|Location:||Entrance at Hal Bajjada St., Rabat.|
St. Agatha's Catacombs: All year daily Mon-Fri 9-16, Sat 9-12.
St. Agatha Museum: All year daily Mon-Fri 9-17, Sat 9-13.
Adults EUR 0.50.
|Address:||St. Agatha's Catacombs, St Agatha Str, Rabat RBT 07, Malta, Tel: +356-21454503.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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St. Agatha is Malta's oldest parish church and was named after St. Agatha, who fled from Sicily and took refuge in Malta. The reason was a decree by the Roman Emperor Trajanus Decius (AD 249-251), to persecute the Christians. The Christians in Rome used catacombs to bury their death and to hold their worships. Agatha fled together with a group of her friends, all Christians, to Malta. She spend her day praying in the crypt at Rabat. After several years she returned to Sicily, but was arrested in the moment she landed. She was brought before Quintanus, the praetor of Catania, who condemned her to torture and imprisonment, where she died after a few days, on the 5th of February 251.
The crypt at Rabat, where she spent so much time is today hewn into the solid rock. It is said, at the time of St. Agatha's stay, the crypt was a small natural cave. During the 4th or 5th century it was enlarged and an underground basilica created, which was venerated by the Maltese. Several passageways show biblical symbols from the early Christian, but the main chamber shows frescoes dating from the Middle Ages. Some of them are dedicated to St Agatha. Today a church is located above the crypt, which was named after St Agatha.
The catacombs are located next to the crypt. They were never meant to be hiding places during persecutions or living quarters. This catacombs are simply underground cemeteries, long narrow corridors with tombs and vaults on each side. Those tombs were used for the internment of two people, sometimes separated by a thin wall. Sometimes even treee, four, or five persons were buried in the same grave. The number of people buried in one vault is marked by semicircular cavities which were the rest for the head of the dead body. The passages have numerous Agape Tables, round tables of massive rock, about 60cm in diameter with an 6cm wide and 3cm high rim. On the front is a small opening in the rim. They were probably used for the final farewell repast, the opening usefull for the final cleaning of the table.