Visit the Catacombs of San Gennaro

A millennial history that lives below the ground in Naples, a journey to discover the close bond of faith between the city and its patron saint, San Gennaro.

Upper Vestibule of the Catacombs of San Gennaro (XIII - IX sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

An invaluable heritage

The Catacombs of San Gennaro are arrange on two levels that are not superimposed, both characterised by much larger spaces than the more famous Roman catacombs. This is due to the workability and strength of the tuff.

Arcosolium painted in fresco, beginning of the 6th century A.D. Upper level Catacombs of San Gennaro. (VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

In addition to the unique architecture, the site is characterized by the presence of a rich pictorial and mosaic heritage.

Byzantine fresco Basilica dei Vescovi, second half of the IX century. (IX secolo d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

The artistic heritage of the Catacombs ranges from pre-existing pagan items from the 2nd century AD to Byzantine paintings of the 9th-10th century AD

Early Christian fresco beginning III century A.D. Upper vestibule Catacombs of San Gennaro. (VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

One of the most striking areas is the vestibule of the upper catacomb, which was decorated at the beginning of the 3rd century and conserves the earliest Christian paintings in southern Italy.

Upper Vestibule, Catacombs of San Gennaro.Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

The upper catacomb, the burial place of the bishops

The upper catacomb originates from an ancient tomb, dating from the third century AD, which preserves some of the earliest Christian paintings in southern Italy.

Mosaic of Quodvultdeus, Crypt of the Bishops. V sec. A.D. (V sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

Perhaps the most precious place is the Crypt of the Bishops, which preserves valuable 5th-century mosaics, including one portraying the bishop of Carthage, St. Quodvultdeus.

Upper level Catacombs of San Gennaro, VI century A.D. and remains of ancient entrance. (VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

Its expansion began with the moving of San Gennaro's remains in the fifth century. The presence of the martyr turned the upper catacomb into a pilgrimage site and coveted place for burial.

Crypt of the bishops V sec. A.D. (V sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

The crypt of the Bishops 

Two examples of the expansion of the Catacomb are the Crypt of the Bishops, where the city's bishops are buried, and the majestic basilica adjecta, an underground basilica with three naves, built after the transfer of San Gennaro's remains.

Cubiculum of San Gennaro. V sec. A.D. (V sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

The tomb of San Gennaro

The tomb of San Gennaro was identified through the study of a 9th/10th-century homily and a passage from the Chronicon of the bishops of Naples.

Upper level Catacombs of San Gennaro, VI century A.D. Basilica and Crypt of the Bishops (VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

From a 9th-10th homily and a passage from the Chronicon of the bishops of Naples, it was discovered that the tomb was in a cubiculum, identified, 1973, as the one below the basilica of the bishops.

Arcosolio painted with fresco. Theotecnus family. 6th century A.D. (VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

The family of Theotecnus

The fresco can be dated to the start of the 6th century and depicts the family buried inside the arcosolium. 

The painting is particularly interesting, due to the presence of three layers of painted plaster, which give the impression of the fresco being repainted after the death of each individual.

The richness of the garments and ornaments emphasises the high social status of the family.

Lower level of the Catacombs of San Gennaro. View of the three main ambulatories. DOPPIONE (VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

The lower catacomb, a dense grid carved into the tuff stone

The imposing lower vestibule, with ceilings measuring up to 6 metres high, houses a large baptismal font commissioned by Bishop Paul II.

The lower catacomb extends around the Basilica of Sant'Agrippino, following a reticulated structure. The vast spaces and the regularity of its shapes silently welcome visitors into a timeless place.

Detail of Cerula fresco with visitors. Catacombs of San Gennaro.Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

"You get an impression of transcendence as a liberation from the earthly burden: matter was and will become dust."

Holger Milkau

Visit to the Catacombs of San Gennaro (2017)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità

Travel back in time to discover the most important catacombs of southern Italy.
Don't miss it!

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Naples Uncovered
Discover top museums and off the beaten path sites in Naples, from ancient catacombs and hidden archives to baroque and contemporary masterpieces captured in super high resolution.
View theme
Google apps