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Dining in Heaven
The earliest Christian visions of paradise
Dusty skeletons in burial niches once lined the narrow passageways that lead into the Catacomb of Callistus, the earliest official cemetery of the Christian community in Rome. Deep underground, in the oldest part of the catacomb, the austere passageways open onto a number of subterranean burial chambers, including six elaborate cubicles whose whitewashed walls are enlivened with large, brilliant paintings and decorative trim. Scene after scene—of Jonah being swallowed and then spat up by the whale, of baptisms and of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead—hints at the Christian promise of redemption, rebirth and resurrection, an appropriate subject for a burial chamber.

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