Life in the San Gennaro Catacombs
The Catacombs in Naples branch out into two sepulchral complexes, San Gaudioso and San Gennaro. Never a place of death (“quae perpetuo cunctos absorbet hiatu”, “that swallows everyone in its eternal abyss”, as you can read on one of the epigraphs scattered in these hypogea), they have been brought back to life by the efforts of young adults from Rione Sanità.
Father Antonio Loffredo, of the Basilica of Santa Maria alla Sanità, explains: “For years, one of the most neglected districts in Naples almost unknowingly held its most precious asset underground. Now that treasure has been brought back to light.”
“The kids of the Sanità”, the priest continues, “were able to save it from abandonment by fighting every challenge. They founded a cooperative called La Paranza, which currently manages the huge Catacombs of San Gennaro and has given their beauty back to the people of Naples and to the thousands of tourists who visit them every year, from all over the world. It is only further proof that life and death are closely and naturally related in our culture” (translated from A. Loffredo, “Noi del Rione Sanità”, Mondadori, Milan 2013).
The Catacombs of San Gennaro – named after the patron saint of the city, whose remains were brought here in the 5th century – are a most interesting monumental complex of the Paleochristian era, and develop extensively on two levels, with an original nucleus dating as far back as the 2nd-3rd century. They are separated from the Catacombs of San Gaudioso by majestic galleries, dug in the tuff stone and decorated with frescoes, mosaics, columns and numerous gems of ancient art.
“Redemptor meus vivit”, “My Redeemer is alive”, another epigraph in the Catacombs of San Gennaro reads… and so is the beauty and charm of these places.