Rome’s Ancient Jewish Catacombs of Vigna Randanini will be open May 1 – June 5, 2016.

The Jewish community has always been part of Rome's history. In fact, it can be traced as back to 161 BCE. It was during that time Jews fled to Rome for safety. This is according to an article published on the website of Rome archaeology. There are many Christian catacombs in Rome, and they are a major tourist attraction. However, there are only a few Jewish catacombs, and they have been closed/restricted to the public, until now.

May 1, 2016 the Jewish Catacombs of the Vigna Randanini, located underneath a former vineyard in the Appia Antica Park in Rome, will be opened to the public. It will be open till June 5th.

Opening the catacombs to the public is one of the several initiatives took by the Italian cultural ministry to promote the scope of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis. The cultural counselor for the Jewish Community of Rome applauded the move and said that it will help to showcase the history of Jews in Italy. He said that Jews have always been part of the capital.

Like the Christian catacombs, the Jewish catacombs also lies outside the city walls, walls that once encircled and protected the whole of ancient Rome. The Jewish catacomb was discovered in the year 1859, beneath Villa Randanini vineyard. It consists of an array of tunnels that stretches for almost 200,000 square feet and has a depth of fifteen to fifty feet underneath the surface.

The catacombs have been vandalized over time, however, you will still be able to see many colorful frescoes, and tablets with the Jewish candelabra depicted. You will also be able to see inscriptions in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. The walls are covered with paintings of birds, dancing maidens, floral tributes, and grapevines. The catacomb also contains pockets of kokhim, which is a type of Jewish burial chamber.

Providing access to the Jewish catacombs to the public is one of the 20 cultural itineraries designed for the Jubilee year, by the Italian cultural ministry. The program was presented last Tuesday by the Italian Culture Minister, Dario Franceschini. He said the program is the culmination of an extraordinary collaboration that shows how fundamental culture can affirm coexistence, integration, and dialogue.

Italy’s Islamic Community VP, Imam Yahya Pallavicini, said that the concept of mercy in Pope Francis's Jubilee initiative is present in both Jewish and Muslim doctrine. It presents the opportunity for both the communities to discover what they have in common.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter