Wednesday, July 06, 2011

I Remember ... The Appian Way and the Catacombs

We arrived back in Rome early in the afternoon and checked in at the Sheraton Hotel near the airport. Everything feels like it's winding down and we are not ready for this trip to end. Even the hotel feels very "American," helping us transition to our journey back home.
Before our scheduled farewell dinner we toured the catacombs of San Callisto. Telly was right ... the catacombs are a must-see in your tour plans for Rome and I'm glad we did not miss this opportunity.
We drove along the Appian Way, which was once the world's most important road. You can see the original pavement stones and the road is lined with ancient tombs and monuments. Below the street are miles of tunnels where the early Christians buried their dead and, when necessary, held secret church services. This was during a time when Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire. During ancient Roman times no one was allowed to be buried within the city wall. Christians wanted to be buried vs cremated due to their beliefs in the resurrection. Many Christians were poor and land was expensive but a few wealthy Christian landowners allowed their properties to be used as a burial site.
We descended stairs far underground and we found cool temperatures that were a welcome relief from the day's heat. As we pass through these ancient tunnels, it is hard to comprehend life for the early Christians ... to feel the connection to this early heritage of believers.

The walls are covered in frescoes and early Christian symbols still preserved from so long ago. One stop that especially touched me was at the grave-site of Saint Cecilia where we were told the story of her martyrdom.

Exiting the catacombs back out into the heat and bright sunlight, we board the bus to head back to the hotel and get ready for the farewell dinner.

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