The catacombs of Saints Marcellino and Pietro are located in an area crossed by the ancient via Labicana, today's via Casilina. The archaeological complex, known from the sources as "ad duas lauros", also includes the basilica dedicated to the two saints, the Mausoleum of Helen and the necropolis of the Equites Singulares, that is, the personal guard of the emperor.
Built between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, the catacombs were excavated during the persecution of Diocletian. Among the largest in Rome, they are divided into four levels and extend over 18,000 square meters: it is estimated that they could host up to 15,000 burials.
The sepulcher of the martyrs Marcellinus and Peter, initially consisting of two simple niches, in the fourth century AD. it was embellished with monumental marble decorations at the behest of Pope Damasus. Pope Honorius I, during the 7th century AD, had a small underground basilica built, which was then enlarged by Pope Adrian I in the following century.
Among the frescoes in the catacombs, some show banquet scenes in memory of the dead, other stories from the Old and New Testament, such as the scene of Christ's conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well or the depiction of the Epiphany with two Magi. Saint Peter and Saint Marcellino appear represented in one of the most famous frescoes of Christian art, namely that of the Cubicle of the Saints Eponymous. On the ceiling of the cubicle Christ is painted sitting on the throne dressed in a purple tunic flanked by the letters alpha and omega and by Saints Peter and Paul.
Photo credits: Catacombs of Saints Marcellino and Pietro official site
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