By Eric Simon
The ancient Roman underground burial cemeteries in Rome, Italy are known as the Catacombs. They are most famous for Catholic burials; however, pagan and Jewish burials were also included. Some are placed in different Catacombs or kept mixed. In the second century they were excavated as a result of the overcrowding because of the scarcity of land in Rome. The excavating continued until the first half of the fifth century. As the need to bury persecuted Christians secretly evolved during that time, this method of burial came into existence. This gave rise to catacombs. Since the burial was to be hidden and secretly done, Romans chose their knowledge of geology and came to know that the volcanic rock was a soft Tufo under Rome, and was perfect for tunneling and hence the secret burials. It is less compact when exposed first time to the air and then hardens afterwards. Some of them have kilometers of tunnels, and some have even four stories of tunnels. As per the Christian community they opted to be together even in the "Sleep of death", because they felt a real community sense.
The outlandish catacombs of Rome are of utmost importance for the Christian art work, as they have examples from more than 1400 years ago in the form of frescoes and sculptures. Similarly, catacombs for the Jewish are significant because of the study they did during this period. During the celebration known as Eucharist, the catacombs were believed to have been used as refuge during the Christian persecutions. Some people believe that they were used as hiding places for Christian persecutions. Some believe this is a rumor and some believe it to be true. After the persecutions, in the time of Pope Saint Damascus, from every part of the empire they became a place which symbolized the pilgrimage for Christians and became a shrine to the martyrs.
There a lot of catacombs under Rome and the surrounding districts and each one of them has its own importance in history. There are 14 famous catacomb types. These are the Catacomb of Marcellinus and Peter, of Domitilla, of Commodilla, of Gegerosa, of Praetextatus, of Priscilla, of San Caqlisto, of San Lorentzo, of San Prancanzo, of San Sebestiano, of San Lorenzo, of San Prancanzio, of San Sebestanio, of San Calantino, of Sant Agnese, of Via Anapo and Jewish catacombs. Only 5 are open for tourists and admirers and these are listed below.
The catacombs that are available for the public to view are:
1. The catacombs of St. Agnes-Via Nomentana ( not available on Sunday mornings and on Monday afternoons)
2. The catacombs of Priscilla, via Salaria (not available on Mondays)
3. The catacombs of Domitilla, via Delle Sette Chiese (not available on Tuesdays)
4. The catacombs of St. Sebastian ( not available on Sunday
5. The catacombs of St.Callixtus (not available on Wednesdays)
The visiting hours except for the catacomb of St. Agnes are all:
8:30 - 12:00 then 14:30 - 17.00 / 17:30 (in summer)
9.00 - 12.00 then 16.00 - 18.00 (only for St. Agnes)
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