Outside the Walls, Rome
St Paul Outside the Walls has been rebuilt but was once the largest church in the world. The new church contains some important works of art.
Catacombs of St Calixtus
The Catacombs of St Calixtus were called by Pope John XXIII "the sublimest and most famous in Rome". These underground burial places in the Via Appia Antica extend over an area of 300x400m/330x440yd, with an intricate network of passages and chambers hewn from the soft Roman tufa on four levels. Some 20km/12.5mi of passages have so far been explored, and the total number of burials is estimated at around 170,000. In six sacramental chapels, constructed between A.D. 290 and 310, are both pagan and early Christian wall paintings. In the "Papal Crypt", to which visitors descend by a flight of 35 steps, are the tombs of most of the martyred Popes of the third century identified by Greek inscriptions (Urban I, Pontius, Antherus, Fabian, Lucius, Eutychianus). To the left of the Papal Crypt is the tomb of St Cecilia, with wall paintings; the saint's remains are now in the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. Also of interest are tombs of Pope Eusebius (309-311) and Pope Cornelius (251-253) and Lucina crypt with wall paintings dating from second century.
The bridge, to the north of Rome in a direct line from the Forum and the Piazza del Popolo by way of the Via Flaminia, was originally constructed over the Tiber during the republican period. Four of the piers are ancient. The first reconstruction of the bridge was undertaken in 109 B.C. and a tower was added in the A.D. third century as part of the city defenses. Pope Pius VII ordered further reconstruction in the early 19th century, but the bridge was subsequently blown up by Garibaldi's troops to halt the advancing French army. A year later, under Pope Pius IX, the present bridge was constructed. The Ponte Milvio was the scene of the fateful battle on 28 October A.D. 312 in which Constantine defeated his fellow Caesar Maxentius. Attributing his victory to the God of the Christians, Constantine showed his gratitude by granting them freedom of worship. There is a colorful local market on weekdays on the Piazzale di Ponte Milvio, the north side of the bridge.
Tomb of Caecilia Metalla
The tomb of Caecilia Metella and her husband, one of the best known of ancient Roman monuments, stands in a conspicuous position in the picturesque setting of the Via Appia Antica in Rome. This tall 11m/35ft cylindrical structure, 20m/65ft in diameter, was erected by the famous family of the Metelli in the first century B.C. Caecilia Metella was the daughter of a general, Quintus Metellus Cretius, conqueror of Crete, and her husband was a son of Crassus who was a member of the Triumvirate together with Caesar and Pompey. The sarcophagus of Caecilia Mettela may be seen in the courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese. In 1302 the Caetani family incorporated the tomb in their castle which they equipped with battlements. The fortifications, stretching along both sides of the Via Appia, defended the strategic approach to the city.
Close to the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura, on the Via Nomentana, is a church with one of the most beautiful interiors of all the Roman churches - Santa Costanza, a round church erected at the beginning of the fourth century as a mausoleum for Constantine's daughter Constantia (or rather Constantina) and Helen, wife of Julian the Apostate. This little architectural masterpiece, measuring 22.5m/74ft in diameter, is simple in conception, with an unpretentious brick-built exterior, but constructed internally with costly and valuable materials (12 double columns with capitals). The mosaics depict both sacred and pagan figures, with animals playing amid vines. In the church Roman architecture, the mosaic art of late antiquity and early Christian symbols are blended into a harmonious whole.
EUR (Esposizione Universale di Roma)
The Italian Fascist government planned to hold a great international exhibition in Rome in 1942, but work on the project, which began in 1938, was suspended on the outbreak of war. Mussolini's plan was to create, between Rome and the sea, a satellite town the modern buildings of which should outshine the old palaces of Papal Rome, and new streets were laid out and vast buildings (Palace of Congress, Palace of Labour, museums) erected in the monumental style of the Fascist period. After the war the development of the area continued, with some buildings of considerable architectural quality.
Transit: Metro: EUR-Fermi, EUR-Marconi (line B); Bus: 93, 97, 123, 197, 223, 293, 393, 493, 593, 671, 703, 707, 708, 762, 765, 775.
