Newly restored Italian frescoes have revealed what could have been women priests in the early Christian Church, reports The Daily Mail.
The frescoes, dating back to between 230 to 240 AD, are housed inside the Catacombs of Priscilla of Rome and were unveiled by the Vatican this week.
Proponents of a female priesthood have said that the frescoes prove there were women priests in early Christianity. The Vatican, however, has responded by saying that such assertions are sensationalist 'fairy tales'.
Dug out from the second to fifth centuries, the Catacombs of Priscilla are a complex labyrinth of underground burial chambers stretching eight miles beneath the northern half of the city.
The area is often called the ‘Queen of the catacombs’ because it features burial chambers of popes and a tiny, delicate fresco of the Madonna nursing Jesus dating from around 230 to 240 AD - the earliest known image of the Madonna and Child.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister, opened the ‘Cubicle of Lazzaro’ which is a tiny burial chamber featuring 4th century images of biblical scenes, the Apostles Peter and Paul, and one of the early Romans buried there in bunk-bed-like stacks as was common in antiquity.