The Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology (Italian : Pontificia Commissione di Archeologia Sacra) is an official board of the Vatican founded in 1852 by Pope Pius IX for the purpose of promoting and directing excavations in the Catacombs of Rome and on other sites of Christian antiquarian interest, and of safeguarding the objects found during such excavations. In 1925, Pope Pius XI declared that the Commission was Pontifical and its competencies were defined in detail and reaffirmed recently in the conventions between the Holy See and the Italian State.
At that period Giovanni Battista De Rossi, a pupil of the archæologist Giuseppe Marchi, had already begun the investigation of subterranean Rome, and achieved results which, if confirmed, promised a rich reward. In a vineyard on the Appian Way he discovered (1849) a fragment of a marble slab bearing part of an inscription, "NELIVS. MARTYR", which he recognized as belonging to the sepulchre of Pope Cornelius, slain in 253, whose remains were laid to rest in the Catacomb of St. Callixtus on the Appian Way. Concluding that the vineyard in which the marble fragment was found overlay this Catacomb, he urged Pius IX to purchase the vineyard in order that excavations might be made there.
The Pope, after listening to the representations of the young Rossi, said: "These are but the dreams of an archæologist"; and he added that he had works of more importance on which to spend his money. Nevertheless, he ordered the purchase to be made, and he allotted an annual revenue of 18,000 francs to be applied for excavations and future discoveries. The Commission of Sacred Archæology was then appointed to superintend the application of this fund to work in the Catacombs and elsewhere. The first meeting of this commission was held in Rome at 1851, at the residence of Cardinal Costantino Patrizi Naro, who presided over it by virtue of his office, and selected its members, first amongst them being the Pope's Sacristan, Mgr. Castellani, whose office up till then included that of the preservation of sacred relics. Mgr. Vincenzo Tizzani, a distinguished scholar, professor of history in the Roman University; Marino Marini, Canon of St. Peter's; Father Marchi, S.J., and G. B. De Rossi, were the first members.
The work achieved under its direction has included the formation of the Pio Cristiano Museum; large-scale excavations and repairs in the Catacombs; the discovery and opening up of several subterranean chapels of third-century popes, of St. Cecilia, of the Acilii-Glabriones, and the Cappella Greca; the opening up of many Catacombs now accessible to visitors; the publication of the three volumes of De Rossi's Roma Sotteranea and his Bulletin of Christian Archæology, and many other works of a kindred nature. Under its auspices the Collegium Cultorum Martyrum , or "Association for Venerating the Martyrs in the Catacombs", and the "Conferences of Christian Archæology", were created. It also furnished financial assistance for the excavations made beneath the ancient Roman Churches of San Clemente and Sts. John and Paul, which brought to light underground churches long lost to sight and memory.
The current president of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology is Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi (because of his position as President of the Pontifical Council for Culture), the Vice President is the Abbot Dom. Michael John Zielinski, O.S.B. Oliv., the secretary is Monsignor Giovanni Carrǜ, and the superintendent is Professor Fabrizio Bisconti.
The Pontifical Academy of Archaeology operates under its guidance.
Pope Callixtus I, also called Callistus I, was the bishop of Rome from c. 218 to his death c. 222 or 223. He lived during the reigns of the Roman Emperors Elagabalus and Alexander Severus. Eusebius and the Liberian catalogue gave him five years of episcopate (217–222). In 217, when Callixtus followed Zephyrinus as Bishop of Rome, he started to admit into the church converts from sects or schisms. He was martyred for his Christian faith and is venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Pope Anterus was the bishop of Rome from 21 November 235 to his death on 3 January 236.
The Catacombs of Rome are ancient catacombs, underground burial places in and around Rome, of which there are at least forty, some rediscovered only in recent decades. Though most famous for Christian burials, either in separate catacombs or mixed together, Jews and also adherents of a variety of pagan Roman religions were buried in catacombs, beginning in the 2nd century AD, occasioned by the ancient Roman ban on burials within a city, and also as a response to overcrowding and shortage of land. The most extensive and perhaps the best known is the Christian Catacomb of Callixtus located near the Park of the Caffarella, but there are other sites, both Christian and not, scattered around the city, some of which are now engulfed in the modern urban sprawl.
