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Rome: First-Second Century Christian Sights


Apr 18th, 2006, 07:32 PM
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Rome: First-Second Century Christian Sights

Hi...I have the pleasure of going to Rome for a second time (how wonderful!) and I am very interested in digging deeper into some Christian sights that are not the typical "must-sees".

I am really only interested in Christian sights prior to Constantine I. The only things that I have been able to find in this realm are the 2-3rd Cent. ground level of San Clemente and the Catacombs.

I have read that Santa Constanza is a good suggestion. Other than that I am struggling to find legit early sights.

Any help, especially from 'Eloise' who seems quite knowledgeable about these things, would be great. This can include active dig sites as well. I have already requested Georgina Masson's guide, as per Eloise's other posts about these things, but any other help would be great.

Also, if I will need to schedule a private tour or anything, let me know if you can.

Thanks so much for the help...it is tough to dig through the "tradition" and get to the "history".

Take care.
ericjdaniels is offline  
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Apr 19th, 2006, 03:21 AM
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There is a poster here called ParadiseLost who has posted some wonderful threads on the history behind certain places in Rome, and it could well be worth your while to scroll through his Rome posts on the Europe forum. I plan to do just that before my next trip to Rome!
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Apr 19th, 2006, 04:23 AM
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Have you been on the tour of the excavations under St Peter's (referred to by most on this board as just the 'Scavi tour' ? The buildings comprised the Roman necropolis during the first few centuries AD, when the regime swung between Christian & non-Christian a few times (from what I remember) & the tour describes the hunt for St Peter's tomb.
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Apr 19th, 2006, 06:17 AM
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Delighted to hear that you are doing your own research this time...

If you only want early Christian sites before Constantine, you will have to skip Santa Costanza, which is believed to have been built to house the tomb of his daughter or granddaughter, both called Constantia.
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Apr 19th, 2006, 06:54 AM
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"the first few centuries AD, when the regime swung between Christian & non-Christian a few times "

Eh?. Surely, before 312, it swung between adherents of the old religion who tolerated Christianity and those who persecuted it?

And after 312, apart from the two year reign of Julian, swung between Christians who tolerated other viewpoints and those who persecuted them (even some that were also Christian?

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Apr 19th, 2006, 07:04 AM
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St Cecelia was matryed in the 2nd century AD. You can visit her church in Trastevere, which features a beautiful sculpture that depicts her body as it was found centuries later. In the crypt under the church are excavations of Roman buildings attributed to her lifetime. There is also a wonderful fresco in the choir, accessible at special times through the attached convent.
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Apr 19th, 2006, 07:36 AM
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You will want to visit the church of Saint Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli), I'd imagine, since the chains alleged to have held St Peter in bondage are on display there. There's also the Mamertine Prison, under the church of S. Giuseppe. (I think it's open to the public--I haven't been there)

If you're interested in relics of early Christian martyrs, the head of St Agatha is on view in a side chapel of the church of S. Agnese in Agone in Piazza Navona.
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Apr 19th, 2006, 10:47 AM
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Visit Nero's Domus, SANTA MARIA IN TRASTEVERE-in 222 AD. Under Pope Callisto I a "meeting place" for the Christian community of Trastevere was built here and is probably the first Christian church (not in a home) in Rome. It's quite beautiful.This was the site of a "miracle spring" which spouted oil for one whole day in 38BC

According to legend the church is built on the site of a brothel where in 304 St Agnes was publicly stripped naked to make her renounce her faith. Miraculous hair growth then protected her chastity

Don't miss the Lateran Palace ,a bit later than your dates, given by Constantine to the Pope (beginning of 4th century).Next door is the interesting Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano Basilica. Across the street are the "Holy steps" reported to have been climbed by Jesus to reach Pilate’s Palace. Although it very well might not be the steps, it's fascinating seeing the people "walking" up and down the steps on their knees.
There's the Basilica of ST. Mary Major .I believe it was built around 350BC (legend says) after an appearance of the Blessed Virgin.
St. Paul Outside the Walls is a great stop. It's built over the burial place of the Apostle of the Gentiles and again is during Constantine's time frame.
Overall, except for the catacombs, there's very little to see realted to early Christian sites.
My wife and I have tried to hit them all. My personal favorites are the Scavi tour under St. Peter's and Mamertine prison.
HERE'S A WEBSITE WITH GOOD INFORMATION: http://roma.katolsk.no/index.htm
Note the "Home of the Saints". The places listed for Peter and Paul look interesting. We will probably visit them next year.
I hope this helps.

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Apr 19th, 2006, 12:04 PM
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Eric, how did your trip last year go? How was the convent?
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Apr 19th, 2006, 12:16 PM
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It's post-Constantine but I'll throw it out there .
Some of the links might be dead.

This graffito fits into your timeframe, it's usually placed from late 1C to early 3C. But it is probably 2C.

It's located in the Palatine Hill Museum in Room VIII (upper floor-right rear corner room).

Just to add to that website;
It was found in the Pedagogium.
Pagan Romans made fun of Judaism by saying that they worshipped an Ass/Donkey.

