St Sebastian Catacombs | Attraction Guides | History Hit

St Sebastian Catacombs

Rome, Lazio, Italy

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020

About St Sebastian Catacombs

The St Sebastian Catacombs (Catacombe di San Sebastiano) are 4th century AD underground Christian burial tombs. They are some of the earliest of their kind in Rome.

St Sebastian Catacombs history

The Catacombs of San Sebastian are situated along the first stretch of Via Appia. The martyred remains of San Sebastian were buried at the site in 350 AD, and a basilica was erected over the grounds to honour the saint in the early 4th century. At the time, the subterranean burial area became known as ad catacumbas, which means “near the hollows,” due to the excavated mines near the site. This was the first use of the term catacombs, and it has since signified underground Christian burials chambers.

The many catacombs of Rome are the remnants of early Christianity, a reminder of a time when persecuted Christians would bury their dead in underground chambers outside the city walls. Several examples of these subterranean cemeteries still exist, with the St Sebastian Catacombs listed among the best known.

Since the site was erected, many pilgrims have come to visit, often viewing the relics held at the basilica as well. The basilica is dedicated to San Sebastian, who was martyred, and it houses the arrow that allegedly struck San Sebastian during his murder.

Besides the arrow relic, the basilica also possesses a set of marble footprints, that are attributed to Jesus, during his walk to Rome along the Via Appia.

There are limited historical sources on Saint Sebastian himself but the spread of his cult has continued for millennia, and still exists today, as many as three municipalities in Italy bear his name, and many others venerate him as patron saint. Examples include the Spanish port of San Sebastián, the island of Sao Sebastiao in Brazil, facing San Paolo.

St Sebastian Catacombs today

Today over 40 catacombs still exist underneath the territory of Rome covering approximately 150 kilometres on multiple levels.

Comprised of four levels of burial passages, the St. Sebastian Catacombs are believed to have once held the remains of their namesake, but he is now buried in the basilica above. Entry to the St. Sebastian Catacombs also includes a guided tour.

Getting to St Sebastian Catacombs

As with the rest of the Archeological Park of Appia Antica, the way to get to the basilica is by the 118 bus from Piramide or Circo Massimo metro stations. From the Arco di travertino metro station visitors can take bus 660 or from San Giovanni, bus 218.

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