It was discovered in 2010 that the Santa Tecla catacombs—situated beneath an office building in Rome’s Ostiense area—contain fourth-century-A.D. paintings of the Apostles Paul, Peter, John, and Andrew, who were early followers of Jesus Christ.
A painting of the Apostle John (pictured in an underground Roman tomb) is among the oldest known depictions of some of the original 12 Christian Apostles, experts say.
The ancient art was revealed by lasers that burned off inches of calcium carbonate, which had accumulated on the paintings over the centuries in the humid chamber, according to Italian news reports.
The Apostle Paul
Archaeologists believe these images may have been among those that most influenced later artists’ depictions of the faces of Christ’s most important early followers. “These are the first images that we know of the faces of these four Apostles,” said Professor Fabrizio Bisconti, the head of archaeology for Rome’s numerous catacombs, which are owned and maintained by the Vatican.
Apostles Peter and Paul Shown Together
History records that both were martyred for their faith in approximately 64 AD., during the reign of Nero.
Paul was beheaded for his Christian faith, and Peter was reportedly crucified upside down, on a cross in the form of an “X”.
The Apostle Andrew
”John’s young face is familiar, but this is the most youthful portrayal of Andrew ever seen, very different from the old man with grey hair and wrinkles we know from mediaeval painting,” project leader Barbara Mazzei said.
The St Tecla catacomb, discovered in the 1950s and as yet unseen by the public, is accessed through the unmarked basement door of a drab office building, beyond which dim corridors packed with burial spots wind off through damp tufa stone.
The catacomb is close to the Basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, where bones discovered in a sarcophagus have been dated to the first or second century and attributed to St Paul.
- National Geographic – www.nationalgrographic.com
- St. Paul’s tomb unearthed: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/12/061211-saint-paul.html
- Reuters: http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2010/06/22/roman-archaeologists-find-oldest-images-of-apostles-in-a-catacomb/