The burial area of the Vigna Cassia in Syracuse, accessible upon request to the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, consists of a community cemetery and five privately owned hypogea, dating back to the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries. The catacomb develops in topographical fashion according to Roman models, and is divided into three regions, S. Maria di Gesù Maggiore, Marcia and two others, which emerged during the 3rd century, while the last one was inaugurated in the 4th century. The plan of the area can substantiate what has been said: the cemetery of S. Maria di Gesù, on the right, was created by enlarging an earlier aqueduct, on the walls of which loculi (rectangular spaces with the longest side visible) were carved out. This inexpensive and quick solution is appropriate for the pre-Constantine era. The high chronology of this part is also confirmed by the Maggiore cemetery, located in the centre of the plan, and dated to around the middle of the 3rd century, based on a coin minted under Galieno and Claudio II the Gothic. The materials found in this area provide evidence of this dating, highlighting a coexistence of pagan and Christian culture, as Santi Luigi Agnello had already noted in the early 1950s. Furthermore, community cemeteries do not exclude the existence of private areas (cubicola), and in the case of the Vigna Cassia, these are represented by small roundabouts obtained from the reuse of decommissioned cisterns of the city's water supply system. A more orderly arrangement characterises the Marcia cemetery, on the left of the plan, which is closely reminiscent of that of the catacomb of San Giovanni. Its origin dates back to the 4th century, following the Peace of the Church, and it was used until the 5th century, as shown by the traditional chronology of the Marcia painting in an arcosolium in the north-western branch of the cemetery. The ideological pluralism that characterises the original nuclei of the catacomb is even more evident in the hypogea of the stalls above the community cemetery, which were intended to serve individual families or groups, and reveal a more marked living arrangement between pagans and Christians, as the inscriptions indicate. Besides this, in 1997, Hypogeum II was restored by PCAS-Siracusa, allowing the clear images of a Christian figurative cycle to be displayed, which represents one of the most valuable documents of Syracuse's underground heritage. Symbolically, the scenes decorating two arcosoli of the hypogeum depict the salvation and resurrection of the soul, with two moments from the Giona trilogy, Daniel in the lion's den, a portrait of the deceased among praying people, the resurrection of Lazarus and peacocks set in the flowery gardens of the paradisiacal habitat.
Sunday - Saturday
09:30 am-12:30 pm
02:30 pm-05:00 pm
Some information is provided by:
Catacombs of San Giovanni
Via S. Giovanni alle Catacombe, 1, 96100 Siracusa SR, Italia