St. Cataldus Catacombs
Overshadowed by other, more famous Maltese catacombs, this ancient burial chamber has one of the best examples of a ritual agape table.
This small church in Rabat is one of the few tributes to Saint Cataldus, the bishop of Tatanto in Apulia and a rather obscure Irish saint propagated by the Normans, who likely introduced him to the island of Malta.
The ancient catacombs that lie beneath the church are often overshadowed by Malta’s more well-known St. Paul and St. Agada catacombs. But this little gem is worth a visit.
Notably, the St. Cataldus catacombs hold one of the best examples of an agape table, a circular platform hewn out of the rock used for early Christian funerary rituals. After a body was interred, and once a year on the anniversary of the burial, relatives would gather in the catacomb for a celebratory meal to commemorate the dead.
The catacombs are accessed by a steep staircase in the church. The stairway leads to a vault that opens into the Baldachin-style tombs, where an arch in the corner is decorated with pictures of doves. Dating from the late 2nd to the 3rd centuries, these small catacombs were originally a Punic burial shaft. The graves in the catacombs are beautiful examples of canopied tombs, while many other graves are hewn in the rocks.
Know Before You Go
The church is close to the main church of St. Paul, at Rabat centre.
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