The Catacombs Today and Tomorrow: The Need for Preservation and Study

The Jewish catacomb of Vigna Randanini demonstrates the kinds of damage that historical monuments have suffered over the centuries. Vandalism has ranged from tomb robberies and the desecration of burials to the casual collection of souvenirs, and gouging and scratching of graffiti (nos. 29, 103, 142, 144, 174) on ancient structures and artefacts. Environmental and human factors, such as seepage of water from vineyards or farmland above, pollutants in the atmosphere, and the presence of unlimited numbers of tourists have taken a serious toll. Children’s Cubiculum, Catacomb of Vigna Randanini,

196. The contrast between these painted walls pierced by children’s loculi and the ceiling ravaged by water is striking. Surely knowledge and history suffer in the face of such losses, and one can only speculate as to the major insights into our past that figured on the now mute and devastated tufa vault stretching above the young Jews of ancient Rome who were entombed here.

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