June 16, 2011. (Romereprots.com)
The Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology is the Vatican body responsible for the care of ancient cemeteries and other artifacts from the early Christian centuries. They recently unveiled this 3rd century hypogeum, or underground burial chamber, that belonged to the Aurelia family of Rome.Raffaella Giuliani
Archeologist, Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology“The paintings represent the lives of the Aureli, as we can see from the paintings they were a wealthy family that owned many houses, in the painting we can see the construction of these villas and gardens from imperial Rome. These scenes are inspired by the Homeric poems, in particular by the story of Odysseus.”
For the past 10 years, a team of archeologists has been restoring this hypogeum that dates back to the third century but was only discovered in 1919.
The Vatican and the team of archeologists say the restoration of this underground chamber has given some insights to the Aurelia family and the transition of paganism to Christianity.Msgr. Giovanni Carrù
Secretary, Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology
“It's important because the frescoes are the beginning, the transition between paganism and the Christian life. The frescoes are still very much classic pagan frescoes, but at the same time there is already some Christian pictures and illustrations, so we're at a halfway point, in the moment when Christianity, the religion that comes from the East begins to enter Rome.”
Archaeological Director, Catacombs of Rome
“The hypogeum is completely adorned with frescoes that have been restored by laser technology. By which were we able to uncover an unknown scene. You can see the first Aurelia in mourning as she finds her two brothers who were already dead.”
The hypogeum will only be open to the public through private reservations from the pontifical commission. Their hope is preserve this Roman treasure but also to share it with the world.