Early Christian Monuments in Rome
Educated Rome travellers, especially with an interest in early Christianity, often face the problem that non of the sometimes very impressive remains are included in the TOP 10 ‘must see’ list of established travel guides. This page aims to provide an overview of the most impressive or interesting material remains of Late Antique Christianity in Rome. Evidently, this list is neither exhaustive, nor aims to be, but rather a selection based on my personal favourites and guided by my preferences and interests. Certainly all monuments on this list are worth a detour for any connoisseurs intrested in Rome’s early Christian past. Some of them, such as the Sant’Agnese complex, is definitely worth a half-day excursion.
Sant’Agnese Complex (via Nomentana 349)
Santo Stefano Rotondo (via di Santo Stefano Rotondo 7)
Santa Cecilia al Trastevere (Piazza di Santa Cecilia 22)
San Clemente (Via Labicana 95)
Santa Prassede (Via di Santa Prassede 9/A)
Santi Cosma e Damiano (Via Dei Fori Imperiali 1)
Santa Pudenziana (Via Urbana 160)
Santa Sabina (Piazza Pietro d’Illiria 1)
San Paolo fuori le mura (Piazzale di San Paolo 1)
Santa Maria Antiqua is located between the Palatine and the Forum, and therefore now part of PArCo (Parco archeologico del Colosseo). The ‘Forum Pass SUPER ticket’ and the ‘Full experience’ ticket includes the entry to the church.
This website offers (theoretically) up to date information the catacombs open to the public in Rome and beyond.
My personal favorite is Priscilla (Via Salaria 430), which is fairly off the beaten path and in contrast to other catacombs, visits usually take place in small groups. It is easy to combine with the Sant’Agnese complex and spend an afternoon in an authentic Italian quarter far away from streams of tourists.
SS Pietro e Marcellio (Via Casilina, 641) is an excellent choice for connoisseurs, as this catacomb accomodates the highest number of lavishly decorated cubicula, many of which is also shown during the guided tour. The catacomb is truely off of any beaten path, but, in my opinion, it is absolutely worth a/the detour. A researvation is mandatory before visit.
Excavations of the Vatican necropole under the Basilica di San Pietro (= ‘Tomb of Peter‘). One has to order tickets in good time at the Ufficio Scavi.
The Via Triumphalis necropole was destroyed, or rather buried by a landslide. This is a well preserved pagan necropole which shed authentic light on the funerary culture of the late Prinzipate. It is an interesting contrast program to the catacombs, as it shed light on the enormous economic inequality within Rome’s less priviledged population. Theoretically, tickets can be purchased on the website of the Vatican Museums, but when I last checked, there was no single date available.
Yet another ‘nerdish’ thing is the Crypta Balbi (Via delle Botteghe Oscure 31). This is one of the most intriguing museums of Rome dedicated to the history and development of the urbs. It does not focuses on Christianity, but inevitably, it also deals with the Christian(isation of the) city. Absolutely underrated. But unfortunately closed due to refurbishment.