Catacombs of Domitilla

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Good Shepherd, wall painting
Good Shepherd

The Catacombs of Domitilla are an underground Christian[1] cemetery named after the Domitilla family that had initially ordered them to be dug.[2] They are located in Rome, Italy,[3] they are situated over 16 metres underground, about 2 kilometers from the south of Appia Antica[4] (Appian Way) and spans 15 kilometers in distance.[4] They were actively used as a cemetery from around first through fifth centuries CE[4] and were rediscovered in 1593 by Antonio Bosio, an archaeologist[1] They include more than 26,000 tombs.[1] More recently they have been restored using lasers giving a much clearer view of the images on the walls.[2] Unlike other Roman catacombs, it still has the remains of humans.[4]


Domitilla Catacomb
Domitilla catacomb

The catacombs are composed of tufa, a form of limestone that is porous.[4][2] Finishing in 2017, restorers used lasers to help restore two rooms;[1] the restorers worked to remove layers of algae, smoke deposits, and a chalky substance.[1] What was revealed were both pagan and Christian inspired frescoes.[4] So far, only 12 out of around 70 rooms have been restored.[5]

Wall Paintings[edit]


Inside the Catacombs of Domitilla are images, some of which were revealed by the restoration, reflecting the life of bakers,[2] grape vines, Jesus with the apostles, Noah's ark, and Daniel with the lions.[2] Other biblical figures in the various cubicula include the Virgin Mary with child,[6] Adam, Eve, Jonah, The Good Shepherd, a young man dressed as a cardinal with apostles Peter and Paul.[7] Non-biblical, or pagan, figures include representations of Spring and Summer in the form of females with wings, both pictured with attendants[7] and scenes depicting Orpheus[8] surrounded by birds, beasts and the sheep that typically accompany him.[9] There are also other images of mythological and wild or tame beasts beyond the depictions of Orpheus.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Fresh Finds at Rome's Ancient Catacombs". Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Domitilla catacombs unveiled after years of renovation". Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  3. ^ LORENZI, ROSSELLA. "Not by Bread Alone - Archaeology Magazine". Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Urzì, Clara; De Leo, Filomena; Krakova, Lucia; Pangallo, Domenico; Bruno, Laura (1 December 2016). "Effects of biocide treatments on the biofilm community in Domitilla's catacombs in Rome". Science of the Total Environment. 572: 252–262. Bibcode:2016ScTEn.572..252U. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.07.195. ISSN 0048-9697. PMID 27501424.
  5. ^ Squires, Nick (2017-05-30). "Laser technology uncovers 1,600-year-old Christian frescoes in Rome's biggest catacomb". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  6. ^ Lasareff, Victor (1938). "Studies in the Iconography of the Virgin". The Art Bulletin. 20 (1): 26–65. JSTOR 3046561.
  7. ^ a b Parker, John Peter (1877). The Archaeology of Rome: The Catacombs. London: Oxford. p. 72.
  8. ^ a b Huskinson, Janet (1974). "Some Pagan Mythological Figures and Their Significance in Early Christian Art". Papers of the British School at Rome. 42: 68–97. JSTOR 40310729.
  9. ^ Barker, Ethel Ross (1913). "The Symbolism of Certain Catacomb Frescoes-I". Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd. 24 (127): 43–50. JSTOR 859450.