Sunday, November 3, 2013


The name comes from the donor of the land where the underground cemetery complex was built
It was known in ancient times also with the suffix ad sextum Philippi or super Philippi (Philip might have been a landowner in the area): it marked the sixth mile of the Via Campana
The catacomb was dug, according to tradition, for the burial of the martyrs Simplicius and Faustino, killed in 303 under Diocletian (284/305)
It was used mostly for the burial of the farmers in the surrounding area, and therefore has a sober and poor style
Above ground there was a sacred precinct, called the Magliana sacred grove, used by the ancient pagan society of the FRATRES ARVALES, association of priests, whose origins date back to the Roman Republic, whose TEMPLE OF THE GODDESS DIA was identified in the same enclosure
The Arvales recorded their religious life and worship (the Acta fratrium Arvalium) on marble boards, many of which have survived due to their reuse as paving slabs of the Generosa's Basilica
The catacomb is mostly rich of pagan as well as Christian remains. It was dug inside a hill and comprises a single level
"The practice of creating underground areas to be used for funerary use was by no means the invention of the first Christian communities of Rome: it was very widespread, as is well known, in various cultures and civilizations of the ancient world, especially where the nature of the subsoil allowed an 'easy excavation and a reliable stability of the underground facilities. To remain in the Roman or Lazio geographic area, underground tombs of various sizes were created by the Etruscans, the Sabines and the Romans themselves. In this region the underground burial was extraordinarily facilitated by the excellent local tuff, easy to dig through and fairly reliable statically" (Vincenzo Fiocchi Nicolai)
The old entrance to the catacomb was closed by a BASILICA, built by St. Damasus (366/384), whose remains were identified by G.B. De Rossi in the nineteenth century
In the apse a fenestella confessionis allowed to see the crypt of the martyrs, while a side door was the new access to the catacomb
In 682 Pope St. Leo II (682/683) moved the relics of the martyrs of the catacomb to the church of St. Bibiana from where they were taken to St. Maria Maggiore. The catacomb was thus progressively abandoned
The four most important martyrs who were buried here are commonly called the Portuensi holy martyrs: SIMPLICIUS, FAUSTINO, BEATRICE and RUFINA
Of the latter nothing is known. The medieval passio said that the first to die were the brothers Simplicius and Faustino, killed and thrown into the Tiber by the Tiberine Island. The current would have carried their bodies to the bend of the Tiber, and here they would have been stranded. Collected by their sister Beatrice, they were placed in the catacombs of Generosa. Some time later Beatrice as well suffered martyrdom and she was placed next to her brothers
Behind the external apse of the basilica MARTYRDOM CRYPT:
Fresco with Byzantine features, called "Coronatio Martyrum", dating to the sixth century. "Christ, who gives the crown of martyrdom to Simplicius, flanked by Beatrice and on the left Faustino and Rufina"
The fresco suffered serious damage when G.B. De Rossi tried to detach it and more deterioration when it was transferred to canvas. It was restored in 1983

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