VATICANO ARCHEOLOGIA e RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: Catacombe Domitilla, presentati i nuovi restauri: ecco il nuovo museo, LA REPUBLICA, THE DAILY MAIL & THE TELEGRAPH U.K., (30/05/2017) [ITALIANO & ENGLISH].
1). ROMA – Catacombe Domitilla, presentati i nuovi restauri: ecco il nuovo museo, LA REPUBLICA (30/05/2017).
Si è svolta oggi la presentazione dei restauri e del nuovo museo delle Catacombe di Domitilla, nella zona dell’Appia Antica. Tra i presenti il cardinale Gianfranco Ravasi, presidente del Pontificio Consiglio della Cultura e Fabrizio Bisconti, sovrintendente della Pontificia commissione di Archeologia sacra del Vaticano. Grazie agli scavi archeologici condotti nel Novecento sono stati trovati nella struttura degli insediamenti funerari dell’epoca pre-cristiana (I secolo a.C.), oltre ai resti del tardo impero (III-IV secolo d.C.), quando gli esponenti di famiglie nobiliari di religione cristiana si facevano seppellire vicino alle reliquie dei martiri. (foto ANTONIO MASIELLO/AGF).
FONTE | SOURCE:
— LA REPUBBLICA (30/05/2017).
2). ROME – Stunning 1,600-year-old early Christian frescoes are revealed in Rome’s biggest catacomb after lasers remove centuries of grime, THE DAILY MAIL, U.K., (30/05/2017).
— Two areas of the vast labyrinth of Domitilla catacombs were unveiled adorned with a set of frescoes
— Renovated areas of Domitilla include beautiful frescoes from both pagan mythology and Christian faith
— The Domitilla catacombs are the largest in Rome, stretching over 12 kilometres and descending four levels
— They contain 26,250 tombs, many reserved for rich Romans, and date from the second to fifth centuries AD
The catacombs of Domitilla, close to the Appian Way, have been restored using laser technology to remove centuries of grime and dirt that had rendered them invisible.
The renovated areas include frescoes from both pagan mythology and Christian faith, revealing how wealthy Romans moved away from their pagan beliefs toward the religion of Christ around the fourth century AD.
The Domitilla catacombs, named after a member of the Roman family that had commissioned the burial grounds, are the largest in Rome.
They stretch over 12 kilometres (7.4 miles) and descend four levels with 26,250 tombs, dating from the second to the fifth centuries.
The intricately painted frescoes decorate the ceilings of two crypts, which were both unveiled on Tuesday after decades of delays to renovations.
They depict scenes of from the Old and New Testaments, including Noah and his Ark and Jesus’s feeding of the 5,000 with bread and fishes.
There are also peacocks shown in the paintings – a pagan sign of the afterlife.
At the centre of the ceiling fresco is an image of Christ with two men either side of him, believed to be St Peter and St Paul or St Nerius and St Achilleus.
The crypts were built for merchants who were part of the intricate and highly organised imperial grain trade.
The frescoes detail how grain was transported on boats to the ancient Roman port of Ostia from the Mediterranean.
It was then transferred to smaller vessels which took it up the Tiber River to warehouses in the centre of the imperial capital.
At the time every Roman was entitled to a daily bread ration and so the trading and import of grain was a state monopoly regulated by high-ranking officials.
As a result some imperial functionaries grew rich on the grain trade and production of bread, earning them luxurious tombs.
For centuries the intricate frescoes that adorned the catacomb’s ceilings were covered with a thick layer of algae, calcium deposits and smoke stains from oil lamps.
Laser instruments were used to carefully peel away the grime, leaving the paintings beneath unharmed.
The new area also includes a small museum displaying statues, parts of sarcophagi and other artefacts from the tombs.
‘These tombs represent the roots of our deepest identity, the roots of Rome and of Christianity,’ Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the pontifical commission, said at a news conference this week.
The first area, which was restored without the use of laser, dates back to the third century and still has many references to pagan art.
Paintings of grape vines adorn the vaults of the passages, and cupids are used for the smaller tombs, most likely belonging to children.
Many of the crypts have frescoes that seem blotted out. In fact, they were stripped by ‘ripping’ when catacombs were looted and frescoes cut out and removed as trophies in the Middle Ages.
This ancient form of art theft can be found in a museum in Catania, which displays examples that were originally brought to Sicily by a nobleman to decorate his home.
This area also includes two biblical scenes, Daniel and the lions, and Noah with his ark, as well as a number of frescoes depicting Christ and the apostles.
These scenes often include slices of daily life, but the intertwining of the spiritual and the prosaic really comes to life in the second area, known as the ‘room of the bakers.’
Here the laser revives vivid depictions of Christ and the Apostles accompanied by scenes from the life of a baker.
Not only do they tell the story of life in Rome, but they highlight the importance of bread in both Christian and pagan symbolism.
‘These works show the difficult path the Romans walked on the way to their new faith,’ said Monsignor Giovanni Carru of the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Art.
Final touches still have to be put on the museum, which the organisers hope to open to the public by the end of June.
It will be several months longer before the restored areas are opened.
In the meantime, the rest of the vast archaeological site is open to visitors throughout the summer.
FONTE | SOURCE:
— THE DAILY MAIL, U.K., (30/05/2017).
