Tuesday was our last day in Rome and I had one more place that I wanted to visit….the Catacombs of Priscilla. We had kept putting this trip off because it was a long distance from any metro station but I decided that this was the day to go for it.
I rode with Michael to his stop on the Metro and got off at Bologna, the next stop. I managed to follow the streets pretty well and hit a dead-end at the park that it LOOKED like the catacombs were located in. Unfortunately, there was a wall around the park, so I had to backtrack to find a opening so that I could enter the park. After following the trails for about 10 minutes , I came to the place that I THOUGHT was the catacombs….at least it was the building that was located next to the words “Catacombe de Priscilla”. After asking one runner on the trail, I found out that the catacombs were not actually IN the park, but on the street that paralleled the park….ie, the street that I had already walked down!!
So, I backtracked again and found the small sign that pointed to the door into the catacomb.
As usual, I did observe several interesting things. First of all, there was a paid parking area where each space had a small gate in front of it. The owner of the space would put a key in the lock and the gate would fold down, allowing the car to park on top of it. I thought it was ingenious!! Another funny thing was coming up to a stop light and have two violinists walking from car to car while they played and seeing many people roll down their window to give them money. I guess that Italians really like their music!!! There was also a car pulling into a TINY, TINY garage with only a few inches to spare on each side. The really intriguing part of this is that the car had to make a 90 degree turn to get into the garage. I have no idea how he managed it!!!! The final observance reminded me a bit of India as I walked past a motorcycle repair shop where the actual repairing was happening on the street and sidewalk and not inside the store.
Once inside the catacomb, I was told that you could see the tour by guided tour only and that the next English tour would be about 20 minutes. While I was waiting, a group of 30 German students and parents arrived and their tour began. There were also an Irish couple who obviously spoke German that joined their tour. After a couple of minutes, the Priest came out and said that the English speaking tour was being delayed and I could either wait or join the German tour….he would provide pages for me to read while the guide talked. So, that is what I did.
In some respects it was harder, but the upshot was that I was at the very back of the tour group (since I didn’t really need to hear the guide) and I was able to hang back and look around some as the tour proceeded forward. Unfortunately, you couldn’t take photos so any that I show here will be from the internet.
Christians could not be buried inside the walls of Rome and this tomb was built on land that was donated by a noble woman named Priscilla. Because there was not much room available, every inch was used to hold dead bodies. By the way, the tomb was completely empty except for a couple of errant bones.
As you walked down the tunnels, there were rectangular cut-outs in each of the walls, normally 7 or more from top to bottom, and about 12-14 inches in depth.
The deeper ones were built to hold a husband and wife together and much smaller ones were designed to hold children. Some of these have never been opened and probably still contain the bones of the little ones.
While the “normal” Christian was buried in these small niches, there were large, cave like openings that were for richer families or for martyrs. Many of the walls of these were covered with frescoes of Biblical stories….everything from Daniel in the lions den to Madonna’s with the baby Jesus.
This one had a vaulted ceiling and lots of pictures on the walls. There was also an area for people to sit while worshiping.
In all there are 13 kilometers of burial galleries that are spread out on 3 levels of tunnels. It would have been very easy to have become lost in them, especially in the dark!!!
As I walked back to the apartment, I saw this billboard…..
Do any of you remember the old Coppertone ads….doesn’t this look like it? I cant for the life of me figure out what they are selling here!!!!
I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning out the junk in the apartment and packing our bags. With all of the clothes and stuff we have bought, we have now moved into another tote bag that will become a carryon.
We went for dinner at the place across the street and enjoyed talking with our favorite waitress….
…and then off for Gelato with our second favorite waitress (who gave us a much larger helping this time)….