A visit to any of the catacombs of Rome is always interesting if you want to get a glimpse of the life of early Christians. Contrary to some assumptions, these were not secret places of worship during various persecutions, although there may have been occasions for Mass. They also adorned the walls of these catacombs with symbols of the teachings of their faith in the form of frescoes. The catacombs are perhaps the earliest example of these, since the religion was not practiced openly before the 4th Century.
More likely any Mass here was a funeral Mass because the catacombs is where Christians…and for that matter the pagans as well…buried their dead. Unlike the pagans, however, the Christians believed in the Resurrection of the dead. Death was not the end, but the beginning. A difficult concept for most Romans to grasp I would think.
One of these Catacombs, the Catacombs of Priscilla, have what is believed to be the earliest known image of the Blessed Virgin Mary nursing the child Jesus that is believed to date from around 230 AD. This depiction of Mary nursing Jesus was common as a symbolism for the way Jesus nourishes his church. Although there are many later examples of this image in Catholic art, this appears to be one of the first.
The Catacombs of Priscilla are under the care of Benedictine Nuns who offer guided tours of the Catacombs. We suggest you consider a visit on your next trip to Rome. There is a fee, but that is the case for all of the catacombs of Rome.
For the official website of the Catacombs of Priscilla click here.
The catacombs of Priscilla are now offered in a virtual tour from Google Maps.