Christian burial in catacombs under Roman occupation
Under Roman rule, Maltese Christians buried their dead in secluded subterranean cemeteries. These catacombs consist of extensive corridors periodically fretted with tombs. Burials within city limits were forbidden to all in the Roman period, and were found external to the fortification walls. Today most of the catacombs are located on the margins of Mdina within the Rabat area.
St Paul’s Catacombs
These particular catacombs take their name from their proximity to St. Paul’s church and grotto, where the apostle is believed to have preached during his sojourn in Malta. This cavernous sepulchre with hundreds of tombs dates from the 3rd century and constitutes one of the earliest archaeological evidence of Christianity in Malta. It is one of the largest hypogea that covers an area of over 2,000 square metres, having a large hall divided into two chambers. One hall features examples of the reclining tables whilst the second was possibly used in the medieval period as a shrine. The few remaining murals in St. Paul’s catacombs are the only surviving evidence in Malta of painting from the late Roman periods.
- The solemn but fascinating mystery of the labyrinthine sepulchre and galleries.
- The circular rock agape tables that the Romans employed to commemorate, as was their custom, the annual Festival Of The Dead.
- The poignant rectangular recesses known as the ‘Luculus tombs’, used for the bodies of small children.
St Agatha Street, Rabat, Malta.
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- Bus 51, 52, 53 from Valletta Bus Terminus.
- Bus 202, 203 from St. Julians.
- Mon - Sun from 9 am to 5 pm. Last admission at 4.30pm.
- Closed on 24, 25 & 31 Dec, 1 Jan, Good Friday.
- €5 adults, €3.50 concessions, €2.50 children.