The catacombs - the long underground galleries into which the early Christian community of Rome buried its dead - have always fascinated visitors to Rome. Containing the graves of hundreds of thousands of early Christian believers, as well as the tombs of famous martyrs and no less famous popes, the catacombs are truly awe-inspiring places. It is here, in the dark and winding galleries of these enormous subterranean "cities of the dead", that one encounters the earliest physical evidence of a community that changed the course of Western civilization once and for all.
In this long-awaited book - the first general study on the catacombs to appear in English in a long time - readers are taken on an underground tour by one of the world's foremost specialists in catacomb archaeology. In addition to providing practical information for those wishing to enter the catacombs as visitors or pilgrims, this book explains how recent archaeological discoveries in the catacombs of Rome have changed (and continue to change) our understanding of how Rome's early Christian community expressed its faith while coping with the realities of everyday life. This book is essential reading for all those wishing to possess an up-to-date manual on why the early Christian and the Jewish catacombs occupy a place of such central importance in the celebrations surrounding the year 2000.