Papabile is an unofficial Italian term first coined by Vaticanologists and now used internationally in many languages to describe a Roman Catholic man, in practice always a cardinal, who is thought a likely or possible candidate to be elected pope. In Italy the term has become very common and people use it for other analogous situations, too.
Saint Peter's tomb is a site under St. Peter's Basilica that includes several graves and a structure said by Vatican authorities to have been built to memorialize the location of Saint Peter's grave. St. Peter's tomb is near the west end of a complex of mausoleums that date between about AD 130 and AD 300. The complex was partially torn down and filled with earth to provide a foundation for the building of the first St. Peter's Basilica during the reign of Constantine I in about AD 330. Though many bones have been found at the site of the 2nd-century shrine, as the result of two campaigns of archaeological excavation, Pope Pius XII stated in December 1950 that none could be confirmed to be Saint Peter's with absolute certainty. Following the discovery of bones that had been transferred from a second tomb under the monument, on June 26, 1968, Pope Paul VI said that the relics of Saint Peter had been identified in a manner considered convincing.
The Lateran Museum was a museum founded by the Popes and housed in the Lateran Palace, adjacent to the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, Italy. It ceased to exist in 1970.
Domenico Tardini was a longtime aide to Pope Pius XII in the Secretariat of State. Pope John XXIII named him Cardinal Secretary of State and, in this position the most prominent member of the Roman Curia in Vatican City.
Giovanni Battista (Carlo) de Rossi was an Italian archaeologist, famous even outside his field for rediscovering early Christian catacombs.
Santi Nereo e Achilleo is a fourth-century basilica church in Rome, Italy, located in via delle Terme di Caracalla in the rione Celio facing the main entrance to the Baths of Caracalla. It has been the titular church of Cardinal Celestino Aós Braco since 28 November 2020.
Antonio Bosio was a Maltese scholar, the first systematic explorer of subterranean Rome, author of Roma Sotterranea and first urban spelunker.
Raffaele Rossi - born Carlo - was an Italian cardinal of the Catholic Church and professed member from the Discalced Carmelites. Rossi served in the Sacred Consistorial Congregation in the Roman Curia from 1930 until his death and as a friar had the religious name "Raffaele of Saint Joseph". Pope Pius XI elevated him into the cardinalate in 1930.
Gianfranco Ravasi is an Italian prelate of the Catholic Church. A cardinal since 2010, he has been President of the Pontifical Council for Culture since 3 September 2007. He headed Milan's Ambrosian Library from 1989 to 2007.
Giuseppe Marchi was an Italian Jesuit archæologist who worked on the Catacombs of Rome.
The Pontifical Academy of Martyrs is one of the ten Pontifical Academies established by the Holy See. It serves to advance the cult of saints and martyrs and the study of related early Christian history, including the catacombs. It operates with guidance and support from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Roman Curia.
The Catacomb(s) of Callixtus is one of the Catacombs of Rome on the Appian Way, most notable for containing the Crypt of the Popes, which once contained the tombs of several popes from the 2nd to 4th centuries.
The Pontifical Academy of Archaeology is an academic honorary society established in Rome by the Catholic Church for the advancement of Christian archaeological study. It is one of the ten such Pontifical Academies established by the Holy See.
Anton Joseph Johann Maria de Waal was a German Christian archeologist and Roman Catholic church historian. He established the Collegio Teutonico del Campo Santo and carried out numerous archeological excavations in Rome.
The Pio Cristiano Museum is one of the Vatican Museums. It houses various works of Christian antiquity.
The Catacomb of Generosa is a catacomb of Rome (Italy), located in Via delle Catacombe di Generosa, close to a big bight of river Tiber on the right bank, in the Portuense quarter.
The Catacomb of Saint Agnes is one of the catacombs of Rome, placed at the second mile of via Nomentana, inside the monumental complex of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura, in the Quartiere Trieste.