San Gennaro’s Catacombs

Esil Conference 2017 > Venue > San Gennaro’s Catacombs

The Catacombs of San Gennaro are underground paleo-Christian burial sites in Naples and they are the largest Christian catacomb complex in southern Italy. They are situated in the northern part of the city, on the slope leading up to Capodimonte. Originally, there were three separate cemeteries dedicated, respectively, to Saint Gaudiosus (San Gaudioso), Saint Severus (San Severo) and St. Januarius (San Gennaro). These catacombs in Naples are different from their Roman counterparts in that they have more spacious passageways along two levels. The lower level is the oldest, going back to the 3rd-4th century, and may actually be the site of an earlier pre-Christian cemetery. It apparently became an important religious burial site only after the entombment there of Bishop Agrippinus. The second level was expanded to encompass the other two adjacent cemeteries.

The foundation of the San Gennaro extra moenia church (where the Conference Dinner will take place) is connected with the Catacombs of San Gennaro. The original structure was probably the result of the fusion of two ancient burial sites, one from the 2nd century BC that contained the remains of Saint Agrippinus of Naples, the first patron saint of Naples, and another from the 4th century BC that contained the remains of St. Januarius, the patron saint of the city. The site was consecrated to Gennaro (Januarius) in the 5th century on the occasion of the entombment there of his remains, which were later moved to the Cathedral of Naples. Until the 11th century the catacombs were the burial site of Neapolitan bishops. Between the 13th and 18th century, there was severe looting in the catacombs. Restoration of the catacombs was made possible only after the transfer of skeletal remains to another cemetery.

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