Monday, February 24, 2014


Maybe four distinct phases, identified in a period between 320 and 360 AD, when it was very common to have in the same family some members converted to Christianity and others still devoted to pagan worship
Discovered by chance in 1955, it is one of the most beautiful hypogeums in the world for the richness of its paintings, an authentic art gallery of the fourth century
Maybe the tombs belong to two related families or two branches of the same family
The entrance stairway leads to a CORRIDOR and TWO CUBICLES maybe built in the first phase and decorated with "Scenes from the Old and New Testament": the fall of Adam and Eve, Noah's drunkness and Isaac's dinner
At the end of this corridor, through steps, there is an access to TWO CUBICLES maybe built in the second phase:
The first has columns in the corners and cross vaulting with "Stories of the Old Testament": a probable representation of the Flood, Samson strangling the lion, the dream of Joseph, Moses saved from the waters, Adam and Eve with Cain and Abel, the passing of the Red Sea
In a third phase ANOTHER CORRIDOR was built, starting from the middle of the first one, leading to a VESTIBULE and two cubicles:
The so called CUBICLE OF THE TELLUS where are represented "Pagan scenes": Gorgon, Tellus and zoomorphic elements
The so called CUBICLE OF SAMSON oval in shape, where there are also original "Christian scenes" such as Samson slaying the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, Barlaam stopped by the angel, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
From another vestibule TWO CORRIDORS begin, one with cells and the other with stairs leading to a well
In the fourth phase of construction an ambulatory was built toward west leading to a VESTIBULE WITH A HEXAGONAL PLAN, corner columns and vault with a central medallion on which a "Bust of a man with rotulus" is represented. In the lunette of the arcosolium (arched niche) on the right there is an exceptionally unusual painting: "Anatomy lesson with a corpse"
From this vestibule there is access to two rooms and two arcosolia
ANOTHER VESTIBULE enclosed by a fence, leads to three cubicles, where there are paintings with "Pagan scenes": Labors of Hercules, Admetus and Alcestis, Ceres, as well as paintings with "Christian scenes": soldiers gambling for the robe of Jesus with a curious device for drawing lots, Job and his wife, the giving of the Law, three Jews in the furnace, the stories of Moses, Noah's ark
While it is not possible to attribute the hypogeum to a specific household, not having epigraphic sources, it can be assumed that this funerary complex, built first by Christian people, was also used by pagan people, perhaps by the time of the revival of paganism under Julian the Apostate (361/363)

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