Saturday, June 28, 2014



Founded in 1854 by Pope Pius IX Mastai Ferretti (1846/78) in the Lateran Palace and made to move here in 1963 by Pope John XXIII (1958/63
The two scholars who convinced Pius IX to found the museum were the Jesuit Giuseppe Marchi (1795/1860) and the great archaeologist G.B. De Rossi (1822/94)
It was only opened in 1970 in the new wing designed by the brothers Lucio (1922) and Fausto Passarelli (1910/98)
The material comes mostly from the Roman catacombs and ancient basilicas and includes over two hundred sarcophagi either intact or with just fronts and lids remaining
This collection of sarcophagi constitutes the largest and most important collection in the world of early Christian plastic funerary art from the origins, in the mid third century AD, until the beginning of the fifth century AD
“The Late Antiquity saw the rise of a different artistic language that appeared at the same time formally independent but also imbued by the cultural climate that developed in the late imperial Rome. The subjects are often derived from ancient classical models, but are loaded with new meanings: so Orpheus becomes 'figure' of Christ, Adonis or Endymion lend their image to portray Jonah lying under the pergola. (...) Moreover the figures, while maintaining their aesthetic value, have a mainly symbolic value, and a message to express. The result is a new art with semiotic communication, namely, an art that conveys ideas of Christian content through symbolic images” (Andrea Pomella)
“What is certain is that the parallel between the two Testaments, so evident in the depictions, looks like a familiar concept to the community of the early centuries, for which 'the dogmas common to the so-called Old and New Testaments form a unique harmony' (Origen) “(Umberto Utro)
Large group of “Jewish Inscriptions” especially from the Jewish Catacomb of Monteverde
“Inscription in the memorial stone of Abericio” bishop of Phrygia (Turkey) from the period of Marcus Aurelius (161/180)
It was donated in 1892 by the Turkish Sultan to Pope Leo XIII Pecci (1878/1903)
It is the second part of a Greek inscription in three parts, whose full content is known thanks to the literary tradition
The Christian interpretation is now commonly accepted and it would therefore be the oldest Christian inscription with a Eucharistic content
“Front of a sarcophagus with Jesus beardless among the twelve apostles bearded” from the church of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls
Statue “Good Shepherd” of the third or fourth century but largely restored in the eighteenth century
It was originally part of a large sarcophagus. The Gospel of John says: “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”
“The statue is imbued with a soft smooth molding and with a delicate elegiac vision, heir to the Hellenistic tradition” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)
“Sarcophagus with Good Shepherd and the symbolic Vine” second half of the fourth century. Jesus appears bearded and surrounded by putti harvesting grapes
“Sarcophagus of the two Testaments or Dogmatic” about 325/350 with portraits of a couple within a clypeus and episodes of both the Old and the New Testament
Here appears the oldest existing figurative representation of the Trinity, consisting of three bearded men, the Father at the center blessing, the Son to the right touching the head of Eve who just came out from Adam's rib and the Holy Spirit on the left
“Here seems to resonate the echo of the results of the first ecumenical council of the Church, the one convened by Constantine at Nicaea (325) and of the 'symbol' of the faith in the Trinitarian God (the 'Creed') that was formulated there. (...) The Holy Spirit on the left, less characterized (as in the conciliar text itself) is similar, in the lower register, to the figure of the prophet in the scene of the Epiphany. In fact, the Spirit, 'has spoken through the prophets', according to an addition to the Nicene text made in the Council of Constantinople (381), which would actually accept a concept acquired since the earliest Fathers of the Church” (Umberto Utro)
“Sarcophagus of the two brothers” about 350, where mass production is evident: the two male faces were placed in a, so to speak, ready-to-wear, sarcophagus
It had been prepared for husband and wife and adapted later for two men
“It sticks out among the others as a masterpiece for its high quality of execution and for its style, which features the carving of figures standing out for their powerful three-dimensional quality and attention to formal details” (Andrea Pomella)
“Sarcophagus of Sabinus” about 300/325 with a central representation of a woman praying and the healing of the man born blind in between the miracle at Cana and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes
“Four sarcophagi with scenes from the Old and New Testament”
“The sense of the combination between the various scenes most often eludes us, but we often have the impression that they were not arranged in a mere decorative disorder, but rather would follow a logic of consequence, or reference between the two Testaments, yet to be examined and verified” (Umberto Utro)
It shows the monogram of Christ (Chrismon) triumphant on the Cross of Christ's martyrdom
It clearly symbolizes the moment of the Resurrection with the two Roman soldiers won at the foot of the Cross, which is transformed from humiliating punishment to a symbol of victory
“The Traditio Legis is inspired by the visions of the Apocalypse and Jesus appears there as the risen Lord on the paradise mountain, flanked by the apostles Peter and Paul as two courtiers. (...) The element that essentially characterizes the scene is the scroll that Christ gives to Peter. Jesus reveals himself as the new Moses, in the act of promulgating a new law revealed by God to men (the 'new commandment' of love: cf. John 13:34). In the scene of the Traditio Legis it is not difficult to see, finally, the changing consciousness of the Christian community, increasingly influential and triumphant in Rome at that time” (Vatican Museums - Description exhibited by the sarcophagus)
“Sarcophagus aka the Via Salaria Sarcophagus” about 250/275 AD from the place where it was found near the Mausoleum of Lucilius Paetus
At the center there are the Good Shepherd and a faithful praying and at the sides the wise dialogue between the two spouses
“Sarcophagus of the spouses Agapene and Crescenziano” mid-fourth century with in the cover the representations of the three children in the furnace and the stories of Jonah
“It is no longer the 'paradise' theme to accommodate the Christian scenes, as, on the contrary, it is a now proper Christian sarcophagus to host on its edges smaller and smaller elements of the preexisting symbolic imagery. The new century, on the sarcophagus of Jonah, has arrived and it is almost anticipated: anticipation of the great biblical sarcophagi of the age of Constantine, anticipation of fronts with double register, but also an anticipation, in the disproportionate development of the narrative story of the prophet, of the biblical iconography of the full and late fourth century (...). The centrality and the cyclic development of the story of Jonah clearly prove the Christian interpretation of this famous and prophetic short story: this is, in fact, in the words of Jesus, the 'sign' that foreshadows his resurrection from the dead (Matthew 12:39). In this sarcophagus there are also present other Easter 'signs': the resurrection of Lazarus and, an almost hidden but illuminating detail, that of the water of the flood, from which Noah is rescued” (Umberto Utro)
“Sarcophagus with crossing the Red Sea”
Also the very important and wonderful cast of “Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus” now in the Museum of the Treasure of St. Peter's Basilica

1 comment:

  1. Grazie per questa bella presentazione del Museo Pio Cristiano...
    Umberto Utro, Curatore