This week, the Vatican unveiled restored frescoes discovered in the Catacombs of Priscilla. The cemetery catacombs are known as “Queen of the catacombs” because it features a delicate fresco of the Mary nursing Jesus. The image is dated from around 230-240 CE, and is the earliest known image of the Madonna and Child.
But there is something else contained in the images that has proven somewhat of a breaking controversy: frescoes some say depict women priests in the early Christian church.
Proponents of this concept of an Early Christian priestesshood say that the frescoes prove there were women priests before the rise of later attitudes in the Christian Church which held women in lower regard. But the Vatican has responded that such assertions are nothing more than “sensationalist fairy tales.”
The catacombs were dug between the second to fifth centuries, and stretch miles beneath the northern half of Rome. The Vatican’s culture minister, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, presided over the unveiling of the newly-restored “Cubicle of Lazzaro.” This tiny burial chamber showcases 4th century images of New Testament scenes, such as the Apostles Peter and Paul.
The catacombs feature two scenes showing a group of women celebrating a banquet. This is said to be the banquet of the Eucharist. While another fresco shows a woman, dressed in a cassock-like dalmatic robe. But the controversial image shows her holding her hands in the position used by priests for public worship, indicating that she held the role of priestess in a Church often presumed to have reserved this position exclusively for men.
What do you think about the images?
(Article by Micah Naziri; images via Reuters)