Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rabat Catacombs, Malta

Rabat has a virtual second city underneath it. Catacombs run back and forth underneath the town. Originally dug out by Palestinian Jews as burial grounds (the Romans of the time cremated their dead and kept the remains in urns), the Christians picked up the practice of burying their dead (and practiced their faith in among the tombs since the Romans were generally too superstitious to go there). Nowadays many of the catacombs are buried under other buildings or have been used as cellars. Some are still open to the public for visiting. We went to the ones by St. Paul's church.

Entering the catacombs

Goodbye, above ground!

Just inside the entrance to the catacombs is a medallion of St. Paul from the old Parish Church of Rabat (the medallion dates circa 1530).

St. Paul Medallion

Astute readers may have noticed the sign indicating the catacombs and the World War II shelters. The underground complex was used during the war to hide from the massive waves of bombing during the early 1940s. The area was even expanded by the locals.

Shelter digging tools

Some of the rooms are quite large and could easily accommodate several people. Of course, as we went down it didn't feel so large and open.

Down into the depths goes J

A large room

Some niches

Several openings and niches were blocked up though it was unclear if that was for structural support or just a convenient spot to stick rubble.

Don't go here, go left!

Not so encouraging lintel over a doorway

There were no lights down this passage, this is what my flash showed

Not many artifacts are left behind inside the catacombs. Most have been put in museums but we did run across a few.

Who broke that vase?

The most precious find!

Some chambers do look like they are ready for burials or for Masses. Tables were built into the catacombs which probably came in handy during World War II.

A larger chamber with benches around the outside

Maybe an altar

Plenty of niches here

The children had a fun time exploring the catacombs. So much fun that we didn't want to ruin their vibe by going to the Wignacourt Collegiate Museum upstairs (which was included in our admission ticket). We headed back into the the city for more adventures.

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