Le Catacombe di Roma
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• Lo sapevate che l'immagine piú ripetuta nelle catacombe é la raffigurazione della risurrezione di Lazzaro?

I primi cristiani credevano nella risurrezione del corpo. La loro fede era ancorata nella risurrezione di Gesú. Nell'arte delle catacombe si trovano molte immagini che si riferiscono ai passi biblici inerenti al tema della risurrezione.
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Arte delle Catacombe

Il film Le Catacombe di Roma documenta l'arte degli antichi cimiteri cristiani di Roma. L'arte paleocristiana delle catacombe e' un'arte funeraria che include affreschi, sculture, iscrizioni e graffiti. Con quest'arte i primi cristiani hanno lasciato una testimonianza profonda della loro fede in Gesú.

Introduzione

Le Catacombe di Roma é un film che contiene una varietà d'immagini dell'arte paleocristiana ed include affreschi, sculture, iscrizioni greche e latine ed antichi graffiti. Queste immagini preziose sono state filmate tutte a Roma, nelle catacombe.

L'arte paleocristiana ha le sue radici nell'arte classica greco-romana e comprende il periodo dal primo al sesto secolo dopo Cristo. I primi esempi di arte cristiana si trovano nelle catacombe. Ad esempio: la maggioranza delle sculture marmoree, databili dal terzo al quinto secolo dopo Cristo, si trovano sui sarcofagi delle catacombe.

La decorazione delle tombe era usanza comune tra i popoli antichi del Mediterraneo. L'arte funeraria raffigura racconti epici e mitologici, episodi storici, riti religiosi, segni e simboli. Le tombe degli Egiziani e quelle degli Etruschi sono solo due esempi che dimostrano l'importanza dell'arte funeraria nello svelare le credenze ed idee di antiche civiltà.

Cosí anche l'arte funeraria delle catacombe rivela molto dei primi cristiani, la loro identità e la loro fede.

Decorando le loro tombe i cristiani volevano comunicare la luce del Vangelo in un luogo funebre freddo e buio, dove i loro defunti "dormivano", in attesa della risurrezione finale.

Con pochi colori e semplici pennellate, che rassomigliano all'arte impressionistica dell'Ottocento, gli affreschi delle catacombe sono pieni di vita. Diversamente dall'Impressionismo, che tende ad offuscare la scena, le immagini delle catacombe esprimono chiarezza e finalità.

Per interpretare il pieno significato delle immagini cristiane, talvolta è necessario capire l'arte pagana e le regole espressive che la governavano. Capire come l'arte pagana si esprimeva, aiuta a conoscere il ricco significato delle immagini cristiane.

Affreschi, Sculture, Iscrizioni e Graffiti.

Gli affreschi nelle catacombe subiscono un lento e continuo deterioramento e molti si sono perduti per sempre. Una delle cause e' l'alterazione nella circolazione dell'aria e nella temperatura. Non tanto il passaggio del tempo quanto le azioni dell'uomo nella storia hanno inflitto un duro colpo allo splendore originario delle catacombe.

Le sculture, invece, non devono affrontare il compito arduo di sopravvivere come gli antichi colori sullo stucco, perché sono di pietra e hanno resistito abbastanza bene alla prova del tempo.

Le sculture delle catacombe si possono dividere in tre categorie:

The sarcophagus is essentially antiquity's marble coffin. It has a variety of sizes ranging from infants to married couples. Some sarcophagi have sculptured reliefs on all four lateral panels, including the top cover slab, while others may be limited to three panels or just the frontal one.

The statues found in the catacombs predominantly are of Jesus, represented as the Good Shepherd. The artistic model was the pagan figure of Orpheus, with the flute to his side and a lamb over his shoulder. Although the Christians did not adorn the catacombs with the miriad of statues the pagans had, they did adapt Orpheus to represent Jesus as the Good Sheperd: "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep knows me." [Gospel of John, Ch.10 ver.14 ]

Inscriptions have two characteristics:

(See inscriptions section afterwards for more information)

Graffitti is quite common in the catacombs and its dates cover the 2000 year span. The early christians did not use our modern day spray paint of course, but employed simple cutting tools. Examples of the graffitti found in the catacombs are the messages left by the early Christians on the tombs or walls. There are however also written statements on walls such as one left by an 18th century archeologist who felt himself a priveledged pioneer. He stumbled into a hidden chamber by accident and felt compelled to leave his name and date of discovery. Some early pilgrims also inscribed brief devotional statements at the tombs of the martyrs.

