Day 13: Friday, September 17: Rome: The Catacombs, Colosseum, The Forum
Today was our second of two full days in Rome. The weather was a blessing, with showers only in the morning hours, and partly sunny skies in the afternoon. Temperatures were around 80. We read from Philippians 4 as we left the hotel.
After a great breakfast, we departed at 8:45 and drove straight to the Domitilla Catacombs. This is one of the three largest underground cemeteries in Rome (a total of 64 catacombs have been discovered). This one was the first Christian graveyard and it dates from about 200 – 800 AD. This catacombs here consist of 4 labyrinth layers of graves spanning about eight miles. It was incredible to see so many of them.
St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls
From here we visited St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls. The church originally goes back to around the time of Constantine, but it was completed in 390 AD. It was rebuilt many times. A fire in 1823 destroyed it, but it was rebuilt shortly later in 1827. By tradition, Paul was buried here. The traditional hand cuffs that bound Paul are also displayed here. 267 Popes are also displayed here all around the sanctuary. The church is owned and maintained by Vatican City.
Next we drove past the Circus Maximus (a stadium that held 300,000 people to the area of the Colosseum. After lunch on our own (it was fun to explore the small restaurants once last time!), we visited this massive amphitheater that was built between 72 and completed about 80 AD. Finishing touches on the Colosseum were done until around 90 AD. The first 8 years was just to prepare the foundation and lower levels. Over 300 tons of iron (e.g., pins) was used to hold the structure together.
The Colosseum held up to 70,000 people. Gladiators fought here for 450 years against both animals and other men. By last use of the Colosseum was 523 AD. Later, two earthquakes destroyed about half of this structure. Going inside the Colosseum was amazing! We went to the top for a panoramic view from all sides. We then descended down to the lower level. 54 lifts or trap doors were used to lift both animals and gladiators.
“The Apostle Paul was a faithful servant of Christ. See where he most likely was sentence to death today within the Roman Forum was moving for me. It was a blessing following in his footsteps.” -Tour Member-
Constantine’s & Titus’ Arch
Exiting the Colosseum we next past by Constantine’s Arch. This was built in 315. It is one of seven arches still standing today. Titus’ Arch was built shortly after the Jerusalem campaign in 70 AD. Inside of this are the Menorah can still be seen.
Before leaving the area, we walked through the Roman Forum. We past by all kinds of Roman structures, pillars, and the open area of this ancient marketplace. Standing by the Basilica of Julia and the Temple of Castor & Pollux, we read from Acts 28 (28:11 mentions these two “twin gods” of Jupiter, gods of protection for sea-farers and warriors), and sections of Romans 15 and 16. Flowing Paul’s successful ministry here in Rome (and probably in Spain), he comes back to Rome where he is tried most likely in the Basilica of Julia. He was beheaded in 67 AD. God used him in amazing ways to spread the Gospel to so many! It was special to stand nearby where he was condemned to death. He gave his life for the cause of Christ!
We went back to our hotel. At 6:30 we had the required Rapid Covid Test for our flight home tomorrow. Dinner followed, with a few taking a walk to the Colosseum after dinner. Thanks be to God for a great group joining together for a great trip as we followed in the footsteps of Paul, God’s faithful servant.