During my last two days in Rome, I visited the Jewish Synagogue and a few more Christian catacombs. The Jewish Synagogue provided a short by excellent tour outlining the history of Judaism in Rome. Jews in Rome immigrated from the Holy Lands and unlike other places in the world do not fall into the normal camps of Ashkenazi & Sephardic. Although all the Synagogues in Rome are Orthodox, I didn't see many Orthodox looking Jews walking the streets. Apparently the Jewish Ghetto, which housed all the Jews in Rome during the 2nd World War (and therefore was a place of great violence), is becoming popular among young people and very trendy. I find it interesting, especially in thinking about systematic oppression, that those Jews who were able to hold on to their property throughout the horrors of WW2 are actually reaping the economic benefits today. If only that could be said for other minorities!
That catacombs, continue to amaze me. My tour through the southern catacombs was not much different in content than my tour of the northern catacombs (Priscilla). In style though, the tour guide was much more engaged and enthusiastic about his job and... well, there were almost 50 people being shuttled through very small spaces (different than the solo tour I had before!)
The catacombs on the Appian Way are much more extensive than the ones up north. I learned that the volcanic dirt becomes hard like cement when exposed to moisture. These catacombs were desecrated by invaders and then abandoned by the Christians... a long time ago, maybe 5th or 6th century? (Apparently they were completely abandoned in the 10th c.) Then they were rediscovered in 1578 and the remains of many martyrs and popes were transferred to the Vatican. Since the invaders were not polite in their grave robbing, many of the bones can not be identified. I think its pretty quick thinking on behalf of the Vatican to come up with the philosophy that if a bone of a saint or martyr touched a bone of someone else... then they are both holy.
I was telling this story in class and a friend of mine reached over and touched her head to mine... saying "Now I'm blessed!" **that got me laughing!
The trip to Italy was great. I got sick in the end and I'm still fighting the cold. More about my plane ride in the next post!