Rome to host 7th Day of the Catacombs, opportunity to reflect on early Christians

Tour of the Catacombs An archaeological guide provided historical information and answered questions during a visit to the catacombs by delegates of the Synod on Synodality. Early Christians gathered within the catacombs for funeral rites and to honor the martyrs. Rome, Italy. Oct. 12, 2023. | Credit: Vatican Media

Rome’s catacombs will open to the public for free guided tours and moments of prayer and reflection on Saturday, March 2, as part of the seventh edition of Day of the Catacombs. 

A press release circulated by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, the event’s sponsor, announced that the theme for this year’s edition of the Day of the Catacombs is “from remembrance to prayer.” 

Observing that “the pope wanted this year to be dedicated to prayer,” the press release went on to note that this event fits “into the preparatory journey to the Jubilee of 2025.” 

The press release emphasized that visiting the catacombs is an opportunity to “experience an encounter with the memories and testimonies of the first Christian community of Rome,” and that they remind us of the “people, events, stories that are extremely significant and important even for the present.” 

“So evocative memory, directly perceived and experienced, cannot fail to arouse profound reflection and therefore, for believers, prayer; a prayer addressed to the Lord, God of life and savior, but also to the martyrs and to those who witnessed their faith, whose example and whose intercession support us on the present journey,” the press release continued. 

The commission was established by Pope Pius IX in 1852 “to take care of the ancient sacred cemeteries, look after their preventive preservation, further explorations, research, and study” as well as to “safeguard the oldest mementos of the early Christian centuries, the outstanding monuments and venerable basilicas in Rome.” 

Visitors will have the opportunity to see many ancient symbols “that speak of prayer,” such as the third-century Cubicle of the Velata in the Catacomb of Priscilla, as well as early art depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments. 

The catacombs of Rome are Paleochristian burial sites scattered around the city that were dug underground during the height of the Christian persecution. Here many of Rome’s early popes, martyrs, and Christian families were entombed. 

These sites assumed a deeply significant place in popular piety and have long been a place of encounter, prayer, and reflection for many of the Church’s saints, including St. Jerome and St. Philip Neri.

On March 2, several of Rome’s most prominent catacombs will be open to the public including the Catacomb of Priscilla, the Catacomb of St. Agnes (where the third-century Roman martyr was buried), the Catacomb of Callixtus (which contains the burial sites of popes between the second and fourth centuries), the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, the Catacombs of Domitilla, the Catacombs of Sts. Marcellino and Pietro, and the Catacomb of San Pancrazio. 

Access to the catacombs is free of charge and a full list of events, including musical concerts, lectures, and guided tours — as well as kid-friendly events — can be found at the event’s official website.  

The day will conclude with holy Mass, celebrated by Bishop Pasquale Iacobone, Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, in the Catacombs of Priscilla in the Basilica of San Silvestro at 6:30 p.m. CET. 

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