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Christian Rome Tours

 

Early Christianity

The beginning of the first millennium saw an explosion through the Roman Empire of new cults which sprang from a widespread need for a more direct and intimate relationship with God. The priests of the pagan roman religion didn't, in fact, hold to any vocation, they came from the body politic and returned to it after their sacred duties, moreover followers were not allowed inside the temples. The new religions, on the contrary, created a community which, as well as participating first-hand in rituals, gave a new meaning to the idea of "being together". They also rediscovered the sacred dimension of the sacrifice and the supper. Aside from the cult of Mithras, of which many traces can still be found in Rome, we will tell you, above all, about the first centuries of Christianity, beginning with the clandestine meeting places of the first followers; the spread of its symbols, such as, the phoenix for immortality, the dove and the fish; the many stories and legends of miracles and martyrs depicted in frescoes; the burials in catacombs; and the end of the persecutions and the establishment of Christianity as the sole religion of the empire. From here to the building of the first basilicas, the collection and veneration of Christ's reliquary and that of the martyrs, the theological debates against heresy, and the rise of a new symbolic art which negates the past and invents new forms and styles. A journey through places of intense spirituality and extreme beauty. Courtesy - Rosario Gorgone

San Giovanni in Laterano

St. John in Lateran is the Cathedral of Rome, one of the four major basilicas and the mother of all churches in Rome and in the world.

Founded by Constantine, during the time of Silvester (314-335) it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. The current basilica dates from the 17th century. This area once belonging to the Laterani family; it was presented to the Church by the Emperor Constantine.

The Lateran palace was an official residence of popes and a central seat of the Church's government till the exile of the popes to Avignon, France in 1305. After the pope returned from France in 1377 the official residence had to be moved to Vatican.
St. John Lateran is just across the street from the Holy Stairs (Scala Sancta). These are the stairs that Jesus walked up to be judged by Pilot. They were brought back from the Holy Land by St. Helen. The basilica derives its name from the powerful patrician family of Plautius Lateranus, who having been implicated in the conspiracy of the Pisoni, was deprived of his property and put to death by Nero.

The property afterwards passed to Constantine as the dowry of his wife Fausta.

The Emperor presented it, together with the land occupied by the barracks built in the 2nd century for his private horse-guards,to Roman bishops, for the purpose of building a church for the See of Rome.

The Lateran palace was probably conceived as a summer residence of the pontiffs, but it was never used as one.

The Lateran palace was an official residence of popes and a central seat of the Church's government till the exile of the popes to Avignon in 1305. After return from France in 1377 the official residence had to be moved to Vatican, which could be better defended and was closer to the inhabited districts of the city. The basilica remained in a quiet environment surrounded by gardens and vineyards till the end of the 19th century, disturbed only by pilgrims and hospices-hospitals, taverns and inns serving the regular number of faithful reaching this place of Christian cult.

In the end of the 17th century Innocent XII made it the seat of the Hospice for orphans and of a little silk manufacture; a century later Pius VI developed this activity.

The facade of the eastern side of the palace was finished under Clement XII who had his coat-of-arms attached to the top of it in 1735.

In the 19th century Gregory XVI made it a museum of religious art and pagan culture for which could not be found the space in Vatican; and in 1926 Pius XI arranged here the Missionary-Ethnic Museum.

John XXIII decided to restitute the palace its pastoral functions fixing here the seat of Vicariate and offices of the diocese of Rome.

Basilica of St. Mary Major

The Basilica of St. Mary Major was built in 352 B.C. with the money given by Johnand his wife, and was later restored by Sixtus III. Among its great treasures is a painting of the Madonna and Child known as the Salus Populi Romani, and the Basilica is today the Protectress of the People of Rome.

Christian Catacombs

The Roman catacombs are intricate labyrinths of burial chambers that were built roughly between the third and fifth century AD. They are considered among the most important relics of early Christianity. The Roman pagans largely practiced cremation up until the second century, when, for some unknown reason, they started burying their dead. However, this was usually in family tombs, not catacombs. The early Christians would have likely chosen to bury rather than cremate their dead due to their belief in resurrection, and the Catacombs are their underground cemeteries. They were built outside the city gates as ordinances forbade interment with the city limits.

