We left our desks and libraries, we put aside (for the moment!) smoothing up records in our database, and we headed for Rome to held a joint field workshop with the members of the team of the “Cult of Saints”project, based at University of Oxford and directed by Professor Bryan Ward-Perkins. We have spent six intensive days in the Eternal City to study the ancient *tituli*, visit the most important places associated with the cult of saints, examine Late Antique and Early Mediaeval mosaics and frescoes, and dwell on the Christian topography of Rome.
During our lenghty wanderings in Rome, we visited almost thirty churches, excavations under the basilica of St. Peter (Scavi San Pietro) and under the basilica of Santi Giovanni e Pietro on the Cealian Hill, Vatican Museums (although unluckily Museo Pio Christiano was closed), and, of course, the catacombs. Moreover, on Tuesday morning we called to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. We were received by Father Zdzisław Kijas, consultor in the Congregation, who told us about the modern procedure that leads to the beatification and canonization of saints.
Friday was a special day – for more than 8 hours we were visiting the catacombs, guided by two epigraphists, Professori Antonio Felle and Donatella Nuzzo. We started with those of Domitilla, then those of San Sebastian where we spent a lot of time examining graffiti which attested the cult of Peter and Paul in the famous triclia. Finally, we went to the catacombs of Callixtus where our group’s lengthy stays in the Crypt of the Popes and other interesting cubicula made life uncountable for tourists and their guides…
The members of the Oxford team were privileged, because the signs of the ancient cult of saints were omnipresent. We, the humble presbyters, had much less reasons to got excited. Nonetheless, we got our share in the cubiculum of the presbyter Eulalios in the catacombs of Domitilla. We were also finding presbyters in lapidaries, especially generous for us was the lapidary in San Clemente. And, of course, there was the great mosaic of the presbyter Peter in Santa Sabina, probably the biggest in the world inscription of a presbyter.
The week in Rome passed quickly, but fruitfully. Putting our knowledge of the historical sources in the archaeological and topographical context provoked us to rethink once again our hypotheses, and gave us a fresh look on some of the most difficult conundrums we are dealing with. Certainly then we go back to our desks, libraries, and databases with a new enthusiasm, more profound interest, and fresh ambition.