The catacombs are a place of spiritual pilgrimage, a powerful experience and at the same time a romantic reverie on the passing of time. In fear of epidemics and according to custom the Romans buried their dead outside the city walls: along the Via Appia, stretch the tombs of Romans, Christians and Jews, and, for the less wealthy, the catacombs, whose multi-level galleries and niches (loculi) form a labyrinth carved into the tuff.
Christians and Jews buried bodies, while Romans cremated corpses and deposited ashes in urns. Embalmed or shrouded bodies of Christians were placed on rock shelves, placed under marble slabs in the floor or in family crypts.
These catacombs are a former cemetery belonging to Domitylla, a Roman noblewoman related to the imperial family, the granddaughter of consul Flavio Clemente. The Catacombs of Domitylla are located in via delle Sette Chiese and are one of the most extensive Roman catacombs. They contain a partially underground basilica and 17 km of galleries and corridors arranged on four different levels with 150,000 graves.
The catacombs date back to around the 3rd century, while they have been rebuilt and expanded several times over the following centuries. They are often referred to as the catacombs of St. Nerus and Achilleus, due to the ruins of the basilica of these saints located here.The first galleries were carved between the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries. They were located near an already existing underground tomb called hypogeum of the Flavians.
A visit to the Catacombs of Domitilla is a unique opportunity to get an up-close look at some aspects of the life of the Christian communities of the first centuries, their belief in the resurrection and eternal life. It allows you to admire the testimony preserved over the centuries, recorded in the symbolic decorations of tombstones and frescoes, signs of the bond with God and worship of the holy martyrs buried in this ancient cemetery.