Some of the catacombs extend for hundreds of yards and have multiple levels. Bodies were wrapped in shrouds and placed in niches, or "loculi", that were carved out of the walls. The niches were sealed with marble slabs or terracotta funerary slabs with frescoes and inscriptions bearing the name, age and the day of death. The earliest tombs were near the catacomb entrance becoming progressively later as one goes deeper down the long, dark corridors. Rows of these loculi extend from floor to ceiling. Although an exact number is not known, thousands upon thousands of tombs line the hundreds of miles that make up Rome's underground cemeteries

Some of the catacombs extend for hundreds of yards and have multiple levels. Bodies were wrapped in shrouds and placed in During the centuries numerous catacombs were built for both the Christian and the Jewish communities. The Roman Jewish community, which dates back to the first century BCE, also preferred to bury their dead. Jews and Christians coexisted peacefully in Rome for centuries and clearly influenced each other's cultures. At first these underground cemeteries were private, but later funeral associations managed them as the practice of burial in the Roman world gradually became more widespread among pagans, Jews and Christians. People were buried in the catacombs until the 6th century AD.

In 312 AD, Christianity became an authorized religion and the State Religion in 392 AD. Soon these cemeteries became places of worship, and many pilgrims visited the saints' tombs. Alterations were made to the catacombs, flights of steps and altars were built, tombs were decorated, and the relics of foreign saints were transferred there. This is the reason that even after they had lost their purpose of burying the dead they continued to be frequented by pilgrims.

However, the practice of catacomb burial declined slowly and the dead were increasingly buried in church cemeteries. By 900 AD, after the Ostrogoths, Vandals and Lombards sacked Rome and violated the catacombs, the Pope ordered the removal of the holy relics and the catacombs were practically abandoned and the relics transferred to above-ground basilicas.

There are forty known subterranean burial chambers in Rome. They were built along Roman roads, like the Via Appia, the Appian Way, the most important road of old Rome, leaving the city to the southeast. Other roads leaving the city such as the Via Ostiensis, the Via Labicana, the Via Tiburtina, and the Via Nomentana had catacombs built alongside.

The catacombs stretch for nearly 12 miles. There are five levels that reach a depth of about 65 feet. With almost half a million tombs and numerous paintings, sculptures and epigraphs inside, these catacombs offer rare and invaluable information about the life and culture of the ancient Christians buried here. On entering the catacombs you'll see the crypt of the nine popes with the original marble tablets of their tombs still preserved. The catacombs were rediscovered by the archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi in the 19th century after a basilica dedicated to Pope St Cornelius was built on the surface above the catacombs temporary loosing their presence.

Located on the right of the Appian Way, Catacombs of San Callisto is the largest and principal Christian cemetery in Rome and was widely used from the 3rd century.

The popes customarily were buried here, 16 pontiffs in all are buried here. Calictus, to whom the catacombs owe their name, administered them while he was a deacon and enlarged them after he became Pope in 217. The catacombs stretch for nearly 12 miles. There are five levels that reach a depth of about 65 feet. With almost half a million tombs and numerous paintings, sculptures and epigraphs inside, these catacombs offer rare and invaluable information about the life and culture of the ancient Christians buried here.

 

 

Statue

Christian Rome & Catacombs

Discover the Christian world within Rome, beginning at the most ancient and greatest Basilica dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and proceeding along the most famous street in the ancient Roman world and visiting the Catacombs.

 

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St Johns

Christian Rome

Escorted Small Group Tour

Snow fell by night and covered part of the Esquiline hill, and on that same night, the Mother of God told John and his wife separately in dreams that they should build a church on that place.

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38.50€

Christian Rome

Departure :
Duration : 2:30 hrs

arrow Basilica of St. Mary Major (visit) arrow Via Merulana arrow the Holy Stairs arrow the Basilica of St. John in Lateran (visit) arrow Appian Way arrow the Dominus Quo Vadis Chapel arrow Catacombs (visit) arrow Aventino arrow Pyramid of Caius Cestius

 

Tour RM4 arrow 38.50€ p/p

Appian Way

Christian Rome

Private Tour

Snow fell by night and covered part of the Esquiline hill, and on that same night, the Mother of God told John and his wife separately in dreams that they should build a church on that place.

