Priscilla's Catacomb

Cubiculum of the Velata Fresco, third-century Greek catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, Italy.

Priscilla was an early Roman Christian who donated land from her estate as a burial ground for her Christian community. There are over five miles of tunnels carved into the soft tufa rock of this catacomb. All of the nearly 40,000 burial niches are empty now but they would have each held a body wrapped in a shroud and then the niche would have been covered with a marble slab or with tile. This wall painting is in a small private room or cubiculum perhaps for the family of the woman known as the veiled-one or the Velata.  There are three views of the deceased woman’s life in this fresco painting. Starting at the left, the woman is between two men, perhaps depicting a wedding or a catechism as the woman stands in front and holds a scroll. On the right, she holds a baby and sits on a chair.  In the center image she prays with outstretched arms with her eyes raised to heaven. These catacomb paintings from the early days of Christianity are a record of the evolving development of Christian symbols that will one day become the visual canon of the church.  

Cubiculum of the Velata, third-century Greek catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, Italy.

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