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St. Paul's Catacombs - Rabat, Malta

St. Paul's catacombs are part of a large cemetery once located outside the walls of the ancient Roman city of Melite, now covered by the smaller Mdina and Rabat. It also comprises the catacombs of Saint Agatha, San Katald, St. Augustine and many others. The cemetery probably originated in the Phoenician-Punic period. As in Roman tradition, Phoenician and Punic burials were located outside city walls. The many tombs discovered in areas outside the known line of the Roman city suggest that the city of Melite was close to equal size. The early tombs consisted of a deep rectangular shaft with one or two chambers dug from its sides. This type of burial was used well into the Roman occupation of the islands, but the chambers grew larger and more regular in shape over time. It is probable that this enlargement joined neighboring tombs and led to the creation of small catacombs, which became the norm by the fourth century AD. The catacombs were in use till the seventh, possibly eighth century. Some of the catacombs were used again during the re-Christianisation of the Island around the 13th century. The main complex, covering an area of more than 2000 square metres, is so far the largest catacomb ever to be found on the island. It is large enough to have served as a communal burial ground in successive phases of Malta's history. The excavation of the catacombs began in the late 1800s and, other than the construction of protective rooms, no further conservation was undertaken in the twentieth century. #History

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