A frequent refrain of those touring the real Roman Catacombs is “Hey! I wanna see a dead body.” At the replicated Roman Catacombs in DC, you’re in luck. Deep beneath the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in upper Northeast DC lie the remains of a martyred 7-year-old from the second century, St. Innocent. How does a second-grader become a martyr for his faith? We’ll never know. What we do know is that he was found buried with two adults, ostensibly his parents – some parents enter their kids in pageants, others push for martyrdom – and that his body was found holding a palm frond, which marked him as a martyr.
Clad in an elaborate beaded dress, St. Innocent also wears a wig and a wax mask to hide and protect his skull. Given the dress and the mask’s plucked eyebrows and pink lip gloss, you’ve got to wonder how the little martyr would have felt if his schoolmates ever saw him in this getup (girls = yucky; martyrdom = cool).
St. Benignus, a Roman soldier who was beheaded for his faith, is also entombed here. Well, most of him is – his skull is still in Italy. Both saints were originally buried in the real Roman Catacombs, 900 miles of underground passageways where Christians buried their dead.