Tue May 1 – Catacombs of San Sebastiano
Light rainy, cool day for our Hop On Hop Off bus tour of more of Ancient Rome and the Catacombs of San Sebastiano south of the city. We drove along the Apian Way, the ancient Roman road, to the catacombs dating back to the 2nd century. Very interesting, especially the 3 mausoleums at the lowest level which were built for 3 pagan families in early 100s, with marble, frescos, oil vessels and steps descending to 2-3 levels below us. Another room featured shards of terracotta with inscriptions all over them and the names Peter & Paul repeated throughout. It is thought that the bodies of the 2 saints had been stored here at one time to protect them from invaders, and the writings were prayers people had written in the 3rd/4th century to them. The church of San Sebastian built above the catacombs (which tunnel for over 7 miles through the countryside) contained 2 Belini sculptures – Saint Sebastian shot through with arrows, and his last masterpiece, Jesus with flowing hair and robes (absolutely beautiful). Bussed back to the Termini and walked 5 blocks to the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiori which had walked to before, but hadn’t known the entrance (with long, snaking line) was on the other side. The largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and it was stunning, like they all are.