The Catacombs of Rome
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Did you know that the majority of the catacombs were discovered in the mid-nineteenth century?
The science of modern christian archeology, born in the mid-nineteenth century, began the process of rediscovery. Pioneers such as Gian Battista De Rossi, dedicated their lives to bringing to light the truly unique testimony of Christian faith that lay hidden beneath the city of Rome. Present day excavations continue to unearth new sites.

Archeology of the Catacombs

The Catacombs of Rome film documents the archeology of the ancient christian roman cemeteries. The science of catacomb archeology, also known as paleochristian archeology, has made astounding discoveries, bringing to light important finds such as underground chapels, tombs, funerary art, frescoes, sarcofaghi, sculptures, inscriptions, graffiti, and numerous artifacts. Through archeology we have learned much of the early christians of Rome and of their profound faith in Jesus Christ.

The Catacombs of Rome film introduces us to the ninteenth century pioneer who laid the foundations of modern christian archeology. As we follow Gian Battista De Rossi in one of his many explorations, we learn the scientific methods of catacomb archeology, and how numerous archeological finds can be interpreted, even when some of these remains are simply incomplete fragments.

Paleochristian archeology
The archeology of the catacombs can be considered a part of christian archeology. More precisely however, it falls under the category of paleochristian archeology. Paleo is the greek word meaning ancient, therefore the term paleochristian signifies ancient christian. Although paleochristian archeology encompasses a period beyond the first three centuries of christianity, so as to include the great basilicas which arose after the Edict of Milan in 313 AD under the emperor Constantine, the catacombs nevertheless remain the most important and fascinating period of paleochristian archeology, because they deal with the first four centuries of christianity.

The birth of modern christian archeology.
During the late Renaissance, the majority of the catacombs lay hidden beneath the city of Rome. Various scholars began exploring the catacombs, some of whom literally fell into the catacombs by accident. In the late eighteenth century things began to change. Scholars such as Rev. Prof. Macchi, one of the important early pioneers, paved the way for the work which the great archeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi was to accomplish in the mid-nineteenth century.

Giovanni Battista de Rossi
The modern pilgrims and tourists who visit Rome today, making their way through the dark catacombs, or walking through the Pio Cristiano Museum in the Vatican Museums, can thank one man who literally brought the world of the early christians to light. The archeological discoveries did much to corroborate christian history, tenets of the christian faith, religious traditions, the lives of martyrs, liturgical festivities, and so on. It was Giovanni Battista de Rossi who pleaded with the Pope to take the new science seriously, convincing the pontiff to purchase tracts of land where catacombs were located. It was the tenacity of this pioneer, determined to find the burial place of Rome's early bishops and martyrs, that led him to discover the Crypt of the Popes and the adjacent Crypt of Saint Cecilia in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. The Crypt of the Popes alone tells us so much of the history of the catacombs, the early christians, and the Rome's bishop martyrs and saints.

The Pontifical Commission on Sacred Archeology
This commission of scholars and scientists oversees the continuos work of escavating and preserving the catacombs. Our website has taken it upon itself to inform the public who visits us, that the Commission is in need of funds. There is simply too much to be done, and so little resources. Give a thought to writing to the Pontifical Commission and making a contribution to their work.

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Last Update:   19/VIII/2000       Web Site Design:   Ars Mar Film       Webauthor: M.J. Maresca
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