Catacomba anonima di Via Anapo is a late 3rd century set of catacombs at Via Anapo 2 in the Trieste quarter. This is just off the Via Salaria.

History Edit

This set of catacombs has no recorded history.

On stylistic grounds, the fresco work are dated to the end of the 3rd century. It has been presumed that the complex was privately owned (that is, not by the Church of Rome), but the reason why they are anonymous is because no martyrs were buried here and so no notice was taken of them once burials stopped perhaps in the later 4th century.

Their existence is a very useful reminder that not all the catacombs lining the great ancient roads leaving the city would have contained martyrs' shrines. It used to be believed, until into the 20th century, that all catacombs contained martyrs but this was not so.

The first rediscovery was in 1578, when the countryside along the Via Salaria Nova was being developed for vineyards and country villas. Workers in a little pozzolana quarry in the Vigna Sanchez broke into these catacombs, and this was actually the moment when popular and scholarly interest in Rome's catacombs awakened after centuries of mediaeval indifference.

The excitement generated by the discovery inspired Antonio Bosio in his systematic search and exploration at the end of the century. Very oddly, however, when he went looking for these particular catacombs he could not find them. The landowners had been hostile to visitors, so had landscaped the quarry and planted vines over it.

The second rediscovery only occurred in 1921, when another collapse during suburban development revealed them again. This time, there was a proper archaeological survey by Enrico Josi. His mistaken conclusion was that these catacombs were the Catacomba dei Giordani, and it was not until 1970 that the mistake was rectified.

As a result of this, beware of published descriptions of Giordani between these two years. The muddle does persist, unfortunately.

Appearance Edit

The entrance is behind an anonymous steel door.

There is a small set of passages, some of them extremely narrow (less than one metre) with loculi. The passages have been deepened to allow further loculi in the side walls.

Of the cubilcula, five are frescoed figuratively, although others have geometrical patterning. Number one is the richest, and features The Good Shepherd, The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, The Raising of Lazarus, Daniel in the Den of Lions, Noah and the Ark, Moses Bringing Water from the Rock and an Orans. Christ is depicted youthful and beardless, as was standard in the iconography of the late 3rd century.

Number two depicts the story of the prophet Jonah, including a scene with him at rest under his vine while waiting for the destruction of Nineveh. The depiction of the vine (kikayon in Hebrew -the species of plant concerned is uncertain) shows a surprisingly modern grape-vine pergola.

Number three depicts The Sacrifice of Isaac, and also has a famous vault fresco of Christ (again youthful) with the twelve Apostles. The latter have no distinguishing features.

Numbers four and five show scenes from the stories of Jonah and Noah, as well as orantes.

External links Edit

Italian Wikipedia page

Info.roma web-page (address wrong)

Youtube video

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