Giovanni Battista de Rossi and Rome’s catacombs

Catacombs of San Callisto, Crypt of San Cornelio

Roman archaeologist Giovanni Battista De Rossi (1822-1894) was a leading expert on Christian catacombs. Applying rigorous research methods in his work, he was able to give scientific status to Christian archaeology and epigraphy, “lifting” them to the level of their classical counterparts.

German historian Theodor Mommsen once noted that with De Rossi, “the time of eclecticism and amateur Christian archaeology” ended, and “real science” began.

De Rossi’s tireless work, especially under pope Pius IX, led him to find numerous Christian cemeteries in Rome. His perseverance indeed resulted in the discovery of catacombs in Commodilla, Praetextatus, Priscilla and, over all, San Callisto.

Here is a gallery presenting a selection of illustrations from his fundamental work in three volumes, “La Roma sotterranea cristiana descritta e illustrata”, published between 1864 and 1877.

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July 4, 2016