Mapping the Presence of Christians in the Catacombs of Priscilla, NAPS, Chicago, 24-26.05.2018

This is the second presentation in the series about the Priscilla Catacombs in Rome. It aims to examine the distribution of specific  Christian inscriptions among all preserved still in situ inscriptions in the so called “Arenario” region. The paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the North American Patristic Society which was hold May 24-26, 2018, at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago (IL).

The absract:

Mapping the Presence of Christians in the Catacombs of Priscilla.Mapping the Presence of Christians in the Catacombs of Priscilla

by Dr. András Handl, KU Leuven

Since the rediscovery of the catacombs in the suburbs of Rome in the Renaissance it is self-evident: independent from their (assumed) purpose as a hiding place in times of persecution or as cemeteries, they were Christian sites from the beginning. In the past, several cracks appeared on the once homogeneous façade, particularly concerning the origins. Scholars identified i. a. Jewish catacombs or smaller and larger hypogea with obvious Pagan iconography either as individual structures or as part of a larger complex. Even catacombs with explicit Christian material originating from the early 3rd century were questioned as exclusive communitarian burial places for the follower of the new faith.
This paper enters into this discussion by opening a new perspective based on recently acquired evidence. It intends to map the (non-)Christian topography of one designated catacomb region. More precisely, it offers a systematic collection, visual localisation and statistical analysis of still in situ artefacts from one of the oldest (ca. 210-230 AD) and relatively well preserved and independent nucleus of the Catacombs of Priscilla, the so-called arenario centrale. Newly compelled evidence from this region supported by the techniques of a survey provides additional topographic information and thus the material basis for the examination. This is combined with already known materials, such as epigraphic collections or information on topographical developments. Mapping of in situ inscriptions, symbols, images and other artefacts visualise both, Christian and non-Christian elements. Thus, it allows observations about the initial presence and the chronological and topographical dissemination of Christian presence within one early complex.