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.
Priscilla was a Roman from the family of Acylius (Latin: Acilii). Her hypogeum was identified during excavations in 1888-1889. Priscilla's catacombs stretch for 13 kilometers along the ancient Via Salaria in Rome. The necropolis was active from the 2nd to 5th centuries. The oldest and also the deepest galleries consist of corridors and ornately painted chapels, many depicting biblical scenes and motifs. Seven popes of the ancient era were buried in the catacombs.
Ancient Christians depicted scenes taken from the Old and New Testaments, with the Christian symbol of the fish (ichthys) dominating the tombstones. One of the underground burial chapels, the so-called Cubicule of the Velatio depicts an orante with her hands raised in a prayer gesture; the woman is wearing a liturgical vestment and her head is covered by a veil. On the vault, the Good Shepherd is depicted between peacocks and doves. In the same room, scenes taken from the Old Testament are depicted: the sacrifice of Abraham, the prophet Jonah coming out of the fish, and three young men in a fiery furnace. The paintings date to the second half of the third century.
One of the catacomb niches probably contains the oldest depiction of Mary and the Child, dating from the 2nd to the 3rd century. Complementing the scene is the figure of a prophet pointing to a star. In the so-called Greek Chapel with an arcosolium, an early Christian painter depicted an image of agape, a reference to the eucharist celebrated occasionally at burial sites.