.
Catacombs of St Callixtus are a bit outside the normal Rome tourist areas. However it is easily reached by bus 218 from San Giovanni Metro stop to Fosse Ardeatine (the entrance to St Callixtus). From there it is a short walk up to the grounds.