Catacombs of San Callisto - History and Facts | History Hit

Catacombs of San Callisto

Rome, Lazio, Italy

The Catacombs of San Callisto are the largest and most famous of Rome’s Christian catacombs.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020

About Catacombs of San Callisto

The Catacombs of San Callisto are just one of the many catacombs of Rome, five of which are regularly open to the public. These Catacombs were used by Christians as subterranean burial places.

Catacombs of San Callisto history

Built-in around 150 AD, the Catacombs of San Callisto span five floors and hold over half a million bodies, making them the largest of their kind in Rome. Whilst some believe that the practice of underground burials derived from the persecution of the Christians and thus the need to keep the graves safe, others think that this was just the custom at the time and due to the fact that they owned little land.

The most famous residents of the Catacombs of San Callisto are a number of popes of the third century, but not Pope St. Callixtus after whom the catacombs are named. Instead, this pope was responsible for part of the construction and expansion of the Catacombs of San Callisto.

The catacombs were realized in the early 3rd century AD in the area between the Appian Way and the Via Ardeatina during the papacy of Pope Zephyrinus, who entrusted the administration of the cemetery to the deacon Callixtus. These catacombs are one of the most significant sites of early Christianity and were the first public cemetery.

The Catacombs of St. Callixtus were the official cemetery of the Church of Rome for a long time. Sixteen pontiffs and fifty martyrs were buried here.

Catacombs of San Callisto today

Situated along the Appian Way, the ancient and impressive Catacombs of St. Callixtus occupy an area equal to about 15 hectares and have nearly 20 kilometres of galleries on several levels.

Visitors can travel through the dark and damp passageways, where you can see, in addition to the niches, some inscriptions with the names of the people that once occupied them. Opening times are usually Thursday to Tuesday from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 17:00.

Getting to the Catacombs of San Callisto

To reach the catacombs by public transport, the 118 and 218 bus lines head to San Calixto and San Sebastián Catacombs. Some visitors choose to take a taxi or visit the Catacombs as part of a tour.

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