The largest walkable underground Roman archeological site in Hungary

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Within the Zsolnay Light Festival Pécs 2021 a press conference afterwards was held an awesome guided tour “Back in Time” at the Cella Septichora Visitors Center – UNESCO World Heritage Site (Early Christian Tombs).

The UNESCO World Heritage List, which also includes the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall of China, distinguishes between sites of outstanding cultural and outstanding natural value.

The Roman predecessor of the city of Pécs, the late Roman early Christian cemetery of Sophianae, was inscribed on the UNESCO list in 2000 as a World Heritage Site.

The 1600 year old painted tombs lay under the structor at Cella Septichora Visitor Center.

Center you can see the graves and tomb structures that form the complexity of the late Roman period, partly early Christian cemetery. The greatest value lies in the large number of partially painted hypogeums and their historical, fine and religious diversity.

Late Roman cemeteries in the northern and western Roman provinces generally did not have significant burial sites built of stone. Here the graves were composed by the use of sandstone. The peculiarity of the Roman Christian cemetery of Pécs, formerly known as Sophianae, is that a large number of such buildings are concentrated here. These are small, family tombs and larger community tombs, cemetery structures. Some of them are painted, their interiors are decorated with biblical scenes and early Christian symbols, which further enhances the collective uniqueness and universal cultural value of the memory.

The burial chamber was mostly a burial place for wealthy families. The underground part of the two-part edifice is the crypt, the actual tomb, where the dead were placed in brick tombs, or less commonly in sarcophagi. Few objects were found in some of the tombs, such as coins from that age, copper jewelry, different size of Roman soldiers belt buckles, and glassware. A memorial chapel (memorial, mausoleum) was erected above it. The two-story structures served a dual purpose: they served both as burial sites and for ceremonies.

The paintings in the tomb are partly surface-filling decorations and partly figural representations. The remaining series of frescoes basically consists of two parts; on the north wall is the fall of Adam and Eve, the prophet Daniel in the pile of lions, and finally the motif of the tree of life. In the axis of the east wall, under the ceiling, the symbol of Christ, the so-called we see a cryogram. In the cabin below is a torso of a red-dressed figure sitting on a throne surrounded by wheat ears and a palm branch.

Just a reminder … The City of Pécs is an ancient city in southern Hungary, close to the Croatian border. Founded by the Romans, it’s known for its architectural landmarks such as the Early Christian Mausoleum, which features frescoed tombs. Vast Pécs Cathedral towers over central Szent István Square. The domed Mosque of Pasha Gazi Kasim was built in the 16th century during the Ottoman occupation of the city and is now a Catholic church

Update & snaps by Aggie Reiter

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