A gate has been opened along the Vatican walls, providing a new entrance to the Via Triumphalis Necropolis, an ancient Roman “city for the dead”.
Deep in the depths of Vatican City lies the Via Triumphalis Necropolis, an ancient Roman cemetery often referred to as the “City of the Dead.”
Within its confines, marble sarcophagi stand next to open tombs, surrounded by stunning Roman mosaics and graffiti,
Since Roman law prohibited the cremation and burial of the dead within the city for safety and sanitary reasons, cemeteries were located along roads outside the urban area.
While previously the necropolis was only accessible to a select group of scholars and experts, from November 17, it will be open to the public through the new St. Rose Gate entrance for an exhibition titled “Life and Death in the Rome of the Caesars.” ,
“City of the Dead”
Covering approximately 1,000 square metres, the archaeological area is located along a section of the ancient Via Triumphalis, which originally lay beyond the city walls.
The necropolis was initially discovered in 1956 during the construction of the Vatican Autoparco. Subsequent discoveries made during construction of the parking lot in 2003 revealed the Santa Rosa section, which has recently been linked to the previous discovery.
According to Leonardo De Blasi, an expert in the ancient Greek and Roman section of the Vatican Museums, the tombs, dating from the first to the fourth centuries AD, mainly contain the remains of “slaves, freedmen, artisans of the city of Rome”.
Some were identified as royal property, often owned by emperor nero,
The graveyard has provided abundant information providing clarity on the identities and life stories of the dead.
Di Blasi explains, “We start learning about people we didn’t know, especially about rituals that seem more related to family, neighborhood, city, or personal traditions than to official religion.”
Di Blasi says that there is a certain “Alsimo”, whose inscription reads: ‘Custos di scena Teatro Pompeiano’, meaning that he was the custodian of the scene of the great theater of Pompeii and had to take care of the set design.
Around his figure are depicted carpenter’s tools which he probably used for the maintenance of theater scenery.
On another tombstone there is a portrait of a certain “Nunnius”, who had the duties of “Saltuarius”, in charge of the maintenance of the forest.
Watch the video to get an inside look at the “City of the Dead.”
video editor • Theo Farrant