For modern archeology graffiti has often provided valuable clues and information. The scientific importance of such finds are as valuable as the meaning they impart upon us today. The simple yet profound and human message left by the hand of a christian two thousand years ago can not but inspire and move us.

Figures and Personalities

There are a number of anonymous figures as well as actual historical personalities depicted in the frescoes and sarcophagi.

The Figure in Prayer is usually a person with its arms outstretched. It can be an anonymous person or anyone of the other personalities mentioned above. The pagans prayed with their arms outstretched, and the Christians, as Origen writes, raised their arms further to heaven to remember Jesus on the cross.

Many early church personalities appear in the frescoes. Some are: Saints Peter and Paul, St. Cecilia, St. Cyprian and St. Eusibius.

There are many Banquet scenes depicting a group of people sitting at the table in the customary fashion of antiquity. Most of these images refer to the eucharistic remembrance of the Last Supper.

It is not uncommon to find painted or sculptured images of the deceased. In the Cubicle of the Veiled Woman located in the Catacombs of Priscilla, we note three moments in the life of this unknown woman:

On the sarcophagi, the deceased are usually depicted at the center of the front panel, flanked on both sides by reliefs of biblical episodes.

The Decorative Elements

The christians, like the pagans, employed decorative elements, such as vines, flowers, birds, architectural lines and drawings. While the decorative intention of these images should be emphasized, it is not always the case to presume the motiffs had no meaning.

For the pagans the vine was symbol of rebirth, because the wine harvest represented the continuos cycle of life. For the christians, a new idea of the vine was developed. Jesus was now the true vine of eternal life, and those who believed in Him were the branches. "I am the vine, ye are the branches". [Gospel of John, Ch.15 ver.5]

The symbols

The signs and symbols we find painted in the frescoes, inscribed on the marble sarcophagi and slabs, and etched on the walls of the catacombs all deal with the christian faith, even though some symbols are taken directly from the pagan repertoire.

Ancient cultures loved the use of symbols to express ideas. The peacock for the pagans was the symbol of eternal life. However, not all the pagans shared the idea of an afterlife, and for those who did, it was one clouded in mystery and wrapped in a shadowy world of obscurity. Pagan art strongly reflects this anguish, which was a vision of pain and sorrow.

The Christians adopted the symbol of the peacock, but developed a deeper meaning. Because of Revelation, the obscurity of death was cancelled by the victory of Christ's resurrection. The peacock therefore became the symbol of the eternal life of the soul.

The dove represented the peace and happiness of the soul, while the anchor represented hope in Jesus.

Symbols often were a synthesis of more than one idea. The anchor is an example. By its very functional nature, it represents the ideas of stability, security, and hope because it confirms the safe arrival of the ship at port after a perilous journey at sea.

By turning the anchor upside down, the greek letter TAU was formed, and the "T" resembled the shape of the CROSS. Thus the symbolism of the anchor was enriched by this additional element. Hope in Jesus represented the secure port of Salvation, which came about through His crucifixion and resurrection.

The fish was perhaps the favorite christian symbol, and we note the richness of its meaning.

The biblical and pagan cultural background was again important in the development of the symbol.

The New Testament abounds with references to fish. We recall Christ telling his disciples he will make them fishers of men. [Gospel of Matthew, Ch.4 ver.19] The fish therefore became the symbol of the Christian. He was saved in the net of the gospel news preached by the fishermen apostles.

The most important point regarding the symbol of the fish is that in Greek the word fish was written as "ICHTHYS". There are many misconceptions that the Christian used the word fish as a secret code or password. This is false and demonstrates a lack of history.

The word fish was not a secret code, but rather formed an acrostic, which was a typical classical style of poetry by which the letters of a word were ordered to form a phrase, or vice versa. In this case we can vertically read the greek word for fish:

Each letter in the word fish formed a word. The meaning of each greek word formed by the letters ICHTHYS are:

Taken as an acrostic, the greek word for fish acquired a very profound meaning for the christian. The phrase read: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. It was the primitive credo, the fundamental article of faith because it synthesized the theological essence the true follower of Christ was called to profess.

The Bible

The Bible occupies a very important role in the interpretation of catacomb art, whether it be frescoess or scultpures. Without a reference to Biblical literature, the images within the catacombs could not be understood, just as Etruscan funerary images would be unintelligible without reference to mythological literature. For further information see the subject bible.


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