Catacomb of St. Domitilla

Picture of the Catacomb of St. Domitilla. Picture courtesy of

The Catacombs of St. Domitilla are very unique and are the oldest underground burial sites in Rome.  Above here is a picture of St. Domitilla where inside you will find early Christian artwork and paintings including the second-century fresco of the Last Supper.  The catacomb of Domitilla has an extensive network of galleries and are named after one of the nieces of the Emperor Domitian.  This was orginally the private cemetery of Domitilla.  Domitilla’s husband Flavius Clemens was executed on the Emperor’s orders for being a Christian.  She was sent and exiled to the island of Ventotene (then Pandataria).

  Domitilla was so well preserved that it is the only catacomb that contains bones still today.  It’s not just the oldest but it is also the largest catacomb of Rome.  It contains more than ten miles of corridors and almost 150,000 burial spots.  It provides us with insight into all phases and phenomena of an early christian necropolis.  Here you will find the a sanctuary with the graves of the martyrs Nereus and Achilleus up to the middle ages.

Picture of the Good Shepard. Picture courtesy of

One of the oldest parts of the catacomb can be found just right of the basilica.  At this spot members of the Flavian family were all buried and there is a cubiculum with a fresco of Christ as the Good Shepherd.  The catacomb also has another part known as the area of the Virgin (della Madonna) and is adorned with various third and fourth century paintings.  The most famous of these shows the Magi approaching the Virgin and child.  Through catacombs we are able to see early Christian ways and how they expressed themselves and their religion through their artworks in their catacombs.


J Stevenson, The Catacombs: Rediscovered monuments of early Christianity, Thames and Hudson, 1978 pp.25-28 of Rome#Catacombs of Domitilla

J. P. Richter, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 6, No. 22 ( Jan. 1905). pp. 286-289

Pictures:  Catacomb of Domitilla-

Picture of the Good Shepherd –


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3 responses to “Catacomb of St. Domitilla

  1. These catacombs definitely sound breathtaking. It amazes me that artists would think to place such artwork in an area where few living people would ever see it. I wonder if they were as appreciated then as they are today. I guess in some ways, the Flavian Family has achieved immortailty. I now have one more place to add to my bucket list of sites to see.

  2. hadrian73

    It is said that burial gives closure to the ones left behind, this is taking that concept to the extreme. 10 miles! I’ve had to dig a couple of foxhole’s and more than one pet grave in my life, so I’ll give kudos to those poor bastards that dug and built these catacombs! This was a good read.

  3. maazarat

    I have been meaning to research these Catacombs, so I am glad that you decided to blog about it. Very interesting. I also thought it a bit strange that they had such incredible artwork down in these areas. I guess this is probably why the Christians had their secret meeting down there. Doesn’t seem like too shabby of an area. The picture of St. Domitilla is amazing! I still am always blown away by how intelligent the Romans were with their architecture. Great Blog.

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