National Museum of Folk Arts
The National Museum of Folk Arts and Traditions has ten sections devoted to Italian folk art and the traditions and customs of the different parts of Italy, illustrated with displays of flags, costumes, musical instruments and models. Gradually the museum is being rebuilt. Not all the departments are open to visitors.This museum has the most comprehensive collection of folk dress in Italy.
Via Appia Antica
Outside the Porta San Sebastiano in the Aurelian Walls is the Via Appia Antica, one of the oldest and most important of the Roman consular highways. It was built about 300 B.C. by the censor Appius Claudius Caecus to link Rome with Capua and was extended to Brindisi about 190 B.C. The road is now metalled for almost its entire length. From the port of Brindisi communications were established across the Mediterranean with the eastern territories of the Empire. Just outside Rome, running parallel with the road, can be seen the ruins of some of the aqueducts which supplied the city with water. On either side of the road are the remains of tombs belonging to the aristocratic families of Rome - built outside the city since burials were not permitted within its walls. The ruins of these tombs and memorial stones combine with the lines and cypresses of the Roman Campagna to give the Via Appia Antica its characteristic and picturesque aspect.
Museum of Roman Culture
The Museum of Roman Culture, housed in a building presented to the city of Rome by the Fiat company, seeks to illustrate the history of Rome with the help of models and reconstructions. It offers an excellent survey of the development of the Roman world empire and of the changing architecture of Rome under the Republic and the Empire.
Address: Piazza Giovanni Agnelli 10, I-00186 Rome, Italy
Opening hours: 9am-2pm; Sun: 9am-1:30pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €6.50, Concession or reduced rate €4.50
Transit: Metro: EUR-Fermi (line B).
Cemetery of San Sebastiano
The church of St Sebastian on the Via Appia is one of the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome (the others being San Giovanni in Laterano, San Pietro in Vaticano, San Paolo fuori le Mura, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and San Lorenzo fuori le Mura), built in the fourth century on the site of old cemeteries and catacombs. St Sebastian, a Christian officer in the Praetorian Guard who was martyred in the reign of Diocletian, was buried here. In the 13th and early 17th centuries three Roman tombs and a series of Christian catacombs were brought to light. Also found here were the foundations of the Constantinian basilica and remains of Roman houses. (A conducted tour of the whole underground complex of catacombs is to be strongly recommended.) Beneath the center of the church is a meeting-hall (triclia) in which commemorative services were held, with large numbers of scratched inscriptions dating from the turn of the third-fourth centuries. Here can be seen numerous examples of the symbolic language of the early Christians - the fish (Greek ichthys, made up of the initials of the words "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior"); the lamb, referring to Christ's sacrificial death; the anchor, a sign of trust; the dove as a symbol of peace. It is believed that the remains of Peter and Paul, who are particularly venerated here, were brought from the Vatican and the Via Ostiense for safe keeping in St Sebastian's during the persecutions in the reigns of Decius and Valerian. Here too, are tomb chambers on several levels (first century A.D.) with fine paintings, stucco decoration and inscriptions.From the apse steps lead down to the Platonia, the tomb of the martyr Quirinius. To the left of this is a cell known as the Domus Petri (fourth century wall paintings).
Catacombs of Domitilla
The Catacombs of Domitilla are among the most impressive of the Roman catacombs, the underground burial-places which were used by pagans as well as Christians (though the more famous and wealthier Romans might prefer to be buried beside one of the great trunk roads leading out of Rome). Domitilla was a descendant of Vespasian who, after her conversion to Christianity, allowed Christians to be buried in the family tomb. Christians met to celebrate the commemorative day of notable members of their community; at their gravesides, but not always in the catacombs. In the Catacombs of Domitilla is the basilica of SS Nereus and Achilleus, an underground church of highly impressive effect with its columns and marble fragments. From the basilica visitors enter the catacomb passages with their tomb chambers and wall recesses. There are well-preserved wall paintings on Christian themes.
