Virtual tour of restored catacombs available on Google Maps
The Vatican reopened the newly-restored catacombs of Priscilla to the public on 19 November following a five-year restoration project.
Located along the Via Salaria near Villa Ada in northern Rome, the catacombs consist of a series of labyrinthine tunnels and burial chambers dug out from the second to fifth centuries.
The conservation works included the restoration of the frescoes that decorate the catacombs as well as the renovation of the basilica in which Pope Silvestro was buried.
In addition to its ancient spaces dedicated to worship, the catacomb complex now acts as a museum with a significant amount of restored late-ancient funerary artefacts on public display.
The launch was presided over by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology (PCAS), and was attended by a representative from internet search engine Google, whose online map facility includes – for the first time – a virtual tour of the underground complex.
The catacombs of S. Priscilla contains the earliest known image of the Madonna with Child, and is mentioned in Rome's most ancient Christian documents which refer to it as regina catacumbarum (the queen of the catacombs) due to the large number of Christian martyrs buried there.
Over time the underground cemetery was concealed to protect its contents from being looted, and was rediscovered in the 16th century.
For full details, including visiting times and directions, see website.
Images Washington Post, Reuters