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.
The Catacombs of San Sebastiano were used as a burial pagan place, then at the end of the 2nd century, they were transformed as a Christian Necropolis dedicated to the Saints Peter and Paul. Only in the 4th century did the catacombs take the current name which derives from the name of the Saint placed here after his death (298). They are the only Roman catacombs to which access has remained permanently open over the centuries. They had four underground floors, the first of which was almost completely destroyed. There are three mausoleums in part of the catacombs from the 2nd century. They belonged to well-placed people.
The young Sebastian had preferred to suffer the tortures of the arrows rather than abjure the Christian faith, but not having died, he had challenged the Emperor Diocletian as soon as he had recovered his strength. He had him taken to the Palatine Hippodrome where he was killed with a stick and his body thrown into the Cloaca Maxima. He miraculously appeared in a dream to the matron Lucina, who mercifully collected his mortal remains and carried them to the catacombs that took his name. Originally the cemetery was called “ad catacumbas”, that is near the graves. Earlier there were pozzolana quarries existing on this area. The toponym “catacomb” was then extended to indicate directly the Christian underground cemeteries.