The revised Roman Martyrology (2001) (RM) has an entry for 31 July:
"St Tertullinus, martyr on the Via Latina, early 4th century."
This laconic entry replaces an entry on 4 August in the old RM, which read:
"St Tertillinus, priest and martyr who, under the emperor Valerian (c. AD 247) consummated martyrdom by beheading, after he had endured a cruel beating with rods, the burning of his flanks with flames, a beating on his face, racking and the breaking of his tendons."
His rather thin legend, from which this is taken, is regarded as fictional and is a notably poor example of the genre, regurgitating stock tropes. The old RM omitted the detail that he had been martyred two days after his ordination.
Working catacombs Edit
This was a small set of catacombs, apparently established rather late and perhaps with the tomb of the martyr as a focus. He was apparently provided with a church as well, as a basilica is mentioned in the Epitome. This is one of the 7th century pilgrimage itineraries, and alleges that he was buried "with many martyrs". However, no other named martyr was venerated in these catacombs.
Even if the legend referred to above is a rather sad example, the fact that it was written at all hints that some sort of institution welcoming pilgrims was functioning by then. This was most probably a monastery, with the writer being one of the monks. However, documentary and archaeological evidence is entirely lacking.
The complex was restored by Pope Adrian I (772-95).
As with most other Roman catacombs, an abandonment date in the 9th century is a good guess. The event seems to be marked by the transfer of the relics of St Tertullinus to Santa Prassede by Pope Paschal I (817-24).
Antonio Bosio looked for catacombs down the Via Latina at the end of the 17th century, and reported finding these ones. He also located the Catacomba dei Santi Gordiano ed Epimaco nearer the city, and the Catacomba di Aproniano further on down the road.
He was followed by Marcantonio Boldetti in 1720, who drew up a plan. He reported that a pozzolana quarry had broken into a passage 1683, and so access was easy for him. However, he thought that the little complex was part of the Catacomba di Aproniano and didn't explore very far. This was unfortunate, because his plan is the only one that we have.
The local landowners must have become hostile to the existence of the Via Latina catacombs, after the Holy See intervened to suppress any commercial trade in relics. This was causing scandal in the 18th century. The entrances were sealed off, and the knowledge of their locations suppressed as inimical to the welfare of the vineyards that occupied the area. This was surprisingly effective -the Catacomba di Tertulliano has not yet been "officially" rediscovered.
However, the area was fully redeveloped in the mid 20th century and the pretence that the catacombs still await rediscovery is rather difficult to believe. Like Catacomba ad clivum Cucumeris, there is a healthy suspicion that building work must have revealed them, but that the discovery was corruptly suppressed. Either the extant passages were destroyed, or they were sealed off.
Where are they? Edit
The Roma Capitale website has an interesting note about these catacombs, posted in 2014:
Via Latina, tra via Numazia e via Tabarrini, fin oltre la Circonvallazione Appia.
Il cimitero fu scoperto dal Boldetti che lo ritenne privato e non se ne interessò più, pensando che fosse una propaggine del cimitero Aproniano.
Dalle piante appaiono dei corridoi laterali e un grosso cubicolo quadrato, ma va detto che non è mai stata fatta un'approfondita esplorazione, dato il difficilissimo accesso.
Il complesso, datato probabilmente al IV secolo d.C., è collegato tramite una galleria ad un ipogeo pagano, conosciuto come Ipogeo di Vigna del Vecchio.
So, somebody thinks that these catacombs can be accessed via a passage from a pagan hypogeum called the Ipogeo di Vigna del Vecchio with an entrance at Via Latina 69. The Pontificia commissione di archeologia sacra seems to be saying nothing about this, and is not mentioning the hypogeum on its website -except on its little pop-up map of the catacombs, where it is called the Ipogeo di Villa del Vecchio.
The Boldetti plan shows a small complex with three long radial passages opening off the spine passage running from the entrance. The latter has an obtuse angle in it. Short blind passages run off these main passages. Quoted texts describe a "large cubiculum", which seems to be what looks like a short right-angled return passage in the plan (see link below).
The plan has a note referring to a location in one of the long passages, where Boldetti found remains of what might have been the original entrance stairway.
"Roma Sotterranea" web-page (has Boldetti plan)