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Christian Rome & the Appian Way

Duration 5hrs

Discover the Christian world within Rome, beginning at the most ancient and greatest Basilica dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the 5th of August, which is always the season of the greatest heat in Rome, snow fell by night and covered part of the Esquiline hill, and on that same night, the Mother of God told John and his wife separately in dreams that they should build a church on that place. When John told this to Pope Liberius, he went to the snow covered hill and there marked out a site. Then the Basilica of St. Mary Major was built in 352 B.C. with the money given by John and his wife, and was later restored by Sixtus III. Among its great treasures is a painting of the Madonna and Child known as the Salus Populi Romani, and the Basilica is today the Protectress of the People of Rome.

Next take a trip to the Basilica of St. John in Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome, the mother of all churches in Rome and in the world. Founded by the Emperor Constantine, during the time of Sylvester (314-335) it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. The current basilica dates from the 17th century and was the first official home of the Popes until 1307. Within the Basilica are two gilded silver busts that contained what were once thought to be the heads of Saints Peter and Paul, a bronze relief of the Last Supper, behind which is a wooden fragment thought to be the table used and the tomb of Pope Leo XIII (1878 to 1903). Across the street from the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs. According to tradition these are the same stairs that Jesus climbed during His Passion. You may also climb them on your knees and venerate these twenty-eight stairs that touched the bleeding feet of Jesus.

Proceeding along the Appian Way, the oldest and most famous Roman road, a road no more interesting, archaeological, artistic and pastoral, in ancient Rome. It was opened in 312 BC by Appius Claudius (from whence it gets its name) and was called "Queen of Roads" because of all the villas, temples and funeral monuments that lined it. Those impressive ruins can still be seen today. Visit the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, built along the Appian Way, just outside of Rome, beyond St. Sebastian's gate. This small church marks the place where the Risen Christ appeared to St. Peter as he was fleeing Rome during Nero's persecution of Christians. The church's name is Latin for the question Peter asked of Christ: "Lord, where are you going?" (Domine, quo vadis?).

Finally arriving at the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, ancient cemeteries built here underground opened in the early 3rd century, as the principal Christian cemetery in Rome. The catacombs stretch for nearly 12 miles.

Arch of Constatine

Catacombs Tour

Private Tour

Snow fell by night and covered part of the Esquiline hill, and on that same night, the Mother of God told John and his wife separately in dreams that they should build a church on that place.

more details

 

Early Christianity & Catacombs Tour

Duration 5hrs

We depart from the upper level of the Basilica of San Clemente to admire and understand the symbols and stories written on what are some of Rome's most beautiful mosaics and frescoes.

Then we proceed to the excavations underneath discover the entire church from the 4th century with its sarcophagi, paintings and arcades. We than descend to the third level below ground to discover a road from the first century AD which separates a banquet room dedicated to the cult of Mithras from Clemente's house where the first Christians met up.

In the beautiful piazza of San Giovanni in Laterano we'll visit the city's most ancient Baptistry with its octagonal layout, ancient baptismal font and frescoes depicting the various phases of the life of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor.

We proceed then to the Holy Steps from Jerusalem, that Christ climbed and bled upon and on which numerous pilgrims ascend with their knees in prayer. In the largest Basilica after Saint Peter's, we'll find Rome's most ancient doors that for centuries belonged to the Roman Senate. Here we'll discover, among other things, the remains of the table from the Last Supper as well as the heads of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Towards the end of the tour, we visit the catacombs, those incredible burial grounds where Renaissance scholars went in search of the past. The tour concludes on the stones of Rome's most ancient road, the via Appia, near the gigantic mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, where time seems to have stood still since the days where Nero and Saint Paul walked these roads.

Roman Crypts

Crypts & Catacombs

Escorted Group Tour

Discover imperial and early Christian Rome by peeling back layers and millenniums of history as you descend into the Eternal city’s underground burial chambers, its long winding catacombs and its crypts.

 

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52€

The Underside of Rome

Duration 3hrs

Go below and beyond to a time when Christianity was considered a simple cult whose members were executed as pagans and buried as martyrs.

The one and only tour that takes you to crypts and catacombs from different historical eras, in diverse locations and with varying styles.

With Crypts & Catacombs, you will have the opportunity to visit the most interesting and mystifying sites of underground Rome, all together in one single tour.

Catacombs of the early Christians and the ancient pagans, underground fountains and crypts filled with literally thousands of bones are just a few of the wonders awaiting you in this incredible new experience.

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