Beneath the City of Rome - Trent

Rome Travel Blog

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Piazza de Barberini - Rome, Italy

Wednesday morning (June 23, 2009) we packed up had boarded our last train, destination Rome.  The train ride from Florence to Rome was really quick.  So quick we weren’t prepared as we rolled into the “Termini” train station.  We checked in with the hostel and reserved a shuttle to the airport for early Saturday morning.

Again I must apologize in advance as what follows may seem like a boring history lesson.

After check in we headed out for a 2:45 guided tour of Rome’s underground.  The tour started at the catacombs outside the city wall, then we descended into the Church of San Clemente, and finally we finished at the Cappuccin Crypt.

Roman Catacombs - Rome, Italy
  Our tour guide Massimo was excellent, full of energy and a great story teller. 

The catacombs are a labyrinth of underground tombs.  This particular catacomb actually stretches, weaves and winds for 11miles underground.  The tombs in these tunnels were used to bury dead Christians prior to the 6th century AD.  At the time, worshiping Christianity was punishable by death as Paganism was the official religion of the empire, and because these worshipers didn’t believe in cremation (The body is used to transport the spirit to heaven) Christians of the time were forced to tunnel underground.  After the 6th century AD when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the catacombs were no longer needed and were forgotten.  Vegetation covered and hid the existence of the catacombs until the late 1800’s.

Coat of Arms in Bones (Capuchin Crypt) - Rome, Italy
  It was said they were discovered (after 1200 years) by a cattle farmer who lost his cow.  He could hear his cow but couldn’t see it as it had fallen into one of the ventilation shafts. 

Next stop was the Church of San Clemente.  The church of San Clemente is a 12th century church built on top of a 4th century church that is in turn was built upon a 1st century Pagan temple.  Why the layers?  For hundreds and even thousands of years Roman’s would just discard trash and rubble into the streets.  After time when things got to be such a mess they would pave over the rubbish creating a new layer to the city.  Many sites of the city show these layers as the roads of ancient Rome are some 30 feet below today’s current roads.

Secret Symbol of Jesus in Pagan Times (Catacombs) - Rome, Italy
  Although the Basilica clergy knew of the 4th century church that lied beneath, they were unaware of the 1st century apartment that was home to a Pagan temple.   In the 19th century a member of the clergy continued to think he heard running water beneath the church so he began excavations.  This when they found the 1st century apartment, and yes there was running water!  Drinkable water still flows through here today and it was said they don’t know the source of the water as it comes from a spring beneath the Coliseum.  Sam tested the water for us and said it was “good and cold!”

Final stop of the tour was the Capuchin Crypts.  The Capuchin Crypts are a monastery (still in use today) where the walls of the crypts are decorated with the bones of 4000 monks.

Roman Chariot - Rome, Italy
  This would have been a stop for ORIMtec as there was an abundance of spinal vertebrae lining these walls.  See the picture “Coat of Arms in Bones”.  This image literally shows you a “Coat of Arms”!  The monastery is still in use but the concept of decorating with bones was discontinued in the 19th century as it was suggested the practice of using human skeletons for decoration was not appropriate in modern times.  Note:  Next time you drink cappuccinos remember this drink was named after a Capuchin monk who had just defeated a Turkish army.  The army left behind a bag of coffee that was said to be to bitter.  The monks drank it any way sweetening it with milk and honey.

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Piazza de Barberini - Rome, Italy
Piazza de Barberini - Rome, Italy
Roman Catacombs - Rome, Italy
Roman Catacombs - Rome, Italy
Coat of Arms in Bones (Capuchin Cr…
Coat of Arms in Bones (Capuchin C…
Secret Symbol of Jesus in Pagan Ti…
Secret Symbol of Jesus in Pagan T…
Roman Chariot - Rome, Italy
Roman Chariot - Rome, Italy
Drinking Fountains of Rome - Rome …
Drinking Fountains of Rome - Rome…
photo by: vulindlela