RMG – The restoration of the decorative palimpsest in the Saint Cecilia Crypt in the Saint Callistus Catacombs

28 May 2024

(ANS – Rome) – On Wednesday 29 May 2024, at 18:30 (UTC+2), the outcome of the restoration of the decorative program for the Saint Cecilia crypt, generously financed by the Fondazione Paola Droghetti ONLUS, carried out by Maria Gigliola Patrizi and Giovanna Prestipino under the direction of Barbara Mazzei, from the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, will be presented at the site of the Saint Callistus Catacombs in Rome.

A book will be presented on the occasion, entitled Cantantibus organis. Italy – The restoration of the decorative palimpsest in the Saint Cecilia Crypt in the Saint Callistus Catacombs Studies and Restoration", publlished by Barbara Mazzei, Gangemi publisher, which collects a series of introductory studies on the catacomb context and on the sequence of decorative interventions that took place from the fourth to the tenth century on the crypt wall, and a section dedicated to the restoration intervention, with two insights into the analytical investigations that supported the phases of knowledge and work.

The Cantantibus organis video by Edoardo Mariani and Francesco Scognamiglio, produced by the Fondazione Paola Droghetti ONLUS, will also be presented, illustrating all the phases of the restoration work.

The decorative palimpsest is located in the oldest section of the catacomb, in the area known as the Saint Cecilia Crypt where the saint lies.

Christ Pantocrator is depicted in a small niche with a crucified nimbus, adorned with gems. Next to it is the image of Saint Urbanus, indicated by a vertical caption to the left of the image. Above these paintings is a fresco on a layer covering a previous mosaic, depicting a praying female character, to be considered a representation of Saint Cecilia.

During the restoration, various decorative phases were highlighted which are concentrated here, alternating the mosaic with the fresco technique, demonstrating how, over the centuries, the place has taken on particular importance.

The event will also be broadcast live via streaming on ANSChannel, the YouTube channel of the iNfo Salesiana Agency, and will thus be accessible to all interested parties around the world.

The Saint Callistus Catacombs are among the largest and most important in Rome. They arose in the middle of the second century and are part of a cemetery complex that occupies an area of 15 hectares of land, with a network of tunnels almost 20 kilometres long, on several floors, and reach a depth of more than 20 metres. Dozens of martyrs, 16 popes and many Christians were buried in them.

Pius XI, who had met Don Bosco and sensed the good that the Salesian Congregation could do by welcoming pilgrims and visitors to this important place for the Church in the early centuries, decided to entrust the custody of the Catacombs of San Callisto to the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1930.

Since then, many Salesians have cared for and continue to care for reception of visitors in the Catacombs, and some of them lies in a small cemetery at the entrance to the area. Today there are 16 Salesians from all over the world, who make the Catacombs known, in every language, to visitors and pilgrims.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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