A Mass Grave from the Catacomb of Saints Peter and Marcellinus in Rome, Second-Third Century AD

By Blanchard, Philippe; Castex, Dominique et al. | Antiquity, December 2007 | Go to article overview

A Mass Grave from the Catacomb of Saints Peter and Marcellinus in Rome, Second-Third Century AD


Blanchard, Philippe, Castex, Dominique, Coquerelle, Michael, Giuliani, Raffaella, Ricciardi, Monica, Antiquity


Introduction

The catacomb of San Pietro e Marcellino (Saints Peter and Marcellinus hereafter) extends to almost 3ha with 4.5km of subterranean galleries at three levels, containing between 20 000 and 25 000 burials (Guyon 1987; 2004). Located to the south-east of Rome on the ancient Via Labicana, it lies some 3km from the city walls and from the gate of the same name. The catacomb of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, now at Via Cassilina 631, is closed to the public (except by appointment). A religious establishment and a school stand above ground, immediately next to the mausoleum of Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. The origins of this catacomb appear to go back to the last third of the third century AD, re-using an earlier network of drainage tunnels. However, it was not the first use of the area for burial. A cremation cemetery and small mausolea of the first century AD have been identified on the surface north of the Via Labicana during excavations carried out in 1948 and 1977, and a cemetery of imperial equites, or 'equites singulares Augusti', beginning in the early second century AD, has been identified some 50m north of the ancient road. It was most probably surrounded by other private funerary installations (Guyon 2004: 210, 217). The cemetery was developed further in the early fourth century AD, when Constantine built an important mausoleum dedicated to his mother, Helena; the apse of this building is still standing.

The subterranean catacomb remained a funerary space up to the beginning of the fifth century AD, but from then onwards the cemetery was gradually transformed into a pilgrimage site where only some privileged individuals could be buried next to the saints (Guyon 2004: 212). Worship and devotion at the tombs of the saints continued during the sixth century and the site saw its golden age during the first third of the seventh century, when itineraries for the pilgrims were written down. The eighth and ninth centuries were marked by the translation of relics, ordered by a series of pontiffs, towards intra muros churches, as Lombard and Saracen incursions caused insecurity and troubles in the neighbourhood of Rome. Notwithstanding these measures, the remains of the saints Marcellinus and Peter were stolen and taken to Germany in AD 827 (Guyon 2004: 214). Pilgrimages, however, did not stop: though no longer containing bones, the tombs of the various saints continued to be venerated.

In the middle of the ninth century certain monuments were still being refurbished (underground and on the surface) but then the catacomb fell gradually into obscurity, to be rediscovered in 1594 by A. Bosio. Thereafter the site was visited frequently up to the middle of the nineteenth century, when new investigations were started by G.B. de Rossi. It was at this time, or more precisely in 1852, that the site came under the auspices of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology (PCAS), a Vatican organisation dedicated to the safekeeping, study and preservation of all Christian catacombs in Rome (Fiocchi Nicolai et al. 1999).

Investigations in 2002 and 2005/6 (Figure 1)

The greatest part of the galleries was gradually cleared from the end of the nineteenth century up to the 1970s. However, a small area (area X, first catacomb level), located centrally with respect to the network of underground galleries, remained inaccessible because of substantial amounts of rubble. In 2002, investigations were carried out there as a result of necessary maintenance of the areas waterworks; this was done under the direction of R. Giuliani (a PCAS Inspector and a specialist in Christian archaeology) and M. Ricciardi (an archaeologist contracted to PCAS).

The removal of the rubble revealed new funerary spaces that differed markedly from the traditional scheme observed in the rest of the catacomb, and indeed in other catacombs. These are normally characterised by straight galleries provided with loculi (simple individual burials), arcosolia (more elaborate burials) or cubicula (small chambers in which are regrouped several individual burials). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Mass Grave from the Catacomb of Saints Peter and Marcellinus in Rome, Second-Third Century AD
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.