Rome Holiday – Visiting the Catacombs
No Rome holiday is complete without a visit to the catacombs. This fantastic capital has just as much history below as above ground. The guided tour is perfect for the last day as it fits in nicely before your transfer onto the airport, and shifts your focus from thinking about returning to your day-to-day life.
Historically Christians in Rome had to bury their loved ones in the common cemeteries if they did not own any land, however, this changed when grants and donations were collected. From then onwards the catacombs were founded and became the last resting place for the deceased. This practice continued until the beginning of the fifth century, when the church resumed burials above ground.
With the arrival of the Goths and the Longobards in the ninth century, the catacombs suffered dreadfully with destruction and repeated pillages. At this point the church again stood up and the popes ordered the relics of the martyrs and the saints to be moved for safety to the city churches.
Then began a time of complete abandonment of the catacombs as people no longer visited and various landslides and vegetatation began to block the entrances to most of the catacombs. By the start of the Middle Ages, most Christians has forgotten their existence. It was only centuries later that Antonio Bosio who earned the nickname of the “Columbus of Subterranean Rome” began to explore and make accessible the catacombs again. The main focus was on Saint Callixtus’s catacomb which was used in scientific study by Giovanni Battista de Rossi, who is considered the father and founder of Christaian Archaeology.
The Catacombs of St Callixtus are around 90 acres large and 12 miles long, on four levels. The catacombs stores the remains of scores of martyrs , 16 popes and many Christians. One of the crypts is named “the little Vatican” as it houses nine popes and eight dignitaries of the church.
The next crypt to visit is St Cecilia’s, the patron saint of music. In the third century she was martyred and her remains kept here until 821 when her relics were moved to Trastevere, where there is a dedication to her.
The frescoes around these crypts are just as important dating back to the beginning of the third century, and include the sacraments of Baptism and of the Eucharist. Jona, the prophet used as a symbol of the resurrection, is also present here.
This is sure to give you something to think about at the end of your Rome holiday!