Tuesday, November 5, 2013


It takes its name from the matron Priscilla a descendant of the gens Acilia Glabriona maybe the founder of the catacomb or, more likely, the donor of the ground
Two floors plus an intermediate one, maybe the Cemetery of Novella for a total length of approximately 12 km (7.5 miles)
Many martyrs were buried in the catacomb including Pope Marcellinus (296/304), the first bishop of Rome to be called Pope, and six other popes:
Marcello (308/309), Sylvester (314/335), Liberius (352/366), Siricius (384/399), Celestino (422/432) and Vigil (537/555)
It is one of the five catacombs open to the public with those of the Appian Way (St. Callistus, Domitilla and St. Sebastian) and that of Via Nomentana (St. Agnes)
Tomb of manufacturers of barrels or carriers of water represented in a fresco on the wall. On the fresco there is the signature written with coal by the Maltese scholar Antonio Bosio (1575/1629)
Paintings of the second half of the third century AD:
"Here the realistic tradition of Roman art, all committed to translating, maybe quickly and easily, a humble and ordinary 'cursus vitae' (story of a life) is combined with new figurative fashions, with signs and metaphors that suggest a life and a condition that go beyond the earthly horizon, to see a new and suspended world. (...) The atmosphere is heavenly and, while remaining on a real level with the scenes of motherhood and marriage, it rises in paradise with the central figure-portrait, in an attitude of prayer, in proportions much greater than the other, and thus, symbolically, more significant" (Fabrizio Bisconti)
On the opposite side "Jonah rejected by the monster"
At the center of the vault "Good Shepherd"
"The three episodes are very frequent in early Christian iconography: in the Roman catacombs, the only frescoes (without taking sculptures, therefore, into account) of Jonah are sixty-eight, twenty-third those of the Sacrifice of Abraham and those of Jewish youths twenty-two. These figures refer to the paintings found so far because, as is well known, archaeological research continues" (Sandro Carletti)
"Madonna with Child and prophet who points the star" maybe Balaam or Isaiah, of the third or fourth decade of the third century AD, the oldest depiction of this kind in catacombs
To the left of the Madonna fragmented "Good Shepherd" in stucco
The decoration was on the upper part of an arched tomb that was demolished to make way for more graves
Maybe it was a room that was part of the house of Priscilla and was perhaps intended to be used as a burial place at a later time. It was the first nucleus of the catacomb
Square room with two painted inscriptions in Greek (dedications of some Obrimo to his cousin and fellow Palladio and to his wife Nestoriana) and paintings "Scenes of the two Testaments" and "Fractio panis" (Eucharistic supper) maybe half third century
The scenes from the Old and New Testaments are:
"Moses drawing water from the rock" episode that prefigures baptism and was found seventy-three times in the catacombs of Rome
"Susanna threatened by the elders" and in front two more episodes involving Susanna, perhaps the charge of the elderly and thanksgiving to God from Daniel and Susanna
In the upper part fragment of "The Healing of the paralytic"
On the right corner of the entrance wall "Phoenix at the stake" very damaged, the only example of this subject in ancient painting in the world
On the front of the arch partition "Adoration of the Magi"
On the reverse of the arch "Resurrection of Lazarus". This episode is represented seventy-three times in the Roman catacombs and it is the New Testament episode more represented
In the lower part of the arch "Noah's ark"
Traces of frescos to the right of the Fractio Panis "Daniel among the lions" and to the left "Sacrifice of Abraham"
"The most external of the Greek Chapel, dated to the late Gallienic period, shows, more than any other monument of late antiquity, a series of registers and a semantic growth. Above a lower part in fake marble, in fact, takes place in the cycle of Susanna in megalographic (massive) proportions, while the vault - mostly lost - seems to receive, within a complex linear plot, themes and signs of the cosmos, interpreted in a Christian sense" (Fabrizio Bisconti)
Here the inscriptions were found with the names of family members of the Acili
Fresco in the vault interpreted as "Annunciation"
In the back wall "Good Shepherd"
BASILICA OF St. SYLVESTER built above ground after 313. It was rebuilt in the years 1904/07
Nearby, on the Via Salaria Vetus, there are the CATACOMBS OF VIA ANAPO and the CATACOMBS OF THE GIORDANI not open to the public
The Catacomb of Via Anapo was the first to be found intact since antiquity on May 31, 1578
"The first to look at the underground cemeteries carefully as a scholar was in mid-1500s, the Augustinian Onofrio Panvinio. (...) He was the founder of the group of scholars who in the second half of 1500s turned to the catacombs with new scientific interest. Time, on the other hand, was ripe for the appreciation of these ancient monuments. The movement of the Counter-Reformation watched with interest the material evidence of early Christianity, capable, through a 'targeted' interpretation to confirm the dogmas of the Roman Catholic church. (...) This group of scholars was joined at the end of 1500s by the Maltese Antonio Bosio (1575/1629) the one who would lay the foundations of Christian archeology. (...) The 'Christopher Columbus' of the Roman catacombs (as he was described by G.B. De Rossi) was able to discover and study, in forty years, thirty new underground cemeteries" (Vincenzo Fiocchi Nicolai)

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