Project Description

Underground Rome: The Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas

Go underground in Rome and explore the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas! “But wait,” you ask. “What’s a columbarium?” Well, it was a burial site. But it was also an ancient business strategy that allowed people to bury (and be buried) cheaply. How? First, columbaria (the plural of columbarium) were underground. Just like today, underground real-estate was less useful and therefore less expensive. Second, people from the same family, multiple families, or burial clubs chipped in and bought these underground plots together. So, as a group they purchased and used spaces that they could not afford alone.

Therefore, drum roll: Pomponius Hylas is not the only person in Pomponius Hylas’s Columbarium! In fact, you probably guessed, if you read the white letter of the colorful ancient mosaic in the picture. It decorates the columbarium’s entrance and advertises the presence of Pomponius Hylas and his wife Vitalinis. And that’s just the beginning of the list of occupants!

a detail of the entrance to the Columbarium in mosaics

Pomponius Hylas’s Columbarium is typical of columbaria in general. That is, it reflects its working-class occupants’ desire for a decent burial.  In this sense, columbaria are the forerunners of the catacombs. And we’ll talk about this–and more–during our visit.

Advice and Ideas for Visiting Underground Rome and the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas

a niche in the Columbarium containing ash urns

The Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas is a short visit. So, consider pairing it up with the nearby Sepulcher of the Scipios. But other underground attractions (like San Clemente, Vicus Caprarius, and/or the Fountain under the Via degli Annibaldi) share themes with it too and are highly complementary. Of course, you’re also welcomed to create your own pairings.

Since the Columbarium is not central, you may want to taxi there. If the Columbarium is paired up with the Via Appia, the nearby hill-towns of Frascati, or other attractions outside the historic center, it may make sense to rely on a private driver.  Please ask for more information!

Visiting the site requires a special permission and a private, timed entrance. Visits are limited to an hour. Besides a 4 euro / per person ticket, there is a one-time euro 25 reservation surcharge. For more information, please see “the Costs” section of this webpage.

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