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Rome Reports

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History comes to life through Rome's largest catacombs of Domitilla

The largest catacomb in Rome, the catacomb of Domitilla, measuring 12 kilometers in length is celebrating 25 years of rites to the exquisite paintings in the catacomb. As of now, there are 77 paintings that have been restored with lasers to reveal their true beauty.   It dates back to the fourth and sixth centuries, and is named after Flavia Domitilla, who was a member of the Flavian family and niece of Domitian. She was the owner of the catacombs and made them available to other Christians.  FABRIZIO BISCONTI  Pontifical Commission Sacred Archaeology "Domitilla's Basilica was discovered by Giovanni Batista de Rossi in 800, but the catacomb was already known since 1500 by Antonio Bosio, the first explorer of the Roman catacombs. In 700 there were some paintings, but in the 800's this great reconstruction of the basilica took place.â? Martyrs Nereus and Achilleus are also represented in the fourth century basilica, just to the right of the altar. However, it's under the basilica where many of the tombs are hidden, in fact they are four floors deep.  RAFFAELLA GIULIANI Pontifical Commission Sacred Archaeology "We say that Domitilla's catacombs are the biggest catacombs in Rome. The major part of the gallery are small excavated tombs but there are some rooms we call cubicles which are decorated with frescoes. So this catacomb is very rich. The frescoes are done with pagan scenes but also Christian scenes from the New Testament.â? Some of these scenes feature the last supper, disciples and other followers of Christ. Not only because of the art, but because of who was buried here, many Christians eventually wanted their remains to be forever in this place.   FABRIZIO BISCONTI  Pontifical Commission Sacred Archaeology "Everyone wants to be buried close to martyrs. All Christians want to be close to the martyrs because they thought that the one who was close to the martyrs would then also be in Paradise.â? Centuries later, Rome still recognizes these catacombs and those people whom they were dedicated to so many decades ago. This is only one example of just how historic faith is able to come to life. MB MG -S -PR Up:JC