Thursday, March 28, 2013

Now for something completely different...

I'm on the island of Malta at the moment, admiring their wonderful Holy Week traditions. But I've also been checking out the burial practices, which go way back, since the islands have been inhabited by one group or another since about 7000 BC. The really ancient peoples left all sorts of monuments of uncertain meaning, but the more modern groups - within the last couple of thousand years - are a little more intelligible. Here's what I visited today...

These catacombs (underground burial caves) were used first by the Phoenicians and then by the Romans and finally by the early Christians, of Roman and mixed descent, on Malta starting in the 200's and going up to the 9th century. This complex is one of many on the island. Underground, it looked like the photo below (sorry I can't post the pix more coherently but. Blogger's mobile app doesn't seem to permit it).

And moving way ahead to the 1200's and beyond, we see the lapida or stones set in the floors of all of the important churches here to mark the burials, under the floor of the church, of everybody from the Knights of St John, the Crusader knights who defended this part of the Mediterranean from hostile incursions, to more recent archbishops and local heroes. The markers are made of inlaid polished natural stones and cover the floors of most churches on the Maltese islands.

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