Catacomb of Priscilla

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Coordinates: 41°55′47″N 12°30′31″E / 41.9297°N 12.5087°E / 41.9297; 12.5087

The world's oldest-known image of Mary depicts her nursing the Infant Jesus. 3rd century, Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome.

The Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria in Rome, Italy, is situated in what was a quarry in Roman times. This quarry was used for Christian burials from the late 2nd century through the 4th century. Some of the walls and ceilings display fine decorations illustrating Biblical scenes. The Catacombs of Priscilla are believed to be named after Priscilla, a member of the gens Acilia and who was probably the wife of the Consul Acilius who became a Christian and was killed on the orders of Domitian. They contain a number of wall paintings of saints and early Christian symbols, such as the painting reproduced in Giovanni Gaetano Bottari's folio of 1754, where the Good Shepherd is depicted as feeding the lambs, with a crowing cock on His right and left hand.[1] Particularly notable is the "Greek Chapel" (Capella Greca), a square chamber with an arch which contains 3rd century frescoes generally interpreted to be Old and New Testament scenes, including the Fractio Panis. Above the apse is a Last Judgment. New, and somewhat controversial research has begun to suggest that the scenes traditionally interpreted as the deuterocanonical story of Susannah (Dn 13) may actually be scenes from the life of a prestigious Christian woman of the 2nd century AD.[2] Near this are figures of the Madonna and Child and the Prophet Isaiah, also dating from the early 3rd century.

The Priscilla catacombs contain the oldest known Marian paintings, from the early third century. Mary is shown with Jesus on her lap. The catacomb also has a depiction of the Annunciation.[3]

The catacomb of Priscilla, mentioned in all the ancient liturgical and topographic sources, has its modern entrance on the Via Salaria through the cloister of the monastery of the Benedictines of Priscilla. The Catacombs of Priscilla is divided into three principal areas: an arenarium, a cryptoportico from a large Roman villa, and an underground burial area of the noble Roman family Acilius Glabrio.

Papal tombs[edit]

On account of the fact that seven early popes and many martyrs were buried in the cemetery, it was known as the "Queen of the Catacombs" in antiquity. Two popes were buried in the Catacomb of Priscilla: Pope Marcellinus (296 - 304) and Pope Marcellus I (308 - 309).[4]

Alleged relics of Popes Sylvester I, Stephen I, and Dionysius were exhumed and enshrined beneath the high altar of San Martino ai Monti (founded as Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti), in the Esquiline area of Rome. Pope Sylvester I was likely originally buried in San Martino ai Monti, although some sources say his remains were transferred there. An unidentified papal sarcophagus discovered during the demolition of Old Saint Peter's Basilica was attributed to Sylvester I and moved to Nonantola Abbey, near the altar that contains the remains of Pope Adrian III. Other sources describe a combination of Sylvester I and Vigilius in an altar in St. Peter's.[5]

Other relics[edit]

The bones of Saints Praxedes and Pudentiana were contained in the catacomb until they were translated, in the 9th century, by Pope Paschal I to be housed in the rebuilt Santa Prassede.[6]

It is also in this catacomb that the relics of saint Philomena were found.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Hymns of Prudentius, Aurelius Clemens Prudentius - p.125 Publisher: Echo Library - 2008 - ISBN 9781406866100
  2. ^ Nicola Denzey, The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women,Boston: Beacon Press 2007
  3. ^ Vladimir Lossky, 1982 The Meaning of Icons ISBN 978-0-913836-99-6 page 173
  4. ^ Reardon, 2004, p. 32.
  5. ^ Reardon, 2004, pp. 33-34.
  6. ^ "Praxedes and Pudentia". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 26 October 2010. 

References[edit]

  • Reardon, Wendy J. 2004. The Deaths of the Popes. Macfarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-7864-1527-4