The catacomb of Sant'agnese is a catacomb of Rome, on the second mile of the Via Nomentana, in the monumental complex of Saint Agnes Outside the Walls, in the modern Trieste district.
The name of the catacomb is derived from that of the virgin and martyr St. Agnes, the only martyr remembered by ancient documents buried in this catacomb. Uncertain is the date of his martyrdom, that goes back to one of the persecutions against the Christians of the third century, in particular those ordered by Decius (249-251), Valerian (257-260) and Diocletian (303-305).
The oldest literary testimony is that of Depositio martyrum (first half of the fourth century): it states that his Dies Natalis (ie the day of his death) is January 21, and was buried in the cemetery on the Nomentana, which the Depositio already called her. This information is
repeated in the poem of Pope Damasus I (366-384) carved on marble slab by her calligrapher Furius Dionysius Philocalus: this plate, re-used as a paving slab and discovered by chance, is now located in the narthex of the Basilica of Sant' Agnes outside the walls. Other authoritative testimonies about the life of the martyr Agnes we come from the writings of some of the Fathers of the Church: the De virginibus and anthem Agnes beatae virginis of Ambrose of Milan, and the Martyrdom of Prudencio. Of the fifth century is the Passio Sanctae Agnetis, which merges the previous witnesses in an attempt doxological and hagiographic.
Agnes was buried in an underground cemetery that already exists, that the ancient sources say is owned by the family of the martyr, and placed near an imperial possession. From the study of epigraphic sources and the type of burial it is deduced that this cemetery dates back to the second half of the third century and corresponds to the first region of the entire underground complex. Above this catacomb it was built in memory of the martyr a newsstand, in the time of Pope Liberius (352-366), transformed by Pope Symmachus (498-514) in a basilica, and finally completely rebuilt and transformed into the basilica by Pope Honorius I in the first half of the seventh century: edification of the church Honorius behaved cuts and destruction of below catacomb.
During the fourth century, to the primitive cemetery core, they were added others, which now correspond to the other three regions. In particular, the ground subdiale over the fourth region was expropriated by the Emperor Constantine, who built the first church dedicated to the martyr Agnes (now reduced to ruins) and the mausoleum of Constantine, where then the daughters will be buried, Constantine precisely and Elena. Excavations conducted in the seventies of the twentieth century have shown that the above ground of the fourth region was occupied by a pagan necropolis dating from the mid-second century, destroyed by the construction of the Constantinian basilica: the same thing happened on the Vatican hill when, for building of St Peter's basilica, Emperor Constantine ordered the destruction of the previous el'interramento necropolis.
Whole complex catacomb was later abandoned and forgotten. It was rediscovered and explored at the beginning of the sixteenth century by a Dominican friar, Panvinio Onofrio. It then became the subject of study by Antonio Bosio in his underground Rome (1632), which, however, the confused with the nearby Coemeterium maius, connected to our catacomb of an old sandstone. During the eighteenth century the catacombs of St. Agnes, and especially the second region, was badly damaged by so-called corpisantari, seekers of relics and treasures. Commissioned by Giovanni Battista de Rossi, in the second half of the nineteenth century, Mariano Armellini worked a series of excavations of the underground cemetery, bringing to light, in good condition, some of its parts: we must all'Armellini the distinction of the catacomb in four regions . At the beginning of the twentieth century the priest Augusto Bacci, on behalf of the owner of the Basilica Cardinal, made a series of excavations, fundamental to the historical and topographical reconstruction of the memory of St. Agnes and the first region. Finally, in the years 1971-72 the priest Umberto Maria Fasola studied the fourth region, reaching the conclusions that you have already mentioned above.
The catacomb of Saint Agnes unfolds on three distinct levels and is divided into four regions. It does not present any major painting, while it is rich in epigraphic.
- The Royal I is the oldest, dating from the third century, in pre-Constantinian era. Dall'Armellini was excavated in 1869. It underwent a substantial cut for insertion of Honorius basilica. The current can be located below street of St. Agnes, on the left of the basilica.
- The Royal II developed from the fourth century, and is one that, more than any other, has suffered the ravages of corpisantari.
- The Royal III, also of the fourth century, is the largest of the entire cemetery complex underground. It extends to a large extent below the monastery, adjacent to the Basilica of St. Agnes, and the Via Nomentana, and was connected in the past, through a sandstone, to close Coemeterium maius. L'Armellini, who dug the first region, the virtually untouched found buried under a layer of silt that preserved by l'aveva trafugatori of tombs, many found in this region are now preserved in the Vatican Museums.
- The Royal IV, located between The present basilica and the ruins of the Constantinian basilica of the fourth century, was built after Emperor Constantine built the basilica destroying pagan necropolis above ground. Using a scale of a previous mausoleum charged began the excavation of underground cemetery: plates with many of the previous subdiale cemetery inscriptions are charged were used for the construction of the access steps to the fourth region and for the underlying tombs, and in this way are preserved to this day. This region preserves the oldest dated inscription of the entire catacomb: it dates from 314 and concerns l'epitaffio of such a Sisinnius.