Catacombs of San Giovanni in Syracuse

Catacombs of San Giovanni in Syracuse

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 Via San Giovanni alle Catacombe - Siracusa

Catacombs of San Giovanni of Syracuse are located in the basement of the Basilica dedicated to San Giovanni Evangelista. It is a suggestive open-air church which, in its basement, holds treasures dug into the rock: the Painted Crypt of San Marciano and the Catacomb of San Giovanni.
The Catacombs of San Giovanni, begun in the 4th century after the edict of Constantine, following the layout of a former Greek aqueduct with relative cisterns and extended up to the 5th century, have a which is very similar to that of the “castrum”, the typical Roman military camp.
In the structure of the catacombs there is a central gallery, decumanus maximus, from which ten secondary ones branch off, the cardines: five to the north and five to the south. These cardines lead to four round rooms, namely the old cisterns for the water of the aqueduct: the Rotonda di Antiochia; the Rotonda Marina; the Rotonda di Adelphia; and the Rotonda dei Sarcopaghi. To these is added a last small rectangular-shaped cistern called the Cubicle of Eusebius set up to temporarily bury Pope Eusebius, who died in Syracuse in exile in 310 AD, subsequently moved to Rome. The walls of all these galleries and rotundas were used to obtain niches to house single deceased and for family or group tombs with more places.
The first cistern to be reached towards the south is the Rotonda Marina. Along a very short stretch of corridor, which goes from the roundabout to the south, you can see a graffiti representing a monogram and two stylized fish boats: this point indicates the tomb of Bishop Siracosio. For the first Christians the boat meant the church in the storm of the path of holiness, the fish instead was used because written in Greek ICTUS its letters were the initials of the phrase "Jesus Christ Son of God the Savior".
From the Rotonda Marina, through a short tunnel, you can then pass to the largest roundabout, the roundabout of Adelphia . Here in 1872 a prestigious marble sarcophagus was found carved in the Roman workshops: it presents 62 biblical characters from the old and new Testament, and in the center a shell with two busts of husband and wife; in the 4th century it was sent to Syracuse to receive the body of Adelphia, wife of the proconsul Valerio. This sarcophagus is now kept in the Paolo Orsi regional museum in Syracuse.
In Syracuse there are two other groups of catacombs: that of Santa Lucia from the 2nd century AD. and the catacomb of Vigna Cassia and of the Child Jesus of the third century AD.

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