Post Doctoral position in Late Ancient/Medieval Latin Language and Literature at Harvard

Post Doctoral position at Harvard University for the upcoming 2018-19 academic year 2018-2019. Deadline to apply is August 4, 2018. The Department of the Classics at Harvard University is seeking applications for a College Fellow in Late Ancient/Medieval Latin Language and Literature for the 2018–19 academic year. The appointment is expected to begin in August 2018 or on September 1, 2018. Teaching duties will include three courses open to undergraduate and graduate students, with 25% of the appointment reserved for the Fellow’s own research. The Fellow may also advise and evaluate senior theses. Applicants must complete all requirements for the Ph.D. by the appointment start date, and the doctorate must have been received no earlier than 2014. The appointment is for one year, with the possibility of renewal for a second year. Detailed application instructions are available at Complete applications, including letters of reference, are due by August 4, 2018
Harvard Department of Classics
204 Boylston Hall, Cambridge, MA 02138

Open Source Access to ICS Research on Jewish Catacombs of Rome

The International Catacomb Society is pleased to announce open source access to research on the Jewish catacombs of Rome conducted on site over many years by society founder, Estelle S. Brettman. Brettman, who died in 1991, left unfinished her lengthy monograph, "Vaults of Memory: The Roman Jewish Catacombs and Their Context in the Ancient Mediterranean World," but ICS directors Florence Z. Wolsky and Amy K. Hirschfeld continued the project after her death, and parts of the collective work have now been edited, annotated, and digitized by the ICS's current executive director, Jessica Dello Russo, who explains in a preface what seem to have been Brettman's key concerns in the study of Roman catacombs, and why her work, carried out over fifteen years with what a critic called "dramatic intensity", still matters to current scholarship on these sites. As an early supporter of Brettman put it: "the story of Mrs. Brettman and how her project came into being is in itself fascinating, aside from the substantive aspects of the material that came out of the mythic descent into the depths of the earth beneath Rome."

"Vaults of Memory" as a monograph was long a priority of the ICS, and calls for its completion have resumed in recent years, after a long hiatus. One current ICS board member even believes Estelle Brettman appeared to her in a dream, asking that her book finally be complete. The possibility of completion at first seemed remote: much of the manuscript was lost, or in fragmentary form, and that which remained existed in multiple versions, undated and marked throughout in red ink. Co-creator, Florence Wolsky, in her early 90's, still spirited but fading, was no longer in a condition to assist with the project, and the other author, Amy K. Hirschfeld, had already published revisions of the material under her own name, realizing Brettman's worst fears of "being copied in many places". Dello Russo's familiarity with the source material for Brettman's text, however, provided direction as to how to shape the work in digital form. With a great amount of current information on the catacombs already on line at, as well as operational research databases like DAPICS and BiblioSelect, the Brettman study could be contextualized chronologically and even conceptually, testifying to the vivid "shock of recognition" that modern Jews and Christians were experiencing in the last decades of the twentieth century as new publications of textual and archaeological evidence were challenging traditional notions of the development of these "adjacent communities" in Imperial Rome. Brettman's "visual odyssey" rode a high wave of ecumenism, but broke, too soon, against the hard barriers set up by various political and religious factions, forces with power to turn good intentions into failed results.

It has been challenging, today, to enter into the mindset of another era, as well as that of individuals with different agendas and experiences in the study of the catacombs of Rome. Like Giovanni Severano's cutting up Antonio Bosio's text of the Roma Sotterranea, the result of course will not meet the original author's expectations. Brettman herself seems to have dreaded not doing so - as a self-described "relative newcomer to the field" - comparing her "life's work" to the elephant in the closet, looming over all other aspects of her existence. Nonetheless, she strongly believed that she had a place in catacomb studies, in the words of art historian Richard Brilliant, "opening the field, so that everyone seems to be jumping in". ICS has adopted the phrase as its guide to the digital text of "Vaults", an open invitation, like that always so warmly extended by Brettman herself, to experience the "communality of religion", indeed, dramatically. Please let us know how you do.

- Jessica Dello Russo 3 July 2018

Inauguration of “The Middle Ages at St Paul’s Outside the Walls – Popes, monks & pilgrims” (11 July 2018)

Inauguration of the completed installment of an archaeological park in the garden of the Abbey of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls, Rome on Wednesday, 11 July 2018, in the Sala Barbo in the St. Paul's Cloister, with discourses on "The Middle Ages at St Paul’s · Popes, monks & pilgrims" by Lucrezia Spera, Umberto Utro, Vittoria Cimino, Daniela Esposito, Paolo Monesi, Carolina De Camillis, followed by site tours. Invito_11_luglio_SanPaolo definitivo
Sponsoring organizations:
Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana
Scuola di specializzazione in Beni Architettonici e del Paesaggio
I Musei Vaticani

Excavations in the gardens of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls were launched in advance of new construction work in the south west corner of the church for the "Pauline Year" of 2008-2009. The archaeological digging was carried out between 2007-2009 under the direction of Prof. Lucrezia Spera of the Vatican's Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology, with subsequent restoration and systemization of the monumental remains and many thousands of artifacts. These artifacts attest to the area's Medieval fortification as  "John's Town" (Giovannipoli), a suburban district about two kilometers outside of Rome along the via Osttiense, named for the ninth-century pope John VIII, but with traces of occupation from much earlier times in Rome's history.

