The city has a distinct aroma, as all ancient places do. The pungent air is laced with dirt and grime, stories and sin, life and death and spice. Amidst the hustle and bustle of a thoroughly post modern city, the thrum of antiquity lurks on every corner like so many Easter eggs waiting to be uncovered.
Our journey began at the Titular Church of Saint Prisca on the Aventine. Though there is some trouble sorting out, to which Prisca/Priscilla this church is named for, it is clear that this is a place of early Christian worship and Mithraic holy site. It should be noted here that the name Prisca is the proper name, Priscilla is the diminutive, much like Kimberly and Kim. See what I did there :)
The church is adorned with magnificent art work some posted above, such as the painting over the altar depicting the baptism of Prisca by Peter. Other reliefs tell the story of martyrdom or the defiance of as she is seen awaiting execution in prison. The baptismal font is said to have been used by Peter himself, though this seems unlikely since the apostle most likely would have practiced immersion like most Church of God folk.
Speculation about which Prisca ranges from the biblical Prisca, mentioned 6 times in the New Testament, including 4 times prior to the naming of her husband Aquila. This is the couple who fled Rome under the exile of Jews issued by Emperor Claudius in 48-49 CE. According to the New Testament, the two flee to Corinth and it is there they encounter Paul and the Gospel of Christ. Thereafter they become co-laborers in the proclamation of the Gospel with Paul and a part of his inner most circle. They travel to Ephesus to help plant the church in the region prior to Paul's arrival and later he sends them ahead of himself to Rome.
Other traditions hold that the St. Prisca the church is named for was the young daughter of the biblical couple who was martyred under Claudius, making her the earliest official martyr of record. Still other traditions claim this Prisca was a woman of means perhaps a relative or named for the the biblical Prisca and her prominence in the early church.
While the Mithraeum underneath is mostly intact and offers still visible inscriptions, it has been hard to find archaeological evidences of an earlier house church. However, owed to tradition, it was on this spot, Callistus inscription near the altar explains the site was dedicated first to Hercules then to Christ as a place where Peter baptized many in Jesus' name. The stories hold more weight since the Aventine was the busy home to Roman tradesmen, merchants, laborers and those visiting the city looking for work, it was the blue collar hill in town. This then seems likely place for Prisca and Aquila to have gathered together with believers, awaiting Paul's visit riding out the terror of Nero and worshiping with Peter before his own death.
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