Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rome's Jewish catacombs opening

TOURISM: Rome’s Jewish catacombs to open to the public (Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service).
ROME (RNS) Beneath a former vineyard near the legendary Appian Way lies one of the Italian capital’s untold secrets, a vast underground catacomb where Jews buried their dead nearly 2,000 years ago.

While Rome has more than 40 Christian catacombs, which attract hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, there are only a handful of Jewish catacombs and they are usually open to small groups and private tours.

Now the Jewish catacombs of Villa Randanini will open to the public from May 1 to June 5 as one of several initiatives by the Italian cultural ministry to broaden the scope of Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy.


Visitors can see inscriptions in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, which give clues about an individual’s family connections, status or line of work. While the catacombs have been sacked over the centuries, visitors can still see many colorful frescoes and tablets with depictions of the traditional Jewish candelabra.

The walls of family “cubicles” or tombs are covered in dancing maidens, birds, grapevines and floral tributes, and there are also pockets of kokhim, a type of Jewish burial chambers.

Nice photos with a couple exemplars of the ever-present menorah motif. Coincidentally, Rome's Jewish catacombs (the Vigna Randanini) came up recently in a PaleoJudaica post about James Joyce's peregrinations in Rome.