Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Last day in Rome - the Catacombs!

On my last day in Rome on this, my first trip to Rome, I planned on visiting the catacombs. I understand while there are many catacombs, there are about 7 that are open to the public and each of these contains 5-11 miles on tunnels and hundreds of thousands of graves. These were used in a small way even before
the Christians began to make constant use of them. Christians never lived in these tunnels but since they were forbidden to bury their dead in the city of Rome they looked for places to bury believers in belief of the bodily resurrection. Romans usually practices cremation.

However, the particular catacomb I was planning on visiting is closed on Wednesday (I discovered this the night before as I was doing my research) and so I had to choose another one or two!
So at 10 am as the Catacomb of Saint Sebastiano opened this morning I was there having taken a subway train and then a bus to the outskirts of Rome (then and even today). I was able to immediately join an English speaking student group from North Carolina for the tour.
Steps heading down to the next underground level

You MUST believe me when I say that since I was the last to join this group I had not heard the guide ask for "no photos" nor had a chance to view the "no photo" sign. And so, since the guide asked me to remain last in line and make sure no "sheep" wandered down so corridor or staircase (these catacombs are miles of tunnels on 3-4 levels, each about 5 yards lower than the previous level, I carefully took pictures after the line moved on so I would not get too many people in my pictures! When the leaders of the group asked me some questions near the end of the tour, they were pretty excited
that I was a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary. Shortly after that I realized as we returned to the starting place that there were "no photo" signs. I went over to explain to the leaders that I had not realized that I wasn't supposed to take pictures which I'm sure they had noticed me doing, especially near the end. They told me they had wondered but figured since I was a professor I was allowed to do it! Great people!

By the way, I was told there were seven Basilicas in Rome and this was one of them. I visited 3 of them on this tour.
This catacomb was not really well marked!  

After a half mile walk or so I found another one of the catacombs open to the public, the Catacomb of Domitillo. Not quite a popular as the previous catacomb which has a wonder history (including the tradition that both Paul and Peter's bodies were moved here briefly to preserve them from being destroyed where they had previously been buried), I arrived at 11:15 to find the last tour of the morning just leaving and it was in English! So I joined as the last one once again.

Again a wonderful tour and a reminder of how precious these early believers (from 1st to 5th centuries) held to the bodily resurrection. What was unique to this tour was the area where they had gathered together the many oil lamps they had found which the grave-diggers had used. They are small but remember air was precious down below ground. Also this catacomb had a rare painted fresco that decorated one of the tombs.

It was time to return to my hotel, gather my belongings together and walk to the bus stop where I could catch a bus to the second of the two Rome airports, this time for my flight to Athens. My first flight from Budapest to Rome cost me $61 and this one to Tel Aviv, Israel with a stop over in Athens cost a whopping $121. So my vacation so far has been relatively inexpensive so far which pleases the Scottish blood in me and releases some of my guilt that I am here without my beautiful, supportive wife Sharon. For the worrying types, I am here with her blessing! We talk almost every night on Skype too.

I believe my teaching on the Apostles Paul and Peter will be richer for me being here. You do need to take my classes or listened to my preaching to see if this becomes true!

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