The Catacomb Saints: How many clickbait titles can you come up with?

From Wikipedia:

Catacomb saints are ancient Roman corpses that were exhumed from the catacombs of Rome, given fictitious names and sent abroad as relics of saints from the 16th century to the 19th century. They were typically lavishly decorated with gold and precious stones.

There’s no question the subject is of some interest to scholars and historians – I’ve seen a few of these in my peregrinations around the world.


“Though selling the relics would have been considered simony, enterprising church officials still managed to raise funds while countering the iconoclasm by charging for transportation, decoration, induction and blessing.”

And keeping in mind that fundraising was foremost among church leaders then as now, it’s not surprising that so much effort was put into the preservation and illumination of these relics. Some of the bodies may have been of early Christian martyrs, but none were of any particular religious significance. Dressing them up and giving them the name of a saint, however, was the 16th-century equivalent of The National Enquirer or Buzzfeed.

These relics have been around for a long time, but when the Internet discovers something, it’s often presented as a “stunning new find” or some other silliness – anything to get eyeballs on ads, as you can see below.

Let’s look at the kinds of headlines one sees with a simple search for “Rome jeweled skeletons:”

  • These Skeletons Were Found In Roman Catacombs And You’ll Never Believe What They’re Wearing
  • Unbelievable Skeletons Unearthed From the Catacombs Of Rome
  • Meet the Fantastically Bejeweled Skeletons of Catholicism’s Forgotten Martyrs
  • Beauty from the crypt: Europe’s jeweled skeletons
  • 19 Bejeweled Skeletons That’ll Blow Your Mind
  • Incredible skeletal remains of Catholic saints still dripping in gems and jewellery discovered by ‘Indiana Bones’ explorer
  • Beauty Beyond the Grave: The Story Behind Europe’s Bejeweled Skeletons
  • Secrets of the Catholic Church: Unbelievable Jeweled Skeletons Discovered in the Catacombs of Rome
  • The ghastly glory of Europe’s jewel-encrusted relics
  • The Catacomb Saints – So-Called Saint Skeletons Dressed in Jewel-Encrusted Gold and Silver
  • Skeletons Unearthed From The Catacombs Of Rome Have Jeweled Beards
  • Bones with Bling: The Amazing Jewelled Skeletons of Europe

As mentioned above, many of the referenced articles try to make it appear as though these relics were just recently discovered.

Click through for a collection of these images.

PS: if you do this, screw you. (Text like this often appears when you copy and paste from a website):

Read more:
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This is the 21st century equivalent of blinking text. It’s annoying, no soul in their right mind would ever incorporate it into a cross-post, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Well yeah, why *can’t* public transit be free?


Of course, it comes down to economics. But I’m reminded of a couple of stories.

A corporation needs a new accountant, and the VP of HR does the interviewing. In comes the first candidate.
“How much is two plus two?”
“What is this, a joke? I don’t need to work with simpletons!” And the first candidate walks out.
In comes the second candidate.
“How much is two plus two?”
“Well, four of course.”
“Thank you for your time, we’ll be in touch.”
In comes the third candidate.
“How much is two plus two?”
“How much would you like it to be?”
“You’re hired.”

Second was the delightful scene in the film “Dave” with Bill Pullman where a presidential stand-in rewrites the budget with the help of an accountant buddy of his to save a previously-vetoed homeless shelter that the (real) First Lady was supporting.

Now, that’s fiction – but you can’t tell me that if a room full of people of good will sat down with our national budget and cut out the fat and the folly and the inhumane bulldust, you couldn’t fund all sorts of useful and needful infrastructure and social programs like transportation and education. I simply refuse to believe it. The money is there, it’s just that so much of it is being redirected toward pork and waste and death and destruction, and the good will isn’t, because everyone wants to belly up to the public trough.

I got thinking about this today because of a recent article at the BBC reporting on a three-day free transit window in Paris (to reduce pollution), and one at The Atlantic which asks and explores the issue of free public trasnsporation.

When I was at the University of Utah in 1974, I began my experience as a freelance translator, and one of the pro-bono jobs I did was translating certain documents from Italian in to English for the benefit of Utah State Representative Sam Taylor regarding a free transit experiment in Rome. His obituary from the year 2000 illustrates that he was a controversial figure; in retrospect, I’m not sure if Representative Taylor was actually for or against the idea of free transit.

In 1970, Mr. Taylor was elected to the Utah House of Representatives, where he served until 1986. In 1973, he passed the Transit Act, which created the Utah Transit Authority.

Mr. Taylor would later become a UTA critic. In a 1995 letter to the editor printed in the Deseret News, Mr. Taylor lamented that too much tax money was being used for mass transit. He referred to the yet-to-be constructed light-rail system from Sandy to Salt Lake as “political boondoggle.”

In 1993, Mr. Taylor was appointed to the transit authority’s board and served two terms. He was often the sole voice of dissent on UTA board decisions and in 1995, while a board member, he filed a lawsuit against UTA to try to stop construction of Salt Lake County light rail.

Mr. Taylor was recognized in 1997 by the Amalgamated Transit Union and the AFL-CIO for “leadership and untiring support for the men and women who make UTA go.” Mr. Taylor left his position on the transit board last year.

The article below from the Deseret News is published from the Utah Transit Authority’s slant, but it does point out that Sam was an activist who was looking out for the rider rather than the corporation (click the image to read in full size).


Well, Light Rail and later the FrontRunner heavy rail system ultimately went through and continues to be expanded. It was needful and remains useful, but the UTA still struggles to increase ridership. From my extensive travels in Europe, I can tell you that a good and reliable mass transit system is a huge blessing for people from all economic strata. But here in America, where people are wedded to their cars, it’s constantly an uphill battle.

That experiment in Rome? Well, it didn’t work out so positively, but I give them props for trying.

The earliest urban experiment in free public transit took place in Rome in the early 1970s. The city, plagued by unbearable traffic congestion, tried making its public buses free. At first, many passengers were confused: “There must be a trick,” a 62-year-old Roman carpenter told The New York Times as he boarded one bus. Then riders grew irritable. One “woman commuter” predicted that “swarms of kids and mixed-up people will ride around all day just because it doesn’t cost anything.” Romans couldn’t be bothered to ditch their cars—the buses were only half-full during the mid-day rush hour, “when hundreds of thousands battle their way home for a plate of spaghetti.” Six months after the failed, costly experiment, a cash-strapped Rome reinstated its fare system.

If public transit is to succeed, it must be both convenient and affordable. A monthly pass which includes Trax and buses in Salt Lake runs $83.00, with 50% reduction for seniors and the disabled. Add another $100 (or $50) if you want to use the FrontRunner heavy rail. That’s not overly burdensome for the average wage earner, but the main problem in this area is that it’s not convenient if you don’t live near a bus line, and getting from one place to another can double your commute time as opposed to driving. mostly due to the time getting to a bus stop and the wait for transfers.

In the end, I am left wondering what the effect would be if public transit were free altogether, always. I’m not offering any suggestions on how to fund this, just wondering what the overall impact would be. In the meantime, follow this link to see how your city’s public transit system stacks up.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Rome, 1860

Intriguing shot of the Coliseum, Meta Sudans and the Arch of Constantine. Tourism was quite different back then.


Another image from 1858:


The conical monument in front is the Meta Sudans, or the “sweating cone,” a large conical fountain in ancient Rome built some time between 89 and 96 A.D. It marked the spot where a Roman triumphal procession would turn left from the via Triumphalis along the east side of the Palatine onto the via Sacra and into the Forum Romanum itself. The ruins of Meta Sudans survived until the 20th century. In 1936 Benito Mussolini, il stronzo, had its remains demolished and paved over to make room for the new traffic circle around the Colosseum. A commemorative plaque was set in the road. Although the above-ground structure is gone, its foundations were later re-excavated, revealing the extensive substructure. After another excavation in 1997-98 the traffic circle was closed and the area became a pedestrian district.

The same view today:


Photo by Konrad Zielinski, found at

Il vecchio lupo ha parlato.