3). ROME – Laser technology uncovers 1,600-year-old Christian frescoes in Rome’s biggest catacomb, THE TELEGRAPH, U.K., (30/05/2017).
Deep in a labyrinth of dank tunnels, in the heart of Rome’s oldest and largest catacombs, archaeologists have discovered an exquisite set of 1,600-year-old frescoes painted to commemorate the city’s early Christians.
Experts used the latest laser technology to uncover the centuries of grime which had rendered the frescoes invisible.
The discovery has shed new light on the process by which wealthy Romans shifted away from their pagan beliefs and embraced the new religion of Christ in the fourth century AD.
The beautifully rendered, multi-coloured frescoes adorn the ceilings of two crypts which were built for merchants who were part of the complex and highly organized imperial grain trade.
Archaeologists found a series of frescoes which chronicle how grain was transported by ship from around the Mediterranean to the ancient Roman port of Ostia, then transferred to smaller boats which brought it up the Tiber River to warehouses in the centre of the imperial capital.
The import and distribution of grain was a state monopoly controlled by high-ranking officials, at a time when every Roman was entitled to a daily bread ration.
The crypts, hacked out of soft volcanic rock, were created for the families of the imperial functionaries who grew rich on the grain trade and the production of bread.
For centuries, the ceiling frescoes in the Catacombs of St Domitilla were covered in a thick black layer of calcium deposits, algae and smoke from oil lamps.
Laser instruments were used to burn away the dirt and deposits, leaving only the rich colours of the frescoes beneath.
“When we started work, you couldn’t see anything – it was totally black. Different wavelengths and chromatic selection enabled us to burn away the black disfiguration without touching the colours beneath,” said Barbara Mazzei [* = See below | s.v., sotto], who was in charge of the project. “Until recently, we weren’t able to carry out this sort of restoration – if we had done it manually we would have risked destroying the frescoes.”
At the centre of the ceiling fresco is an image of Christ, seated on a throne, with two men either side of him. They are thought to be either St Peter and St Paul or St Nerius and St Achilleus, two Roman soldiers who were martyred for preaching the new faith.
There are scenes from the Old and New Testaments, including Noah and his Ark and the miracle of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand with bread and fishes.
The fresco is adorned with peacocks, which in pagan belief were symbols of the afterlife. The crypts were painted around 360AD – just a few decades after Christianity had been made legal by Emperor Constantine.
There are also depictions of Christ the Shepherd, with a lamb slung over his shoulders and sheep at his feet. Either side of him are figures gathering fruit from trees – a pagan image that represents the seasons.
“It’s a fusion of older pagan symbols with new Christian images. The family had only recently converted to Christianity,” said Ms Mazzei.
Fabrizio Bisconti, superintendent of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, a Vatican department which manages the catacombs, said: “Rich Romans were the last to convert to Christianity. They were all pagan until the middle of the fourth century AD.”
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the catacombs were gradually abandoned and forgotten. They were rediscovered in the 16th century by an amateur archaeologist, Antonio Bosio, who celebrated his find by daubing his name all over the frescoes in thick charcoal writing.
“He’s regarded as the Christopher Columbus of the catacombs – he discovered them all,” said Ms Mazzei.
FONTE | SOURCE:
— THE TELEGRAPH, U.K., (30/05/2017).
FOTO | FONTE | SOURCE:
— LA REPUBBLICA & THE DAILY MAIL, U.K., (30/05/2017).
* = Prof. Barbara Mazzei, “IL CUBICOLO “DEI FORNAI”NELLE CATACOMBE DI DOMITILLA A ROMA ALLA LUCE DEI RECENTI RESTAURI,” pp. 1927-1942 [PDF], in: AA.VV., ACTA XVI CONGRESSVS INTERNATIONALIS ARCHAEOLOGIAE CHRISTIANAE COSTANTINO E I COSTANTINIDI L’INNOVAZIONE COSTANTINIANA, LE SUE RADICI E I SUOI SVILUPPI Pars II | STUDI DI ANTICHITÀ CRISTIANA PUBBLICATI A CURA DEL PONTIFICIO ISTITUTO DI ARCHEOLOGIA CRISTIANA LXVI (2016).
* = Prof. B. Mazzei et al.,, “The mural execution technique of the “dei Fornai” cubicle revealed by laser cleaning,” pp. 73-82 [PDF]; in: C. Saiz-Jimenez (ed.) The conservation of the subterranean cultural heritage, London (2014).
— VATICANO ARCHEOLOGIA e RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: Il mito e il tempo – L’incessante lavoro di restauro nelle catacombe cristiane d’Italia da parte della Pontificia Commissione di Archeologia Sacra, L’Osservatore Romano (29/05/2017).
— ROMA | VATICANO – Papa Francesco alla tomba di S.Pietro, è il primo Papa che visita la necropoli, LA REPUBBLICA (01/04/2013).
— Prof. Massimiliano Ghilardi, “Gli scavi della Roma sotterranea cristiana,” pp. 117-129 [PDF], in: F. Coarelli (a cura di), Gli scavi di Roma, 1878-1921, Roma: Edizioni Quasar (2004).
— Prof. Massimiliano Ghilardi, “Gli scavi della Roma sotterranea cristiana,” pp. 97-114 [PDF], in: F. Coarelli (a cura di), Gli scavi di Roma, 1922-1975, Roma: Edizioni Quasar (2006).