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Culture Things To Do

These Catacombs Lie Hidden Under A DC Monastery

Mª del Rosario Castro Díaz Mª del Rosario Castro Díaz

Franciscan Hidden Catacombs In DC

They may not be 2,000 years old but they’re definitely one of the city’s best-kept secrets.

Hidden underneath the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America lies a replica of the original Roman catacombs and it’s simply fascinating.

Built in the late 1800s to educate young monks, the DC catacombs aren’t exactly ancient but they’re still totally worth the visit. Within the spooky underground chambers, you’ll find empty tombs and quiet crypts dedicated to deceased saints as well as an eerie temple dedicated to Purgatory, complete with a picture of Death reminding those who enter the chapel of their imminent deaths.

The catacombs, like the original ones in Rome, also serve as the final resting place for Ancient Roman saints. St. Innocent, a seven-year-old martyr lies inside a glass case, clad in silk garments and a wax mask with his mummified hands left bare. St. Benignus, a Roman soldier who was decapitated for his faith, also rests at the American catacombs and is still missing his head which remains in Rome.

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The Franciscan catacombs are not open to the general public but if you wish to see them, the friars hold daily guided tours into the crypt for those visiting the monastery.

Feature image: FR Lawrence Lew, O.P, Flickr. 

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