The Catacombs beneath the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral circa 1815
CATACOMBS OF NEW YORK AN HISTORIC UNDERGROUND TOUR
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF CATACOMBS
These are human-made subterranean passageways for religious practice. Any chamber used as a burial place is a catacomb, although the word is most commonly associated with the Roman Empire. The first place referred as such was the system of underground tombs between the 2nd and 3rd milestones of the Appian Way in Rome, where the bodies of the apostles Peter and Paul, among others, were said to have been buried. The name of that place in late Latin was catacombae, a word of obscure origin, possibly deriving from a proper name, or else a corruption of the Latin phrase cata tumbas, “among the tombs”. The word referred originally only to the ones in Rome, but was extended by 1836 to refer to any subterranean receptacle of the dead, as in the 18th-century Paris catacombs. All Roman catacombs were located outside city walls since it was illegal to bury a dead body within the city. providing “a place…where martyrs tombs could be openly marked” and commemorative services and feasts held safely on sacred days.
Beneath the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral are the only catacombs in Manhattan and one of only a handful that exist in the entire United States. It is by far one of the most significant collection of tombs in the country historically. Underneath the nave of this 200 year old church are the crypts that have been a silent witness to the many struggles and accomplishments of prominent New York Catholics. It’s where bishops rest beside noteworthy New Yorkers who have played important roles in New York, American and Catholic history. Interred here are, among others, Rev. John Connolly, the first bishop of New York; Congressman John Kelly, successor to Boss Tweed from Tammany Hall and General Thomas Eckert, who was an adviser to Abraham Lincoln. Interestingly, Eckert’s family vault is still lit with original Edison light fixtures and constructed from Gustavino tilework like in Grand Central Terminal and the old City Hall Station.The Delmonico family, responsible for one of the city’s classiest and most exclusive restaurants, has 12 members resting peacefully inside their family vault.
In February of 2017 the Basilica decided that it was time to open the underground crypts for public touring since the Church is nearing the completing of a very long and expensive restoration that began in 2013. Tommy’s New York now has an exclusivity agreement with the Basilica and this historic collection of vaults are now available for daily public tours by candlelight 7 days a week at 11am 1pm and 3pm. You can only do this here with Tommy’s New York!
Old Saint Patrick’s Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Patrick%27s_Old_Cathedral
Catacombs Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catacombs#Around_the_world