Address: Via Ardeatine, Via della Sette Chiese 280/282, I-00147 Rome, Italy
Opening hours: Feb 1 to Dec 31: 8:30am-12pm, 2:30pm-5pm; Closed: Tue
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €5.00
Useful tips: Closed in January.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Transit: Bus: 93, 671 or 118 and change into 94 or 218.
About 300m/330yd from the catacombs lies the Fosse Ardeatine with a mausoleum to the memory of the 335 Italian hostages who were shot here in March 1944 as a reprisal for a bomb attack.
Pyramid of Cestius
The Pyramid of Cestius, more steeply pitched than the Egyptian pyramids on which it was modeled, was built in 12-11 B.C. as the tomb of Caius Cestius, who had been praetor, tribune of the people and one of the Septemviri Epulones (the committee of seven which organized religious festival banquets). It was later incorporated, together with the Porta San Paolo (the ancient Porta Ostiense), in the Aurelian Walls.The pyramid, 22m/72ft square and 27m/89ft high, is faced with Carrara marble and was built, as the inscription records, within the space of 330 days. The tip of the pyramid is said to have originally been gilded. It contains a tomb chamber measuring 6x4m/20x13ft. A similar tomb stood near the Castel Sant'Angelo until the early 16th century.
Basilica di Porta Maggiore
The Basilica di Porta Maggiore in Rome is an underground sanctuary (probably of the first century A.D.). Although well preserved it is still something of a puzzle to archaeologists. Discovered 13m/40ft below ground level in 1917, it has the form of a basilica measuring 19x12m/62x39ft, with a porch and a semicircular apse. With its mosaic pavement, stucco decoration on the ceiling and cycles of mythological scenes, it seems to have been the shrine of some mystical cult (perhaps the Neo-Pythagoreans). It has been suggested that this building, of a type which was evidently widely distributed throughout the Empire, influenced the development of the Christian basilica.
Domine Quo Vadis Church
Domine Quo Vadis Church takes its name from the legend that the Apostle Peter, fleeing from Rome to escape martyrdom, met Christ here and, not recognising him, asked, "Sir, whither goest thou ?" ("Domine, quo vadis ?"); whereupon Christ replied "I come to be crucified a second time". Then Peter realizing who it was, was stricken with shame and returned to Rome. On the basis of this legend the little church of Santa Maria in Palmis was built in the ninth century and became known as the Domine Quo Vadis church; it was rebuilt in the 17th century. Within the church is a reproduction of the footprint of Christ and a bust of Henryk Sienkiewicz, author of the novel "Quo Vadis ?".
According to ancient Roman tradition, the Campo Verano, the main cemetery, lies outside the city walls on the Via Tiburtina (the road to Tivoli). The cemetery mirrors the different social strata of the city. In the park-like open spaces can be seen luxurious family graves and mausoleums; poorer folk have to make do with modest "locoli- houses". These tall buildings of marble and travertine have numerous compartments into which the sarcophagi were pushed. The Campo Verano is particularly busy on All Saints Day (November first), when the people of Rome visit their dead and decorate the graves.
On the slopes of Monte Mario, on the side looking towards the city, is the Villa Madama, now used by the Italian government for receptions and conferences.The villa was designed by Raphael for Cardinal Giulio de'Medici, later Pope Clement VII, and subsequently altered by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. It passed into the hands of "Madama" Margareta, daughter of the Emperor Charles V, who married Alessandro de'Medici as her first husband and Ottavio Farnese as her second, and in 1735 the property passed to the Bourbons of Naples. The villa fits harmoniously into its natural setting, and offers a magnificent view of the city.
Catacombs of Priscilla
The Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome are believed to be named after Priscilla, a member of the gens Acilia who became a Christian and was killed on the orders of Domitian. They contain a number of wall paintings of saints and early Christian symbols. Particularly notable is the "Greek Chapel", a square chamber with an arch which contains second century frescoes of Old and New Testament scenes. Above the apse is a Last Judgment. Near this are figures of the Virgin and Child and the Prophet Isaiah, also dating from the second century.