St Agatha Motherhouse , Rabat , Malta
Opening Hours: Monday, Friday 9:30 - 16:30Saturday 9:00 - 12:00
- Family Pack: € 12.00
- Adult: € 5.00
- Student: € 4.00
- Senior Citizen: € 4.00
- Child: € 2.00
St Agatha's Catacombs are the oldest places of Christian Worship built under one of Malta's oldest churches and contains thousands of tombs. St Agatha's complex extended to 4100 square meters and date back to the 2nd and 3d century AD.
In St Agatha's Catacombs there are over 500 graves of several types, the majority for children, sectors for pagans, Jews, as well as for Christians.
The tombs were used for the internment of two people. A double tomb has a thin wall separating from one from the other. At times they used to put side by side not only two but three, four or even five persons that were buried in the same grave. Some of the tombs are even decorated with reliefs and frescoes in the narrow corridors on each side and vaults.
In almost each grave there is found the head rest, a sort of rock pillow. In each tomb is a Semicircular cavity where the head of the deceased person is rested in its position. The cavities denote exactly how many people were buried in each tomb.
St Agatha's crypt was hewn in the live rock. It is an underground basilica, which from early ages was venerated by the Maltese. At the time of St. Agatha's stay, the crypt was a small natural cave which later on, during the 4th or 5th century, was enlarged and embellished.
St Agatha's catacombs has yet another interesting feature is Agape Table or "table of love" within the chambers, there are platforms the cross section of which is often in the shape of a round biscuit with a part bitten off. The Agape Table has a diameter of about 80 cm raised some 60 cm above the floor. A rim about 6 cm wide runs along the circumference although the actual function of these structures are somewhat obscure. They say that they were used to commemorate the deceased during the funerary rites, or during an annual commemorative festival in honor of the dead.
Different tombs are saddle-back, canopied or baldacchino, arcosolium and just holes in the walls or Loculi of different sizes. You can notice many small niches cut in the side walls. These were used to hold an oil lamp to light the whereabouts. Many niches still bear soot marks. On the wall near the head of one of these is a Greek inscription, deciphered by Rev.A.Farrua SJ. which states " Before Christmas of September, Leonias was buried here. This inscription has suffered through negligence throughout the years and its difficult to read.
Loculi are side graves hewn in the side walls. Most of these were meant for children and babies. At times many of these are found near each other and very near to a parent tomb, denoting that they belong to the same family.