The Catacombs of Domitilla in Rome consist of an extensive network of galleries and are named after a niece of the Emperor Domitian, member of the wealthy Flavian family. Originally this was Domitilla‘s private cemetery. When Domitilla‘s husband Flavius Clemens was denounced and executed (on the Emperor’s orders) for being a Christian she was exiled to the island of Ventotene (then Pandataria).
Catacombs of Domitilla Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via delle Sette Chiese, 280/282 – Rome (tel. +39 06 5110342). Opening hours: From 09.00 till 12.00 and from 14.00 till 17.00. Last entrance is 15 minutes before closing time. Closed: Tuesdays, January 1, Easter, mid-December till mid-January. Admission: 8 Euros; children ages 6-15: 5 Euros; children younger than 6: Free.
History and description
In the 4th century, when a basilica was built over the graves of Saint Nereus and Saint Achilleus, the Catacombs of Domitilla gained notoriety. Contrary to what legend holds Nereus and Achilleus were not two converted servants of Domitilla herself, but soldiers who were martyred during the reign of Diocletian, more than a century later.
Another martyr who used to be buried in Domitilla‘s catacombs was Saint Petronilla. Her sarcophagus was however transferred to the Vatican, in the 8th century.
The basilica built over Nereus‘ and Achilleus‘ graves has three naves. Among its ruins two pillars were found, which used to support the ciborium. One of those pillars, completely intact, has the name Achilleus carved on it. Sculptures on the columns represent the two beheaded saints. Behind the apse of the church is a fresco of the Saints Petronilla en Veneranda.
One of the oldest parts of the cemetery can be found to the right of the basilica. Here members of the Flavian family were buried and there is also a cubiculum with a fresco of Christ as the Good Shepherd. Another part of the catacombs is known as the area of the Virgin (della Madonna) and is adorned with various 3rd and 4th century paintings. The most famous one of these shows the Magi approaching the Virgin and child.