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The ornate title page of “Underground Rome” (Roma Sotterranea) illustrates a 17th century view of the Age of Persecutions (3rd century A.D.). The book, which contains a survey of the Christian catacombs by Antonio Bosio, first appeared in 1632. Bosio is known as the “Columbus of the Catacombs” since he was the first person to explore the catacombs after they were abandoned in the fourth century.

The top figure of the title page shows the figure of the Church seated on a throne. To the right are an overturned pagan altar and a broken idol, while allegorical figures, which may represent error and heresy, cower at the left. The flanking panels show the agonies of the martyrs whose blood was “the seed of the Church.” In the center register the sequence of burial is shown. On the left is a gallery with loculi or burial niches and a fossor (digger) coming up a stairway from the lower level. In the center, two burials are in progress; the bodies wrapped in shrouds are carried by the mourners to the gravesites. At the right the body is placed in the loculus prior to sealing the grave. The lower register center panel is a sketch of a sarcophagus. The portrait of the deceased is in the center circle and is flanked by Biblical scenes such as Jonah and the great fish seen at the far left. At the top of the page is the coat of arms of the reigning pope when the book was published, Urban VIII.