Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls Church Rome

The Basilica of Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls is one of the oldest churches in Rome. It is built on top of the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian and is located outside the city walls. The entrance to these catacombs is inside the basilica.

Saint Sebastian Church Rome

Address, opening hours and admission

Address: Via Appia Antica, 136 (Quartiere Appio Pignatelli). Tel.: +39 06 7808847. Opening hours: 8.00 till 13.00 and 14.00 till 17.30. Admission: The basilica is free, for the Roman villas see below. Public transport: Bus 118.

History and description

Saint Sebastian Church Rome
San Sebastiano Fuori le Mura

The Basilica di San Sebastiano Fuori le Mura was built in the first half of the 4th century. At the time its name was Basilica Apostolarum. It was dedicated to Peter and Paul because these apostles were briefly buried in the catacombs underneath the church.

At the time it consisted of a central nave enclosed by an ambulatory. The floor was almost completely taken up by the marble covers of the various tombs underneath it.

Around 350 AD the relics of the soldier Saint Sebastian were also placed in these catacombs and both the basilica and the underground burial place were dedicated to this saint.

In 826, out of fear of Saracen raids, the remains of the saint were moved to Saint Peter’s Basilica. In 1218 Pope Honorius III Savelli had the saint returned to his own church.

Cardinal Scipione Borghese ordered a  reconstruction of the basilica in 1608. The architect was Flaminio Ponzio, but it was Giovanni Vesanzio who completed the façade in 1613.

In 1915 two Roman villa’s were found underneath the basilica.

Highlights

The Cappella San Sebastiano is the work of Ciro Ferri, who designed it in 1672. In the same year Antonio Giorgetti sculpted the statue of the saint himself that can be seen underneath the altar. The statue was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The Chapel of the Relics contains an imprint of Christ‘s footsteps, together with one of the arrows that killed Saint Sebastian and the column he was tied to. The chapel was built in 1625.

The Cappella Albani was constructed between 1706 and 1712, when Clemente XI Albani  was pope. Pier Leone Ghezzi and Giuseppe Passeri were responsible for the works of art. Another name for this chapel is Sacello del Santissimo Sacramento.

Vasanzio designed the beautiful wooden ceiling with a portrait of Saint Sebastian. The coats-of-arms on the ceiling belong to the Borghese and Cappellari families. (Pope Gregorius XVI, who ordered a restoration of the basilica in the first half of the 19th century, was a member of the Cappellari family.

Steps in what used to be the right nave lead to Saint Sebastian’s Catacombs.

Villa Grande and Villa Piccola

The “Big Villa” was constructed in the 2nd century AD and the “Small Villa” stems from the 4th century. Impressive frescoes decorate the interiors of the buildings. The Villa Grande consists of five rooms, decorated with floor mosaics and sumptuous wall decorations. The most interesting fresco shows a well-preserved 2nd century seascape. The highlight of the Villa Piccola is an intricately painted geometric design. (A visit to the villas has to be booked in advance. This needs to be done at least a week in advance, by e-mail (villeromane@catacombe.org). The 12 Euros admission includes a guided tour. Children younger than 10 do not pay. For information you can call +39 067850350.)

Via Appia, 136 – Rome

Circus of Maxentius Rome

The Circus of Maxentius is one of the most important historical and archeological sites along the ancient Appian Way and was established during Maxentius‘ reign, which lasted only six years (306-312).

Circus of Maxentius Rome

Address, opening hours and admission

Address: Via Appia Antica, 153 – Rome (tel. +39 060608). Opening hours: 10.00 till 16.00; December 24, 31: 10.00 till 14.00. Closed: Mondays, January 1, May 1, December 25. Admission: Free.

History and description

Circus of Maxentius Rome
The towers of the Circus of Maxentius

The Emperor’s private domus consists, apart from the circus, of his imperial palace and of a mausoleum dedicated to his son Romulus.

The circus was meant to be built solely for private shows for the emperor and his friends and acquaintances. However, it is thought that it might never actually have been used at all, since there are no traces of the typical kind of sand used to cover the ground.

It was abandoned after Maxentius‘ death at the Battle of Ponte Milvio. The outside walls as well as those of the spine are still relatively intact and it is considered the best preserved Roman circus.

The Circus of Maxentius covers an area between the Via Appia and the Via Appia Pignatelli. The carceres, where the horses were kept before the start of the races, are on the west side. There used to be an obelisk in the middle of the track, but in 1650 Pope Innocent X ordered it to be moved to Piazza Navona, to crown Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers.

