Leave the modern world behind and step into one of the sites of the Ancient Necropolis of Neapolis. The largest catacomb complex in southern Italy, the Catacombs of San Gennaro is an extensive network of tunnels, ambulatories, cubicles, and large chapels. Built on three underground levels (the lowest floor was recently discovered and is under study), this cavernous burial chamber was burrowed into the volcanic tuff rock of Capodimonte Hill in Naples Rione Sanità district.
Dating to the 2nd century AD, these catacombs were the preferred burial place of Roman noblemen and the first burial place of Naples 6th Bishop and first Patron Saint, Sant’Agrippino (his remains were later moved). In the 5th century, the remains of Naples Patron Saint, San Gennaro were moved here, and though his remains were moved to Benevento in the 10th century, his tomb as well as the oldest known portrait of him dating to the 5th century are still visible today. (San Gennaro’s remains were moved again in the 12th and 15th centuries, finally being interred in a special crypt beneath Naples Cathedral that was commissioned by Cardinal Carafa.)
Of special interest is the small Baslica of Sant’Agrippino, which is decorated with contemporary art works and still used today, and the wall and ceiling frescoes which date from the 2nd to 10th centuries. Featuring both Pagan and Christian iconography, of note are San Gennaro and Saint Peter at the Gates of Paradise, the Peacock Arcosolio, a young princess flanked by her parents whom she preceded in death, and a ceiling fresco of Christ in the Byzantine style.
Access to catacombs is by guided tour only. The ticket office is located in a building on the left hand side of the Basilica dell’Incoronata Madre del Buon Consiglio. The ticket price includes both the San Gennaro and San Gaudioso catacombs and English speaking guides are available, but you may want to book in advance to ensure your language preference. The tour lasts a little over an hour and ends at the 5th century Basilica of San Gennaro dei Poveri, where you can ask your guide to let you out to continue on to the Catacombs of San Gaudioso located in the Santa Maria della Sanità Church.
Allow 4 – 5 hours to do both Catacombs and both Churches.