Perhaps someone who knows Jewish history could clarify this better.
But I believe the Jews either fled or were expelled from Eqypt.
They were wandering in the desert, dying of thirst when they saw a pack of wild donkeys. They followed this pack and it lead them to water.
In the 'Temple of Jerusalem' there was a small statue of a donkey in rememberance of this event?
So the Pagan Romans made the joke that they worshipped donkeys.
And they also thought that early Christianity was just another Jewish Sect.

So the donkey head on the crucified man would make sense to the Pagan person who drew this anti-Christian graffito.

The lone 'Y' is believed to be either a symbol for execution (I've wondered if it represents a dead person hanging down from a cross which would make the shape of a 'Y'?)

Or it was meant to show a person screaming in pain, rather like the bubble in a comic strip ~(Yeowwww). Regards, Walter
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Apr 20th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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Well, I'd really like to thank everyone.

Eloise: Well...what can I say. You weren't helpful at all, despite my attempt to be cordial.

Caroline: The St. Peter's suggestion is a great one, I think I rememeber it from last time but we didn't go. Thanks!

Ellenem - Thanks for the St. Cecilia suggestion!

DejaVu - St. Peter's in chains sounds interesting, I am looking forward to researching this!

Jabez - Nero's Domus & Sant'Agnese in Agone sounds great. I hope to find a good amount of historical info on both.

WillTravel - Our convent experience was WONDERFUL! I would have tried to post a trip report earlier but the last year has been spent preparing for a big surgery, and in and out of the hospital. We honestly loved it. A few blocks from Piazza Navona, a few more to the Pantheon where we spent most late nights. We are going back to the same place this year.

ParadiseLost - Thanks for the websites and the Palatine Hill Museum suggestion. We didn't have time last year to see the museum, we only stopped in to use the restrooms...I guess I will have to MAKE time this time.

Thanks everyone so much for your help. Any more suggestions would be great. It has been suggested to me to pick up the Oxford Archaeological guide to Rome, which I am going to do. I have also tried to research some up to date digs and recent finds, but am having a little more trouble with that.

Either way, it will be a great trip. The Mamertine prison and the Catacombs alone will be great to visit again. To be where such early believers were, and to set foot in a prison that Paul may have been in before his death is a Awe-some thing.

Thanks again...any more help is so appreciated.

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Apr 20th, 2006, 09:21 AM
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If you want to visit the Scavi, you have to send them an e-mail request.

All the information is here:


Your chances are better if you can give the Ufficio Scavi a range of days.

They ask for your address in Rome; the fact that you are staying at the Istituto Santa Giuliana Falconieri may work to your advantage.

If I was short, it is because you put such stringent - not to say, ridiculous - limitations on what interests you. As far as I am concerned, all the early Christian churches are of great interest, whether a saint was martyred there or not. Many of them, in any case, are built where the Roman homes stood in which Christian rites were first celebrated.

Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura (next to Santa Costanza) is where St. Agnes, who was martyred at the site of Sant'Agnese in Agone, was buried.
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Apr 20th, 2006, 09:23 AM
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The Oxford Archaeological Guide to Rome is first-rate. I definitely recommend it to any history buff visiting Rome. You'd get a lot out of that book, for sure. It's heavy on the imperial period of course, but nonetheless has good info about early Christian material.

Also from Oxford Univ Press is a really interesting book called _Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph_ by Jas Elsner. It's not a guidebook and is not limited to Rome proper but gives nice discussions of early Christian art and its influences.
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Apr 20th, 2006, 09:55 AM
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DejaVu - Thanks for the affirmation of the Arch. text, and the new suggestion. I have already requested it.

Man oh man, paradise lost is a wealth of information. No strings, no complaints. Just helping people. Thanks so much Paradise! I am just beginning to dig into your posts.

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Apr 20th, 2006, 10:52 AM
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You may also enjoy reading some of the works of Peter Brown, who writes wonderfully about late antiquity and Latin Christianity. The Cult of the Saints, The Rise of Western Christendom, and The World of Late Antiquity are not solely about Rome, but they give some perspective for travel there.
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May 8th, 2006, 08:55 PM
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May 22nd, 2006, 10:48 AM
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Jul 17th, 2006, 11:05 PM
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I have seen pictures of the site where St Paul was beheaded but I can't find where the site is located. I think it's San Paolo alle Tre Fontane. But where is it? Does anyone know? I wouldn't mind directions on how to get there either. Thanks -it's so nice of the many who take the time to respond. It is really a huge help & so appreciated.
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Jul 18th, 2006, 03:17 AM
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Hi Mimmel, That is the right church. If you would like to view a list of the churches of Rome, type "The Churches of Rome" into your search box, and Chris Nyborg's list of churches will come up. For some reason, I can't get the specific web address to come up on my list. This gives you an alphabetical listing, plus some facts about each church.
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Jul 27th, 2006, 07:02 AM
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hi ericjdaniels,

i was wondering if you can provide me with any information on the convent you stayed at in Rome. My husband and I will be in Rome this october and are still looking for a place to stay.

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