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Catacomba della Santa Croce is a 4th century set of catacombs at Via Appia Antica 105. This is in the Appio Latino quarter.

History Edit

These catacombs seem not to be mentioned in the early mediaeval pilgrimage itineraries, and to have been entirely private during their period of use. They might have been owned by a family or confraternity, or to have been a business venture. There is no way of telling -although the catacomb guides across the road are hostile to the latter possibility for devotional reasons.

The complex is not part of the Complesso Callistiano, being on the other side of the road. Catacomb proprietors did not tunnel under main highways, as a rule (these were owned by the imperial government).

The archaeology suggests a mid 4th century date for their main excavation, and they were probably abandoned in the next century as no sign of any veneration of a martyr is detectable here. They were subsequently looted at an unknown period.

The complex discovered by Joseph Wilpert at the end of the 19th century, and fully explored and written up by Antonio Ferrua in 1951.

The catacombs were associated with a surface cemetery, of which the archaeologists found scanty traces. Fragments of two sarcophagi were uncovered. One consists of a frontal in a very high quality white marble, with strigillate decoration, a tondo portrait of the elderly male deceased and genii with dogs at the corners and on the top panel. The other was also strigillate, and the bits left included relief panels showing The Multiplication of the Loaves, The Sacrifice of Abel and The Resurrection of Lazarus.

A few epigraphs were also found, and some loculi with graffiti. The former included stone tablets for Leo and Lepida (a married couple), Mavortius, and Aelia Glyceria (badly broken in the looting, and with a fish and anchor). A tile epigraph for the married couple Claudia Agatha and Cornelius Tityrus has the impression of an adze pressed into it -he was probably a carpenter. A finely carved stone epigraph for Maurus an imperial freedman and his wife Aquilina had been re-used, as on the reverse is the roughly carved name Leo. (Tombs in catacombs were certainly recycled during their active use as cemeteries, although it is unclear on what basis.)

The locality was called the Predio Franchetti when discovered. At present (2017) the address belongs to a villa up a long driveway, which has been unoccupied for some time (the gatepost bears a plaque naming a company called Appianica which is defunct). The gates are chained, and there is nothing to see.

Appearance Edit

This is a small set of catacombs with about 150 metres of passageways on two levels. An entrance stairway plunges straight down through both levels to end in a well (the water was used to make cement when sealing tombs).

The name of the catacombs, "Holy Cross", comes from a fresco featuring a large red cross on a white background. Otherwise, fresco work is scarce although the archaeologists noted a Daniel in the Den of Lions.

Cappella di Vigna Merighiana Edit

Just down the road, at number 109, is a 17th century farmstead called the Vigna Merighiana. This apparently has a little chapel attached, although this would presumably be deconsecrated.

External links Edit

Italian Cathopedia article

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