Descend into Rome's cool, underground, ancient pathways up to 65 feet below the Earth's surface. Get up close to notable frescoes, inscriptions, and bone remains of Ancient Romans buried beneath the earth. Walk where Ancient Romans walked and preserved their traditions. Visiting the Catacombs of Rome is an experience that reveals Ancient Rome's laws, traditions, geology, and secrets. Ancient Roman law forbade burial within city walls, so the Roman Catacombs were built underground underneath important roads leading into Rome. The soft volcanic earth upon which Rome is built is called "tuff" and is perfect for the design of catacombs because it is malleable when first unearthed and then hardens with time.
The first Christians of Rome lived in a mainly Pagan society where Christianity was considered a strange and illegal superstition. While Pagan practices surrounding death usually involved cremation, Christians believed in the resurrection of the body and therefore preferred burial services. However, burial within the city walls was outlawed for hygienic reasons and so these catacombs outside the city center were created. Burial practices began in the second century during a time of persecution of Christian and Jewish beliefs and these subterranean ceremonies were secretly conducted. There are forty known underground catacombs in Rome of which six are Jewish.
These underground structures contain critical historical items, including art in the form of frescoes and murals on the architectural supports. When the Barbarians invaded Rome, they raided the catacombs and during the Middle Ages their entrances were overgrown with vegetation and blocked by landslides. The symbols of Christianity were used covertly during a time of persecution and symbolized the essence of Christian beliefs: The Good Shepherd, The Orante, The Monogram of Christ, The Fish, The Dove, The Alpha and The Omega, The Anchor and The Phoenix. Underground, you will see first-hand the prevalence of these symbols and your Presto guide will give you invaluable insight into their origins. Join us as we go under the city and unearth stunning details from ages past.