Catacombs of San Callisto history

The history of the Catacombs of San Callisto dates back almost 2000 years. The original catacombs are believed to have been a private Christian underground burial place.

The reason for it being underground was because Christians – prior to Emperor Constantine I – often were persecuted for their religious beliefs. In fact, the government of Rome persecuted all those who chose not to practice the religion of the state. During these times, the Christian religion was not as dominating as it is today which forced the Christians to literally hide underground.

Underground expansion


The underground cemetery was expanded during the end of the second century by a deacon of Rome. The catacombs were expanded to not only include more tombs, but also chapels, meeting areas, dining rooms and even places to sleep. The man responsible for the expansion later became a Pope under the name Callixtus I. The name of the catacombs – San Callisto – derives from this man. Sometimes they even go by the name of Catacombs of St. Callixtus.

Official burial site

After the expansion, the Catacombs of San Callisto quickly became the official burial site for Rome’s Christians which was followed by additional expansions. Over the course of history, more than 50 martyrs and 16 popes have been buried here, making it one of the most important Christian cemeteries, if not the most important.


The Catacombs of San Callisto were rediscovered by the Italian archeologist Giovanni Battista in 1854. When he discovered the tunnels, he called them “the little Vatican – the central monument of all Christian cemeteries”.

Why visit Catacombs of San Callisto ?

The Catacombs of San Callisto is the most sacred and important of all the Roman catacombs. The Catacombs of San Callisto is pretty much a must visit for anyone interested in Roman and religious history.

A vast tunnel complex

The size of the Catacombs of San Callisto is impressive. The tunnel complex stretches out for almost 19 kilometers and is structured in five levels. The deepest parts of the catacombs reach an impressive depth of roughly 20 meters.

Holy tombs

Inside the underground complex, one can discover the Crypt of the Popes and investigate the crypt of St. Cecilia – the patron of sacred music. Visitors can also find several ancient frescoes, sculptures and other wall paintings along the impressive tunnels. The catacombs are truly an example of great underground architecture.

A popular site

The Catacombs of San Callisto are the most visited ones of all the ancient underground tunnels in the region. Tens of thousands of people visit the site each year to experience the phenomenal tunnels. Just remember that the place is probably not something for claustrophobic people, so everyone afraid of enclosed spaces should stay on the surface!

Catacombs of San Callisto location

The Catacombs of San Callisto is located in RomeItaly. The catacombs can be found along the ancient Roman road known as the Appian Way. The whole area is well served by public transport, but is also easily accessed by foot or bicycle, as the Appian Wayis a popular hiking road. For the exact location of the Catacombs of San Callisto, check out the location map to the right.

Catacombs of San Callisto Video

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