The Catacombs of San Sebastian have attracted both pilgrims and tourists for centuries.
The San Sebastian experience consists of two parts – the catacombs where Saint San Sebastian was buried in 350 and the Basilica built above it in the early 4th century.
San Sebastian catacombs are the world’s first underground burial sites.
Initially, it was called Ad Catacumbas – a name derived from the Greek kata (near) and kymbas (cavity) because they were near quarries.
Ever since the word ‘Catacombs’ has been used to refer to underground Christian burials chambers.
In this article, we share everything you must know before booking your San Sebastian Catacombs tour.
Table of contents
- What to expect at San Sebastiano Catacombs
- How to reach Catacombs of San Sebastiano
- Timing of Catacombs of San Sebastiano
- Catacombs of San Sebastiano ticket prices
- Catacombs of San Sebastiano tours
- What to see at San Sebastiano Catacombs
- What to wear to Catacombs of San Sebastiano
What to expect at San Sebastiano Catacombs
Tours of San Sebastiano Catacombs are available in many languages and last about 45 minutes, with moderate stair climbing.
These tours include access only to specific sectors of the world’s earliest catacombs.
The 1st level is almost destroyed, but visitors can see frescoes, stucco work, and epigraphs on the 2nd level of the Catacombs.
You also get to see three perfectly preserved mausoleums and walls plastered with hundreds of invocations to Peter and Paul.
Worshippers engraved these in the 3rd and 4th centuries before the Basilica above got built.
Don’t miss out on the section of pagan Roman tombs.
Catacombs tour for cruise ship passengers
Just got off a cruise and want to explore the Catacombs of Rome? Check out this tour that takes you through San Sebastiano and San Callisto Catacombs in six hours.
How to reach Catacombs of San Sebastiano
The Catacombs of San Sebastian are along the first 6 km (4 miles) stretch of Via Appia.
Via Appia, known as the Appian Way in English, is one of the longest and oldest roads built by the Roman empire. It is more than 2300 years old.
The Catacombs of San Sebastian is right next to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus on the Appian Way.
Or you can board bus route 218 From San Giovanni metro station on Line A.
However, the best way to visit the catacombs and monuments on the Via Appia is by booking a tour that includes transport, entry tickets, and an official guide. Find out about Catacombs tours
Timing of Catacombs of San Sebastiano
The Catacombs of San Sebastiano are open from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm, every day of the week.
The last entry into the underground burial site is at 5 pm.
The Catacombs close in December for winter.
Catacombs of San Sebastiano ticket prices
The entry tickets to Catacombs of San Sebastiano costs €8 for adults 17 years and above.
Kids aged seven to 16 years, students with valid ID cards, and priests get a €3 discount and pay only €5 to enter.
Children under six years and caregivers for people with disabilities are free.
Catacombs of San Sebastiano tours
The Catacomb of San Sebastiano organizes guided tours in English, Italian, French, German, and Spanish.
Visitors can take public transport, reach the attraction, and buy tickets at the venue.
However, for an assured entry and a memorable tour, you should book one of the Catacomb tours, which includes transport to San Sebastiano.
Some of our favorite tours are –
St Sebastian Catacombs and Appian Way
This 3-hour tour of the Catacombs of St Sebastian from Rome starts at 9 am.
You walk along the ancient Roman road Via Appia, visit the Basilica of St Sebastian, go underground to see the catacombs and the Christian burial chambers, etc.
Finally, you head to the Aqueduct Park to see the largest aqueducts of the Roman Empire. One of them supplies water even to this day.
This trip is a small-group tour with a maximum of 13 people, making it a personalized experience.
This tour includes transport both ways.
Catacombs and Roman Countryside
Your half-day tour into the Roman countryside starts when you board a coach at 9.45 am, from the city center.
You travel along the Appian Way and stop at historical sites to explore on foot.
Then you will continue in your vehicle to one of Rome’s ancient burial sites, either the Catacombs of San Sebastiano or the Catacombs of San Callisto.
After following your guide through the underground tunnels, you come up on the surface and board the bus to see a Roman aqueduct.
After marveling at Romans’ engineering skills, you head back to the city.
If you don’t mind the costs but want a private and personalized experience, check out this private tour of the Catacombs of Rome.
What to see at San Sebastiano Catacombs
There are lots to see at Catacombs and Church of San Sebastiano, and you can easily spend half a day exploring the tourist attraction.
The Christian Catacomb
While exploring the Catacombs galleries of the Christian Catacombs, you will see different kinds of tombs and decorations.
While some are simple, others are decorated, and it is easy to see that they put a lot of effort into decorating the tombs.
Each tomb in the catacomb has a marker – a lamp, a coin, a jewel, a toy, etc.
At the St. San Sebastiano Catacombs, one gets to see traces of Christianity from the first century.
While exploring the galleries, you must keep an eye out for Christian symbols such as the fish (symbol of Christ), anchor (the image of hope), dove with an olive branch in its beak (a peaceful soul), etc.
Basilica of San Sebastiano
The Basilica of San Sebastiano is located on the fourth mile of the Appian Way.
It was built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine and was initially called Basilica Apostoloru in honor of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Over time it got its current name, the Basilica of San Sebastiano.
The Basilica is also home to Saint Sebastian’s grave, Jesus’ footprints, Bernini’s last marble work, and the Museum of Sarcophagi.
At the Basilica, visitors can also see a set of marble footprints attributed to Jesus.
Believers say that he left the marks while walking to Rome, along the Appian Way.
Rome has around 60 Catacombs, out of which five are most popular with tourists. Find out everything about the Catacombs of Rome.
Saint Sebastian’s crypt
St Sebastian worked for Emperor Diocletian but secretly helped persecuted Christians.
When found out, Sebastiano got his punishment – the soldiers were to kill him with arrows. The soldiers did their job and left the bleeding man for dead.
However, he survived and went to King Diocletian to request him to stop the persecution.
The King heard him, but this time ordered him to be killed by flogging.
After killing Sebastiano, the soldiers threw his body in Cloaca Maxima, the sewage system of Rome.
Legend has it that he appeared in the dream of matron Lucina and requested her to bury him in the cemetery ’ad Catacumbas’ on the Via Appia.
Till today St. Sebastiano’s grave is in the Basilica above the Catacombs.
At the religious site, you will also see the arrow that allegedly killed San Sebastian.
Bernini’s last work
Sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s last work was a marble bust of Jesus Christ.
It was exhibited in the Basilica of San Sebastiano for four centuries without knowing the creator.
In 2006, it was rediscovered and attributed to the Baroque sculptor and displayed for the public yet again.
Museum of Sarcophagi
The Museum of the Sarcophagi of San Sebastiano is on the right aisle of the Basilica built by the emperor Constantine.
The Sarcophagi (stone coffins) on display were made between the third and fourth centuries AD by skilled marble workers.
Coffins are decorated with many figures and characters, which depict the cultural and religious environment among the Christian community of Rome in those days.
The Museum of Sarcophagi is open every day and follows the timings of the Catacombs.
Sebastiano Catacombs admission ticket includes access to the museum.
Mausoleums of the Piazzola
Even before the cemetery of San Sebastiano was born, there stood a small Necropolis, where the Pagans buried their dead.
Three finely decorated mausoleums overlook this Necropolis.
All the mausoleums are similar, with a central door surmounted by an inscription with the owners’ name and some decorations.
What to wear to Catacombs of San Sebastiano
While visiting the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, it is better to wear comfortable shoes because you will be walking for at least 30 to 40 minutes.
Since the temperature and humidity underground are different from what you experience above the ground, you must dress up in layers.
Take along a bottle of water.
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