February 2022: the month of Giovanni Battista de Rossi

On the 22nd of February 2022 the scientific community celebrates the second centenary of the birth of Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822-1894), one of the ‘founding fathers’ of Christian archaeology. He was Scriptor and then head of the Vatican Library, first secretary of the Commission of Sacred Archaeology, established by Pius IX in 1852, creator and curator of the Museo Pio Cristiano Lateranense founded in 1854. He is remembered also as founder and editor of the first specialist journal in the field, the Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana (still existing today as Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana). He began the publication of the critical edition of all the early Christian inscriptions of Rome (ICVR) and was the author of the Roma Sotterranea Cristiana, an in-depth study of the main Roman catacombs (especially the catacombs of San Callisto) drawn up following his own important discoveries.

To celebrate the event, the Vatican State issued a special stamp where de Rossi is portayed with the ruins of the Hypogeum of the Flavi in the catacombs of Domitilla.

The project LIT! owns very much to de Rossi’s work. He was the one who created the first fac-simile catacombs in 1867 for the Universal Exhibition in Paris. We are therefore very happy to share the brand new article about the topic. Enjoy!

C. Cecalupo, GIOVANNI BATTISTA E MICHELE STEFANO DE ROSSI ALL’ESPOSIZIONE UNIVERSALE DI PARIGI (1867), in Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, 97, 2021,2, pp. 319-347.

Psss, hey! Universidad Carlos III will soon celebrate de Rossi with a special exhibition. Stay tuned…

LIT! Project in the 27th MCAA NEWSLETTER

Our CONEX-Plus project LIT! has been presented on the 27th Newsletter of the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA).

The MCAA is an international non-profit organization established and supported by the European Commission, but entirely run by volunteer members and with a bottom-up approach at its core.

This issue of June 2021 is dedicated to the making of a more inclusive research community. As the Editorial by Gian Maria Greco (MCAA Newsletter Editor-in-Chief) states, diversity and access are pivotal factors for the flourishing of the research endeavour. As a community of researchers, over the past few years the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) has been committed to increasing the accessibility of its communication products, services, and events. 

The last section of the issue is dedicateed to out LIT! project (with a wonderful cartoon illustration!) and can be read on the online version: here. Thank you MCAA!

Catacomb studies in Open Research Europe!

For a few weeks now, everyone can surf on Open Research Europe, the European Union’s revolutionary open access platform, that allows researchers in the Horizon 2020 programme to publish their research in accordance with the FAIR principles (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse) and without being subject to the often very long publishing times.

Once the article has passed the prepublication checks, the preprint version is published within 10 days, enabling immediate viewing and citation. Expert reviewers are selected and invited, and their reviews and names are published alongside the article, together with the authors’ responses and comments from registered users. Articles that pass peer review are sent to major indexing databases and repositories. More info here.

Some of the results of the LIT! project will be surely disseminated via Open Research Europe in the following months. For now, however, I would love to share two researches of similar topics already published on the portal.

It is therefore clear that the platform can be used as an important tool for studies in the history of Christian archaeology. We will keep on checking and disseminating future publications on this topic!

How’s the LIT! Project going: update

It is now six months since the Conex-Plus project “LIT! Living in the catacombs! Reception of catacomb art in European culture and architecture between the 19th and 20th century” started at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid.


The first part of the project was obviously dedicated to the start of the action and to the preliminary bibliographical study (identified as Work Package 2). The first three months, in fact, were dedicated to the bibliographical investigation and collection of all edited materials (from the late 19th century to the present). Every publication regarding the topic has been collected, in particular those related to the copies of the catacombs paintings set up in 1852 in the Lateran Christian Museum in Rome. This can be seen as the starting point of the artistic trend the project investigates.
This research phase created the basis for the more detailed studies in the following months.


In fact, two months ago we moved on to the phase of analytical study of the individual cases (identified as Work Package 3). This involves collecting and analysing the already known cases and identified buildings. Given the period and the restrictions on mobility, the archival research has been concentrated in reduced periods of time, and documents has been read online aas well, while on-person surveys and documentation of the buildings have been postponed to the coming months.


For now, the main case that was analyses is the facsimile catacomb, which had been sent to the 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris by Pope Pius IX. The research has led to a number of unpublished findings which will soon be made available both in specialist journals (but in Green Open Access) and on this website.


The next case to study is the museum of Tusculum (Solin -Croatia), set up by the great Dalmatian archaeologist Frane Bulic in 1898, decorated in catacomb and Pompeian style. The political and cultural implications of this operation are manifold, and the links with other European scholars of the time very stimulating. Similarly, working in an unfamiliar linguistic context has allowed us to make contact with local scholars who will certainly participate in the publication of the results. This, too, will thus create an important network of international contacts.

Two essays on Giovanni Severano, explorer of the Christian catacombs in Rome

Among the many personalities involved in the study of the Roman catacombs in the first half of the 17th century, Giovanni Severano (priest of the Oratory of San Filippo Neri) is one of the best known but at the same time least understood.

Recently, some studies have been carried out to re-evaluate his figure. Over the centuries he has in fact been considered only as the editor who completed Antonio Bosio’s Roma Sotterranea, left unfinished at the author’s death in 1629 and published by father Severano only in 1634.
Extensive studies have shown that, in the process of completing Roma Sotterranea, he personally explored many areas of the Roman catacombs to confirm and expand Bosio’s descriptions. For example, there is ample evidence of his explorations of the catacomb of Saints Marcellinus and Peter on the Via Labicana. Here, he explored many areas that had not been recorded by Bosio.

Some traces of his explorations and, in particular, some drawings of Christian antiquities commissioned by Severan can be seen here.

The most up-to-date biography of Giovanni Severano can be found here.