Rare Jewish catacomb in Rome opens to public for first time

Catacombs at Vigna RandaniniCatacombs/Facebook

A rare Jewish catacomb in Rome is to open to the public for this summer.

In the past it has been possible to book private tours but public tours are now to be offered for the first time.

The catacomb at the Randanini vineyard is being opened up by Rome's culture ministry to coincide with the Pope's Jubilee Year of Mercy. 

The catacomb, in Rome's Via Appia, was created between the second and fourth centuries and contains some beautiful and ornately decorated family tombs or "cubicula". It was discovered in 1859 and covers about 18,000 square metres underground. The tours are being promoted by the Catacomb Society and others.

How to reserve a space on upcoming Vigna Randanini public tours on May 1 and June 5, 2016:

Posted by International Catacomb Society on Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The catacombs have until now been little known by any outside a specialist interest in the subject, because they are usually closed to the public. But within the Jewish archaeological community they are considered a great treasure. Many thousands of people were buried there. 

The first tours will take place from May to the first week in June, and then there are expected to be more in September and October.

An article on the Rome archaeology website explains that Rome's Jewish community dates from 161 BC when they fled there for safety. In Rome there are 60 known Christian catacombs and six Jewish catacombs.