From Maxentius‘ palace only three rooms are left. The central one was known as the Temple of Venus and Cupid. It was here that public ceremonies and audiences took place. Before this aula an atrium with a long portico connected the palace with the that part of the circus where the Emperor and his family were seated.

Romulus‘ sepulchre was probably meant as a mausoleum for the entire imperial family. The buidling is surrounded by a four-sided portico. The main entrance faces the Via Appia Antica and two other entrances face the circus and the palace.

Via Appia Antica, 153 – Rome

Catacombs of Saint Sebastian Rome

Saint Sebastian was a soldier who was martyred during the reign of Diocletian (end of the 3rd century). He was pierced with arrows, then killed by blows of a club and thrown into the Cloaca Maxima. He appeared in a vision to the matron Irene, who subsequently picked up his body and carried it to the catacombs. His cult became very popular and in the 5th century a crypt was excavated around his tomb.

Catacombs of Saint Sebastian Rome

Address, opening hours and admission

Address: Via Appia Antica, 136 – Rome (tel. +39 06 7850350). Opening hours: 10,00 till 16.30. Closed: Sunday, January 1, December 25, 26. Admission: 8 Euros (age 6-15: 5 Euros; age 0-5: Free).

History and description

The Appian Way, or the Via Appia Antica, passes through a valley near the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian. Since the bottom of the valley was called “ad catacombas“, the columbarii that were built there came to be called catacombs. Later the word became synonymous with all underground cemeteries.

Three mausoleums were erected at the bottom of the valley. In the 3rd century the church got ownership of the site and had the mausoleums covered by a platform, thus creating a so-called triclia (covered courtyard). In the 4th century a basilica was built above the earlier structures. This basilica was altered in the 13th century and renovated (by Cardinal Scipio Borghese) in the 17th century.

The Catacombs of San Sebastiano contain second century pagan as well as Christian tombs and consist of four levels. The tour will take you down a staircase along which remains of sarcophagi bearing imperial seals can be viewed. Underneath the church three pagan tombs can be seen, as well as some frescoes and a floor mosaic.

The Chapel of Symbols is called thus because of the early Christian symbols that can be found there.

Via Appia, 136 – Rome

Appio Pignatelli District Rome

Rome’s 26th quartiere is called Appio Pignatelli. The name refers to the Via Appia and to an influential family by the name of Pignatelli.

Appio Pignatelli District Rome

The district is situated in the south eastern part of the city and has little to offer for tourists.

The main tourist attractions are the Church of Saint Sebastian outside the Walls and the Catacombs underneath this church.

Rome’s oldest and most venerable golf club is located in Appio Pignatelli. The Circolo del Golf di Roma Acquasanta was founded by members of the British Consulate in the year 1903.

Quartiere Appio Pignatelli Rome (Q. XXVI)

Cecilia Metella Mausoleum Rome

The tomb of Cecilia Metella is a big funerary monument, built in the 1st century B.C. It is located along the ancient Appian Way in the southern part of Rome, about 5km outside of the city borders. The mausoleum’s location, on top of a hill, made it an important landmark for people traveling to Rome from the south.

Cecilia Metella Mausoleum Rome

Address, opening hours and admission

Address: Via Appia Antica, 161 – Rome (tel. +39 06 7844271). Opening hours: From 09.00 until one hour before sunset. Closed: Mondays, January 1, May 1, December 25. Admission: 5 Euros (includes the Villa dei Quintili and Santa Maria Nova); EU citizens age 18-25: 2,50 Euros; all nationalities age 0-17: Free. The monument is free for everybody on the first Sunday of the month.

History and description

The tomb bears an inscription saying it was constructed for Cecilia Metella, daughter of the consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus and wife of  Marcus Licinius Crassus.

The 11m high tomb is raised on a square pedestal and is cylindrical in shape. This architect of the tomb got the inspiration for its round shape from the Etruscan so-called tumulus graves, as can be seen in the Necropolis near the city of Cerveteri.

It is covered with travertine marble and the freeze is covered with bull’s heads.

The sarcophagus of Cecilia Metella herself is at present in the Piazza Farnese.

During the Middle Ages the tomb came to be the main tower of a fortress defending the southern access road into Rome. Construction of this fortress was begun in the 11th century, but it was not until the year 1302 that the tomb was equipped with merlons.

Via Appia Antica, 161 – Rome