Catacombs of San Gennaro
The Catacombs of Naples
|Established||3rd century CE ?|
The Catacombs of San Gennaro are underground paleo-Christian burial sites in Naples, Italy. They are situated in the northern part of the city, on the slope leading up to Capodimonte. The site is now easily identified by the large church of Madre del Buon Consiglio.
Originally, there were three separate cemeteries, dedicated, respectively, to Saint Gaudiosus (San Gaudioso), Saint Severus (San Severo) and St. Januarius (San Gennaro). These catacombs in Naples are different from their Roman counterparts in that they have more spacious passageways along two levels. The lower level is the oldest, going back to the 3rd-4th century and may actually be the site of an earlier pre-Christian cemetery later ceded to the new sect. It apparently became an important religious burial site only after the entombment there of Bishop Agrippinus. The second level was the one expanded so as to encompass the other two adjacent cemeteries.
The foundation of San Gennaro extra Moenia is connected with the Catacombs of San Gennaro, the largest Christian catacomb complex in southern Italy. The first structure was probably the result of the fusion of two ancient burial sites, one from the 2nd century CE that contained the remains of Saint Agrippinus of Naples, the first patron saint of Naples, and the site from the 4th century CE that contained the remains of St. Januarius, the patron saint of the city.
The site was consecrated to Gennaro (Januarius) in the fifth century on the occasion of the entombment there of his remains, which were later removed to the Cathedral of Naples. Until the eleventh century the catacombs were the burial site of Neapolitan bishops. Between the 13th and 18th century, they were the victim of severe looting. Restoration of the catacombs was made possible only after the transfer of skeletal remains to another cemetery.