The Catacombs of Domitilla open after restoration
The Catacombs of Domitilla in Rome extend over twelve kilometers on four levels underground, and are full of decorations and frescoes that tell stories about Christian communities from the early centuries of the first millennium. After three years of restoration – using cutting-edge laser technology to preserve the ancient frescoes – this archaeological treasure has recently reopened to the public.
Once again visitors can admire masterpieces of Paleochristian art – including some representing activities by the ‘praefectus annonae’, the Roman imperial office in charge of distributing wheat.
Domitilla’s are the largest catacombs in the city. The archaeological excavations carried out in the 1900s brought back to light funerary chambers from the 1st century BC and finds from the later period of the Roman Empire, dating back to the 3rd-4th century AD. While it was tradition for aristocratic Christian families of the time to be buried near relics of the dead, the structure is tangible evidence of how the catacombs were not only used to bury and commemorate the dead, but also to gather, hold banquets and celebrate continuity between life and death.
Within the complex of the Catacombs you can visit narrow tunnels, hallways and galleries, as well as a semi-underground basilica and a small museum dedicated to Domitilla, with sarcophagi and bas-reliefs that give an interpretation of the relationship between pagan myths and the concept of death in Christianity.
Foto © Antonio Masiello/AGF