THE QUEEN OF THE CATACOMBS
The Catacombs of Priscilla, sits on the Via Salaria, with its entrance in the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla. It is mentioned in all of the most ancient documents on Christian topography and liturgy in Rome; because of the great number of martyrs buried within it, it was called “regina catacumbarum – the queen of the catacombs.”Originally dug out from the second to fifth centuries, it began as a series of underground burial chambers, of which the most important are the “arenarium” or sand-quarry, the cryptoporticus, (an underground area to get away from the summer heat), and the hypogeum with the tombs of the Acilius Glabrio family. The noblewoman Priscilla, who granted the Church use of the property, was a member of this family; her commemoration is noted on January 16th in the Roman Martyrology, which speaks of her as a benefactor of the Christian community in Rome. This cemetery was lost like all the others after the entrances were blocked to protect it from thievery; however, it was also one of the first to be rediscovered, in the sixteenth-century. A large portion of the funerary inscription, sarcophagi, stone and bodies (presumed to be those of martyrs) were subsequently taken away; nevertheless, the catacomb does preserve some particularly beautiful and important paintings, the most significant of which are included on the regular visit.