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Sightseeing the Catacombs - 1833

Catacomb art depicts Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well.


Pe-taw-on-e-quot was an Ottawa Indian from Michigan, who received his education in Protestant and Catholic mission schools. Bishop Reese of Michigan sent him to Cincinnati for further training, and then on to Rome to study for the priesthood. Continually sick after his arrival there, he did not write home often. The one letter that survives from his stay in Rome was addressed to a beloved younger sister, whom, because of her loveliness, the missionaries nicknamed “Queen of the Ottawas.” The letter is dated this day April 17, 1833.


My Dear Sister….

There are really fine things to be seen in Rome. On the feast of SS. Sebastian and Fabian we visited the Catacombs, two or three miles out of the city, where is a church dedicated to those saints, which I have already mentioned in previous letters. Perhaps our countrymen would not believe that there was such a place as that place which I saw myself with my own naked eyes. We entered in with lights and saw the scene before us. As soon as we entered we saw coffins on the top of each other, in one of which we saw some of the remains. The cave runs in every direction, sometimes is ascended by steps, and sometimes runs deeper, and one would be very easily lost in it. There are some large places and a chapel; I am told by the students that the chapel is where Pope Gregory was accustomed to say mass. I assure you it would excite any human heart to behold the place where the ancient Christians were concealed under the earth from the persecution of the anti-christians. Indeed they were concealed by the power of God. They sought Jesus and Him alone they loved….

I remain your most affectionate brother,

William Macatebinessi.


Blackbird, Andrew J. History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan. 1887.

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