Two of the most impressive sites you can visit in Rome during your trip are the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars. Two places of Christian burial that for its history, its aesthetics and its philosophical background attract many curious and will not leave you indifferent.
If you have time and budget to spare, the ideal is that you visit both sites because they are amazing but if not, do not worry, because to help you in the difficult task of choosing which place to visit, below we compare the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers.
1. What are the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars in Rome like?
Although both spaces were destined to house the mortal remains of Christians in Rome, the origin of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars responds to different motivations.
The catacombs of Rome are subway cemeteries that emerged in the first half of the second century A.D. where early Christians buried their dead when Roman law did not allow burial within the city. Unlike the pagan Roman rite, the Christians did not cremate the deceased but buried them. To solve the high cost of land and the problems of space that soon arose, they decided to excavate these huge cemeteries underground, as in the case of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus on the Appian Way.
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are famous for being the largest in Rome (they have 20 kilometers of tunnels spread over several floors) and for housing the crypt of the Popes (which once housed the tombs of several Popes from the second to the fourth centuries AD).
However, today you will not find ossuaries or human remains in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus because during the barbarian invasions of the eighth century AD there was much looting in the catacombs and the Popes decided to move the relics that were preserved there to the various churches of the city.
To see something like this you will have to go to the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars in the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione in Rome, which was built at the request of Pope Urban VIII in honor of his brother Antonio Barberini, who was part of the Capuchin Order.
Unlike other churches in Rome, this temple does not stand out for its profuse decoration but for its crypt which is decorated with the bones of thousands of Capuchin friars who died between the 16th and 19th centuries. The idea came to Cardinal Fray Antonio Marcello Barberini who had the mortal remains transferred from the cemetery to this crypt and placed in an "artistic" way.
2. What will you see in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus or in the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars?
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus
Since the Christians returned to bury their dead above ground in the 5th century A.D., the catacombs of Rome were abandoned, which allowed their preservation practically intact until they were discovered in the 19th century by the archaeologist John Baptist de Rossi, thus being a very important and interesting testimony of Antiquity.
Those of St. Callixtus are the most visited and extensive of Rome, even more than the Vatican Catacombs. There you can see a lot of niches where Christians were buried (more than half a million tombs have been identified and only partially explored), many of them martyrs.
Also the tombs of the first Popes (on the route you can visit the Crypt of the Popes that contained the relics of several pontiffs martyrs of the third century AD) or saints like St. Cecilia (whose remains rest today in the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, one of the main monuments to see in Trastevere).
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are known for the large number of frescoes, inscriptions and sculptures inside, which are endowed with a great symbolism related to early Christianity as the Chrismon, the letters Alpha and Omega or the cross anchor.
The Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
Before entering the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers you will first visit the Museum of the Convent of the Immaculate Conception, something that will not take you long because it consists of only a few rooms.
Here you can not only learn about the history of the Capuchin Order, some of its most prominent saints and their philosophy of life but you can also contemplate the canvas "St. Francis of Assisi in meditation" that the painter Caravaggio, made for this convent.
Then you will have time to see the famous Crypt of the Capuchin Friars whose chapels are decorated with the bones of more than 4,000 monks who perished between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. There are also some entire skeletons of friars dressed in their habits. One of the most surprising things is that the chapels are named after the bones that are most abundant in each of them (skulls, femurs, pelvises, tibias, etc.) and that the bones have been used to make figures such as garlands, rosettes, stars and even a clock.
3. We compare the price of the entrance to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
If you want to see them separately, from 8 € you can get a general ticket to visit the Catacombs of St. Callixtus while from 8.5 € you can get the general ticket to visit the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars, which is next to the museum of the Convent of the Immaculate Conception.
Are there discounts or reduced prices?
That's right! Both in the Catacombs of San Calixto and in the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers there are reduced tickets from 5 € for certain groups with which you can save a little on the visit to both places.
In the case of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus this small discount applies to:
- Children between 7 and 16 years old
- Student groups
- Students up to 25 years old of archaeology, art history, cultural heritage and architecture showing the appropriate certification.
- Priests, religious, seminarians and novices showing the appropriate certification.
- Admission is free for children up to 6 years old and for disabled persons (>74%) and accompanying person.
In the case of the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars it is not specified on the website of the Church of Santa Maria de la Concepcion to whom it applies but it does refer to the fact that there are reduced tickets for individual and group visitors.
Is it possible to take a guided tour to see the Catacombs of St. Callixtus or the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars?
The catacombs of Rome and in particular those of St. Callixtus can only be visited by taking an organized tour with an expert guide, as you will go deep into the bowels of the Earth to walk through the tunnels that make up this ancient subway cemetery, which are somewhat narrow and dark. The guide will lead you through the passages so that you will be able to
From 43 € you can find options on Hellotickets to visit the Catacombs of St. Callixtus but if you want to take advantage of the experience to take a guided tour that shows you both sites, on the web you can also see activities that mix the visit to the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers with other Catacombs of Rome from 58 €.
In this way, in just a few hours you can visit two different tourist attractions to learn about the burial customs of the early Christians and their secret places of worship as well as the symbolism behind the decorations that adorn both the catacombs and the crypt.
4. We compare the opening hours of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
Catacombs of St. Callixtus
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are open Monday through Sunday from 9 AM to 12 PM and from 2 PM to 5 PM. They are closed on Wednesdays, New Year's Day (January 1), Easter Sunday and Christmas Day (December 25).
