After a day of heat and crowds, Tim and I opted for a slower pace and took a trip south of the city to walk the Appian Way. It was an easy bus trip out of town and we got off near the San Callisto Catacombs. We walked a bit along the old road paved with smooth stones, Roman ruins and quaint Italian homes popping up every now and then. Soon, large billboards painted along stone walls announced that we were near one of the largest catacombs and we couldn’t resist taking a tour. Although we didn’t see any bones, we did learn a lot about early Christian art and saw images of phoenix, doves and fish painted and carved into the walls. The burial sites date to 2nd Century AD when wealthy families would purchase plots for their loved ones to be buried close to Christian martyrs. It was amazing to see the tiny niches carved into the stone where they stacked bones and devised intricate pathways allowing for more and more bodies to be buried. Sometime around the 6th or 7th Century the catacombs were abandoned. Today, most of the catacombs are empty of bones but still carefully maintained by the Catholic Church.
On our way back to the city, we walked further along the Appian Way to check out the church called “Domine Quo Vadis,” devoted to Saint Peter. Upon entering, we were drawn to a small marble slab near the front doors which included the footprints of Christ. According to legend, Saint Peter met Jesus while the former was fleeing persecution in Rome. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” (Latin: Domine, quo vadis?). Jesus answered, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again”.