Under the surface of the city of Rome, and even under the terrain of other inhabited centers distributed from central Italy to the main islands of Sicily and Sardinia, under the noise of everyday life or the flow of the stations there is a network of corridors , rooms and underground environments. It is about the Christian catacombs, true cities of the dead that still live.
Dead, yes, because basically it is "cemeteries", the word inhabital whose Greek matrix refers to the "rest" of eternity, the other side of life ̶ for the Christian ̶ compared to the one we know now. And therefore, they are still alive, because they bear witness to the faith in an immortal life.
In these spaces the visitor, even non-believer or of other religions, becomes a pilgrim who discovers architectural and artistic wonders, finds stories of families from the early Christian centuries. Contemplate figures and scenes with frescoes on the walls and vaults, often based on biblical pages intertwined with images of pagan classicism. Admire characters and intuit personal stories of the dead and the society in which they were immersed.
For this reason, the catacombs are not sad dark slums, but a secret world that opens to the pilgrim and the tourist with all the beauty; the faith and the memory of so many people who believed in Christ and in his word of hope. And they witnessed it through these authentic wonders that speak to us and that still live today under the rumble of our daily existence.
Card. Gianfranco Ravasi
President of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology