St. Paul's Catacombs
St. Paul's Catacombs are some of the most prominent features of Malta's early Christianity archeology. The archeological clearing of the site has revealed an extensive system of underground galleries and tombs dating from the third to the eighth centuries CE.
The site was first fully investigated in 1894 by Dr. Antonio Annetto Caruana. It is now managed by Heritage Malta.
There are over 30 hypogea in the entire St. Paul's and St. Agatha's complex, over 20 of which are open to the public.
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.[clarification needed]
The early tombs consisted of a deep rectangular shaft[clarification needed] 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 CE.
The catacombs were in use until the seventh, possibly eighth century. Some of the catacombs were used again during the re-Christianization of the Island around the 13th century.