|Ready to go...down....?|
|Inside the Catacombs of San Callixtus.|
The Catacombs of San Callixtus stretch for a winding 17 kilometres over four deep levels. You can visit them with a guide, and see the regular niches for the poor, family vaults painted with Christian-themed frescoes, and larger chapels, some where early popes (bishops) were buried. Originally martyrs were buried in the Catacombs, resulting in everyone wishing to be interred nearby. The "important" bones have long since been removed. The Catacombs were seals many centuries ago, to guard against looting, with many only re-discovered in the q9th century. San Callixtus was excavated by Giovanni Battista de Rossi, who is sometimes called "the founder of modern Christian archaeology."
The "star" of the San Callixtus Catacombs is our old friend, Saint Cecilia. You can stand quietly before the spot where she's said to have been interred, which now houses a replica of the Stefano Maderno sculpture of the saint (made in 1599-1600), in the naturalistic and sombre pose in which her remains are said (or imagined) to have been found.
|Saint Cecilia's resting place, Catacombs of San Callixtus.|
|Catacombs of San Callixtus.|
|Pilgrims' graffiti, San Sebastiano.|
|Pagan tomb, San sebastiano.|
San Sebastiano was, as you might expect, the site where the poor arrow-riddled saint was interred when he was martyred in 288 AD - though he recovered from the arrow-wounds, apparently, and was in fact beaten to death. His actual remains are up above now, in the Basilica. The first church here was a great basilica built in the early 4th century over several pagan tombs and parts of a Roman villa. Initially it was called Basilica Apostolorum, the Basilica of the Apostles, and was dedicated to SS Peter and Paul. This was because there was a tradition that the relics of these two apostles had been transferred here for safe-keeping during a persecution in the reign of the emperor Valerian, 238. Surviving graffiti in the catacombs bear out this tradition -- the Basilica is one of the seven great pilgrimage churches of Rome.
|San Sebastiano. In his Basilica Outside the Walls.|
But at the Catacombs of the Old Appian Way, the ghosts still gather.