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Visit the Vatican’s ancient catacombs with Google Maps tour

They date back almost 2000 years, to the roots of the Christianity, and are dug deep into the ground by the Romans. Now, thanks to Google Maps, anyone can take a virtual visit of the early Christian burial sites in the ancient Priscilla catacombs and Dino Compagni catacombs.

Visit the Vatican’s ancient catacombs with Google Maps tour
The winding tunnels inside the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome [Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi]
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Commission of Culture and of the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, which oversaw the catacombs restoration, first suggested the project to us in 2011. During the inauguration of the revamped museum of the Catacombs of Priscilla, the Cardinal said our project closed “the gap” between “two extremes, remote antiquity and today’s contemporary world.”

Visit the Vatican’s ancient catacombs with Google Maps tour
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What our ancestors created is astounding. Restorers uncovered vivid late fourth-century frescoes depicting Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and Saints Peter and Paul accompanying Christians into the afterlife. Jesus’ face resembles portraits of the Emperor Constantine, who legalized Christian worship in 313. Users of Google Maps can now click the “see-inside” option for the catacombs, which allows them to move virtually through the narrow corridors tunneled out of soft tufa stone, and to see high-resolution images of the interiors from practically every angle.

Visit the Vatican’s ancient catacombs with Google Maps tour
View Larger Map
The artwork has spurred a fascinating debate. One fresco features a group of women celebrating a banquet and another shows a woman, dressed in robe and praying. Advocates for the ordination of women say it bolsters their assertions that women served as priests in the early church. But Fabrizio Bisconti, the superintendent of the Vatican's sacred archaeology commission, has said the women weren't celebrating Mass.

Whatever the truth, we are happy to contribute to art and culture. As this exciting project demonstrates, the Internet provides an extraordinary resource to make masterpieces available all around the world, or even under-earth!

Author: Giorgia Abeltino | Source: Google Europe Blog [November 28, 2013]

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