There was a great deal of hullabaloo happening at the Santa Tecla Catacombs which are situated beneath what is today, an office building, in the Ostiense area of Rome.
They have found a painting of the Apostle John; and this painting may well be the oldest piece of iconography depicting the original 12 Apostles of Christianity. According to experts, this may throw some insight into the understanding of the Apostles and the way people held them in high regard during those times.
The paintings have dated back to the 4th century A.D. and there are some more paintings that have been found there. There are paintings depicting Paul, Peter, Andrew and John who, according to the Bible and Christianity, were the earliest followers of Jesus Christ.
Burning off the layers:
The most interesting bit is that though these paintings had existed here for ages, no one had ever noticed them. The reason for this negligence had been that these paintings had gotten covered with layers of calcium carbonate that had gotten accumulated over them. The centuries of humidity in the chamber had worked to add up on the calcium carbonate. The ancient art was revealed when these layers of calcium were removed using lasers.
The restoration of the Catacombs cost the Vatican around 60,000 Euros which roughly translates to $ 73,400.
What is a catacomb?
Catacombs are ancient subterranean passageways that were built by humans and were meant to offer for protection or burial. Any chamber around the world that is used for purposes related to burial could be referred to as a catacomb. The term, however, is generally associated with the Roman Empire.
Most of these catacombs lay under the cities’ main framework and were, most often than not, used as secret meeting places for cults, and/or shelters and hideouts for war refugees.
The Catacomb Paintings:
Experts who have found the paintings believe that these might well be the oldest known icons of the Apostles. They further went on to speak of how these paintings may have been painted to watch over the body/remains of a devout nobleman from Rome. Catacombs were, more than often, used as tombs.
The Catacomb Fresco:
The oldest ever known icon of the Apostle Paul has been found on the ceiling of this catacomb. The frescoes that have been found all over the catacomb are indeed very interesting themselves.
The newer laser techniques of restoration have made an interesting discovery – the painting that was believed to be solely that of Paul’s image has now shown that it is but a larger work that includes images of the Apostles Peter, Andrew and John. Not just this, but there is also a depiction of Jesus Christ that can be seen here and He is depicted in the form of the Good Shepherd.
Bernard P. Prusak, the chair of Theology and Religious studies at the Villanova University in Pennsylvania spoke to the National Geographic. He said that the positioning of the images has some sort of devotional aspect/dimension hidden behind it. There is a need for some more serious studying that has to be done at the site, which can help throw light on the situation.
The Lord Is My Shepherd:
There is an image of Christ, depicted as the Good Shepherd, right in the centre of the catacomb. There are indicators that point towards the fact that the Four Apostles are depicted in the corners of the painting.
According to Prusak, these four apostles make for a rather odd grouping. They were never very closely associated in any of the Gospels. There are, however, no doubts about why Paul and Peter were included.
Peter and Paul were said to have died right there in Rome. Given the fact that they were important figures for the city, their depictions come as no surprise.