The Catacombs of Priscilla (Italian: Catacomba di Priscilla) are the best preserved early Christian cemetery in Rome. It is also among the oldest and largest of all of Rome’s catacombs. Thanks to several inscriptions bearing the names of Peter and Paul one can deduce that it dates back to the 2nd century. In November 2013, after a 5 year restoration period, Priscilla’s Catacombs were reopened to the public.
Catacombs of Priscilla Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via Salaria, 430 – Rome. Phone: +39 06 45428493 or +39 3791965224. Opening hours: Friday, Saturday and Sunday by appointment only. Guided tour: Obligatory. Admission: 8 Euros; children 7-15: 5 Euros; children 0-6: Free. There is a special entrance for people in wheelchairs, but this needs to be prepared, so indicate this beforehand.
History and description
The name Priscilla originates from the mother of a Senator, called Pudens, in whose house Saint Peter was said to have found refuge.
Close to the modern entrance to the Catacomb of Priscilla, which is located on the Via Salaria, is a subterranean chapel. This chapel was known as the Capella Greca, since two Greek epitaphs were inscribed there. It contains extremely ancient symbolic frescoes, the most famous of which being the so-called Fractio Panis. In this wall-painting a priest is breaking bread and handing it to the other people sitting at the table.
Another ancient fresco shows the Blessed Virgin with the Infant Jesus at her breast. This fresco is supposedly the oldest known representation of the Madonna with child.
The Basilica of San Silvestro was built on the site in the 4th century. This basilica is now mostly rebuilt. Together with the frescoes in the catacombs this church was also restored.
The catacombs itself consist of a network of tunnels with burial chambers. The tunnels were dug out between the 2nd and 5th centuries. These were later concealed and were not rediscovered until the 16th century.
There is now also a museum attached to the catacombs, displaying funerary artifacts that were found there.
Since many Christian martyrs were buried here, the Catacombs of Priscilla were known as the regina catacumbarum or “queen of the catacombs”.