Guided tours take place every half hour and last approximately 40 minutes. In the morning, the last guided tour starts at 12 PM while in the afternoon it starts at 5 PM (on Holy Thursday at 4:30 PM).
Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
The Crypt of the Capuchin Friars is open daily from 10 AM to 7 PM with the last admission time at 6:30 PM.
It closes on Easter Sunday, November 2 at 3 PM, Christmas Eve (December 24) at 2:30 PM, Christmas Day (December 25), New Year's Eve (December 31) at 2:30 PM and New Year's Day (January 1).
5. How is the number of visitors in both places?
The Catacombs of Rome are one of the best monuments in Rome. Being such a popular place there are always quite a few visitors, so I advise you to visit early in the morning when it is less crowded. However, the tour inside is not done in large groups.
As for the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars, the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione is not one of the best known churches in Rome so there are usually fewer tourists to see it compared to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus.
6. Where are the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars located?
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are located on Via Appia Antica, 126, which was one of the most important roads of the Roman Empire.
It was built in the 3rd century B.C. and stretched for more than 200 kilometers. Today, part of the road is located within the Parco Regionale dell'Appia Antica (one of Rome' s most beautiful parks ).
In the surroundings of the Appian Way there are vestiges of villas, mausoleums, catacombs and even a circus. Walking along it is like taking a trip back in time to Ancient Rome.
To reach the Catacombs of San Callisto you can take bus 118 near the Colosseo metro station.
The Crypt of the Capuchin Friars is located at 27 Via Vittorio Veneto, just a few minutes walk from the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. To get there you can walk or take the metro (line A, Barberini station).
7. Where to eat near the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars?
Taking an excursion to visit the Catacombs of St. Callixtus or the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers works up an appetite. Fortunately, in the vicinity of both tourist attractions there are several restaurants to refuel. Here are some examples:
Catacombs of St. Callixtus
Tuarua (Via delle Sette Chiese 300): A perfect coffee shop for a quick snack such as a sandwich and coffee.
Cecilia Metella (Via Appia Antica 125- 129): A very nice restaurant where to have a delicious Italian pasta dish. It has a beautiful garden to relax outside on good weather days. Good value for money.
Trattoria Cotto e Magnato (Via Cornelio Magni, 27 Zona Eur Colombo): A family trattoria where you can enjoy the best homemade Italian cuisine. Friendly and efficient service.
Capuchin Friars Crypt
Ristorante Ciao Bella (Via Vittorio Veneto 12): A nice place to eat in the center of Rome. Good service and the pizzas made in the wood oven are very tasty.
Il Gazebo (Via Veneto, 24 Hotel Imperiale): The menu is simple but of stupendous quality. The pasta and veal are the best of the restaurant. Attentive service.
Fraschetteria Giampiccolo (Via Dei Cappuccini 26): A cozy and quiet restaurant where you can taste delicious fresh pasta and for dessert a rich tiramisu. Fast service.
8. What photos will you take at the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers?
Unfortunately in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and in the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers it is not allowed to take pictures or videos.
A pity because you would certainly like to have a souvenir of the experience but looking on the bright side, this will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the experience, to be more attentive to all the details of the spaces that you will see during the tour and to the explanations of the guide that are very interesting. And not so much to get a good angle or enough light to take a good picture.
9. Tips for visiting this type of attraction
Avoid the catacombs if you are claustrophobic
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are underground and the tunnels that compose them are long, dark and narrow.
Although you will be accompanied by a guide and there is enough space to move around calmly and without problems, if you are prone to suffer from claustrophobia in confined spaces before buying the tickets assess whether this is the most appropriate activity for you.
Be aware of what you will see in the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
Due to the peculiar decoration of the chapels of the Crypt of the Capuchins, this place can make quite an impression. If you are a very sensitive person, my advice is that before you go you should think a little about what you are going to see there and that you should consider whether the visit is appropriate to go with children because the picture is a little creepy.
Follow the dress code
When visiting the Catacombs of St. Callixtus or the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers remember to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees to access as these are spaces with a sacred background for the Catholic religion.
In the catacombs, the temperature is around 16° C and the humidity is high so it is advisable to wear some warm clothing to avoid getting cold during the tour.
Wear comfortable shoes
The floor of the catacombs is not always flat, so wearing comfortable shoes that hold your feet well is essential to make the most of the visit.
Do not bring a camera
Since it is forbidden to take photos or videos in the catacombs and in the crypt, you will not need to bring your camera with you. Less weight in your backpack!
10. How to choose according to your travel plan
If you have enough time during your trip to Rome, my advice is to visit both sites as they are very different spaces that will surprise you both for their history and their aesthetics. Otherwise, it might be a good idea to focus on your tastes and look at your travel plan to help you decide. Here are some hints!
- If it's your first time in Rome: the Catacombs of St. Callixtus
- If you have been in the city before: the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers
- If you want a quiet visit: the Catacombs of St. Callixtus
- If you are short on time: the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
- If you are on a budget: the Catacombs of St. Callixtus
- If you don't want to get tired: the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
- If you are interested in the history of Rome and Christianity: the Catacombs of St. Callixtus
- If you are interested in original and peculiar visits: the Crypt of the Capuchin Brothers