Day 5 - afternoon
The drive took a good half an hour from the Center of Rome way out to the "Catacombe S. Domiltilla" where we visited some early Christian underground cemeteries carved out of soft tuna stone. I was anxious to see these catacombs in person after all the various stories that I had heard about them!
We were greeted by a local guide and after a brief informative session, one behind the other, we followed her down a series of steps and into damp passages and tunnels. We were now totally in semi-darkness with only small lights installed here and there to provide us guidance. The smell was tolerable even though it stank.
By advancing deeper into these tunnels, shelves where the bodies were placed gave us a real understanding as to what the early Christians experienced. In a way, I really didn't know what to expect down here but it definitely wasn’t a place for the claustrophobics. However, no bones or skeleton heads were seen, these having been removed years ago probably because they scared people off! In a way, it was kind of a disappointment having seen pictures of other catacombs with them whereas none were here!
The guide was very informative though and answered all of our questions as we followed her more into obscurity. In one particular area, a 2nd
-century fresco of the Last Supper was seen. Quite impressive, especially the colors still being well preserved!
Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the catacombs probably because they were selling them at exorbitant prices in their store on the main floor. Since Michel and I were always the last ones in the line inside these tunnels, I was able to take a few pictures without anyone seeing me. Mind that a few other people did it as well!
Well, let me tell you that after half an hour of being in these underground passages, I was happy to come out and inhale a deep breath of fresh air. I now had an extensive insight into all phases of an Early-Christian necropolis from having seen part of these 15 km of subterranean galleries! They were quite unique and impressive!
The ride back proved to be quite interesting since another route was taken. The scenes were totally awesome where I was able to see ruins of ancient baths amongst so many other ones.
Next stop on this optional excursion was at the Saint Peter in Chains church best known for being the home of the magnificent “Moses” sculpture by Michelangelo. I was glad that I had paid to come and see this.
The church was small but very impressive. It was first rebuilt in the 5th
century over older foundations to house the relic of the chains that bound Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. They are presently kept in a reliquary under the main altar in the basilica. Interesting facts!
Having only a nave (main body), two aisles were on both side of the church and were divided by antique columns. Beautiful paintings were on the ceiling. I immediately went in the direction of Michelangelo’s Moses (completed in 1515) where many people stood taking pictures. Interestingly, Moses marble sculpture had horns on his head though some modern authors dispute that they were never intended to be horns. You be the judge of this! Too bad Michelangelo wasn't here to tell us differently!
It was 4:00pm when we arrived back at the hotel. Even though I had told our guide in the morning that we were going to go on the optional excursion planned for the evening, I decided otherwise and informed her accordingly.
After all, I just couldn’t justify a $140.00 fee for a pizza dinner at a Roman restaurant followed by an illuminations drive showing us the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia and the Forum at night! I had previously seen these places in many different lights during the day and night!
With our mind made up, Michel and I decided that this evening, we were going to be doing our very own touring all by ourselves on our last night here in Rome and revisit some of the most impressive sites seen so far.Monique :-)