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December 4, 2015     Post-Gazette
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December 4, 2015

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PAGE 2 POST-GAZETTE, DECEMBER 4, 2015 by Prof. Edmund TurieUo A weekly column highlighting some of the more interesting aspects of our ancestry.., our lineage.., our roots. THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CATACOMBS Christianity was born in Judea and carried to Rome by St. Peter, St. Paul and others. Their religion grew out of the teachings of Jesus Christ and his twelve Apostles. The short- est and most simple explana- tion of these teachings is that they are composed of three parts: 1. Rules of Christian conduct; 2. Duties of Chris- tian leaders; and 3. Baptism. During the height of power in ancient Rome, Christian bands started forming. They refused to serve in the Roman Army, and because they wor- shipped a God of their own, they refused to honor the emperor as one. They were also accused of starting a fire which burned for about 6 days, left more than a 100,000 people homeless, and destroyed more than half of the city. Emperor Nero consequently banned Christianity and started the persecutions which lasted for 250 years. The hills of Rome are mainly composed of a soft rock of volca- nic origin which is called "tufa." The pre-Christian Romans had very adequately developed the technique of excavating deep into this tufa to form their "Caemetaria" (underground cemeteries) which contained "Columbaria" (pigeonhole nich- es for the cremated remains). The Christians who came later were in quite a dilemma. They could not bury their de- ceased within the city walls because the law did not permit it, and any kind of funeral ser- vice either within or without Catacombs of San Sebastiano entrance. the walls would expose them to arrest and persecution. The excavation work for the cata- combs was a necessary function brought about by the geology of the area, their religious beliefs, and the social attitudes of the party in power at that time. Outside the walls of ancient Rome, there were about 15 main roads radiating out from the city. About 25 great cata- combs were constructed at various locations near these roads. It is estimated that the combined length of the tunnels in all of these catacombs was 350, and that they contidned about 6,000,000, deceased. Corridors were generally about 30 inches wide, with "loculi" (shelves) in tiers on both sides. These underground cities of the dead were built from one to five stories deep. The depth never exceeded 75 because this would bring them below the volcanic crust and into the hu- mid clay. The stratum chosen for these un- derground labyrinths was sufficiently hard to support the weight from above, yet soft enough to excavate the seemingly endless tunnels. The secrecy of their location was maximized by taking the excavated material from the newly-formed tunnels and packing it into the old and fully occupied ones. The difficult chore of rais- ing the debris to the surface and undoubtedly re- vealing their location was thus eliminated. Stairs, air shafts, and some fight shafts were built as the advantages of the terrain presented themselves. The countryside around pa- gan Rome was literally under- mined by these tunnels. During the height of the Christian per- secutions, the catacombs which were not backfiUed, housed as many of the living (in hiding) as they contained of the dead. The Catacombs of St. Callis- tus (Calixtus) and those of St. Sebastian on the Appian Way are probably the most popular tourist attractions today. The bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul were originally buried close to the spot where they were mar- tyred. Later they were exhumed and hidden temporarily in the Catacombs of St. Sebastian. NEXT WEEK: The Basilica II Ill]Ill I l I lllll I lll~llTlllll ffff/f f ..................................................................... --" .....C-[Z2IIII~ .................................... W With a Gift Subscdption to the your generosity wig rememiered eve week of year. We'll send the redpient an announcement of your gift. Their subscription wilt begin with our Christmas issue and continue for one year. ~lnlmll i nlllll iiiiii1~ iiilll~ rim tlIIB ~ IJlMm ~ ~ ~ ~ I I I | ReEipient Na~ I would like to send a one year Gift'Subscription of the Boston Post-Gazette to the following person(s). I have enclosed $35 per subscription ! | Phone Name Phone I I I ! i I I I I Pasta, Popes and Passion by Bennett Molinari and Richard Molinari We have never written a book review for this column, but recently a book has been pub- lished that has special sig- nificance to us that we believe might also be of interest to our readers. Pasta, Popes and Passion written by our cousin, Vilma Sozio Gallo, is difficult to char- acterize for it is both a memoir and a very fine cookbook. Is it just the fact the author is a relative that we have interest in the book? Absolutely not!l Our primary interest lies in the fact that it is a book heav- ily influenced by the author's early roots that were set in the rich soil of Boston's historic North End, a place that we have called home all of our lives. This book contains many wonderful authentic Italian recipes. Vilma's deep love for all things Italian derives from her family; pri- marily her grandmoth- er and morn, members of a family that has been part of the North End community for well over 100 years. Pasta, Popes and Pas- sion is a travel through time, treasures and tastes of more than 50 years offering a glimpse into Italian life seen through the eyes of an American woman. Her itinerary was meant to be brief and yet lasted over 50 years. Through her vivid and descriptive writing, she offers her readers the chance to share in her lifelong joys and loves through first-hand, unusual experiences, or anecdotes that the usual tourist and lover of Italy rarely experience. Cooking, food, tastes are mere steps en route; recipes convey culture, color and meaning to Vilma's extended stay in her magical adopted country. Does she succeed in sharing her hidden Italian treasures? Is this a memoir of an expatri- ate or a cookbook of authentic, sometimes unknown dishes that have yet to travel the ocean? You decide. Pasta, Popes and Passion can be ordered through: amazon. com, Barnes and Noble, or through our website molina- Real Estate Matt6o Gallo Appraisals Sales & Rentals 376 North Street Boston, MA 02113 (617) 523-2100 Fax (617) 523-3530 n ta ten o rs We carry a complete line of Hunter Douglas Products Silhouettes- Vignettes Wooden Blinds- Shutters Duettes - Solar Shades Specialty Windows Professional Measuring & installation Service Stop by and talk tO a Professional 42 Prince Street - Boston, MA 02113 857-317-6115 - design