Admission to the site is included with a ticket to the St. Paul's Cloister and Museum (entrance is through the cloister). For more information: A brief description of the itinerary at the time it was first opened as a "work in progress" is here (link).

Society for Late Antiquity CFP for sponsored sessions at International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 9-12, 2019)

(Source: Preview ICMS 2019) Call for Papers: “Late Antiquity I-III” (sponsored by the Society for Late Antiquity): ICMS 54, Kalamazoo, MI, May 9-12, 2019.

The Society for Late Antiquity is pleased to announce the return of its sponsored sessions to the International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 9-12, 2019 at Western Michigan University. These sessions are intentionally broad in scope, allowing for an extensive range of topics relating to the history, literature, religion, art, archaeology, culture, and society of Late Antiquity, that is, the European, North African, and Western Asian world, c. 250–750.
Inquiries or Abstracts and a completed Participant Information Form (here: should be submitted to Jonathan Arnold ( by the congress deadline of September 15, 2018.

International Congress on Medieval Studies
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5432 USA
(269) 387-8745

9th International Round Table On Polychromy In Ancient Sculpture And Architecture (London, 9th-10th November, 2018)

(Source: Polychromy Round Table) - The 9th International Round Table on Polychromy in Ancient Sculpture and Architecture will be held at the British Museum in London from 9th-10th November, 2018.

The meeting, hosted by the Department of Greece and Rome and the Department of Scientific Research, will take place in the British Museum’s Stevenson Lecture Theatre. It will be open primarily to members of the International Polychromy Network and to colleagues from co-operating institutions but, it will also welcome curators, scientists, conservators and students to whom the subject is of interest.

This year will also mark the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the International Polychromy Network and in the tradition of previous round tables, it will provide an excellent opportunity for experts from a wide range of fields (archaeologists, art historians, scientists, conservators, other museum professionals) to discuss new research in a stimulating interdisciplinary setting. Contributions from suitably diverse perspectives are encouraged and may cover any aspect of polychromy in ancient sculpture and architecture, including; investigative techniques, ancient pigments, ancient painting techniques and craftsmanship, conservation aspects, as well as reconstruction and display. The main focus will be on the Classical world.

In order to help us finalise the programme, we would ask you to let us know by 31st July 2018 whether you intend to give a paper. For details on the format and author information requirements, please see 'Call for Papers' below. Please note that the organizers will not be able to cover speakers' costs of travel to the meeting.

Registration will be required and details will be available in due course.

Call for papers
The format for contributions will be PowerPoint presentations of 20 or 30 minutes (please state which)with discussion to follow at the end of each session.

Abstracts (max 400 words) indicating the title of your contribution, a brief summary, authors (and co-authors, if any) and affiliation(s) should be sent to: by 31st July 2018.

A final decision will be made by the organisers and communicated to the speakers selected by 15th September 2018.

For further information please contact:

Thorsten Opper, Senior Curator, Department of Greece and Rome
Joanne Dyer, Scientist, Department of Scientific Research

ICS at 17th International Congress of Christian Archaeology (July 1-7, 2018)

The 17th International Congress of Christian Archaeology on "Frontiers - the transformation and Christianization of the Roman Empire between Center and Periphery" starts in Utrecht on Sunday, 1 July, 2018, and moves to Nijmegen for the second half of the week, ending with an excursion to the Catacombs at  Valkenburg on Saturday, 7 July 2018. The full program of events, including a public session on "The Destruction of Christian Heritage in the Near East" is posted at:
International Catacomb Society Vice President, Prof. Annewies van den Hoek (Harvard University, emerita), a member of the congress' Dutch National Steering Committee, is chairing the Persia, Armenia, and Georgia session on Monday, 2 July, from 17:30-18:15, and presenting the following day in the Roman North Africa session on "The Reaper, a wandering therapeutic image". Her husband, ICS advisor John J. Herrmann, Jr., curator emeritus at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will also deliver a paper on "Coptic influence in Mediterranean painted pottery" in the session "Center and Periphery II", on Tuesday, 3 July, from 14:30-15:30.
The Congress is co-organized by current ICS advisor, Prof. Sible L. de Blaauw and ICS past director Prof. Leonard V. Rutgers, who served on the society's board in the late 1990's.
The International Catacomb Society warmly congratulates Professors de Blaauw, Herrmann, van den Hoek, Rutgers, and colleagues on the organization and planning of this quinquennial event.

Three-year Scholarship for Ph.D. at Vatican Institute of Christian Archaeology

(Source: The Vatican's Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology (PIAC) and Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology (PCAS) jointly sponsor a three-year scholarship of 7.200,00 euros annually to a recent graduate or any scholar with the essential requirements to register as a full-time candidate in the PIAC's PhD program in Christian Archaeology. Essential requirements include: Top marks (summa cum laude) in a Master's or Licentiate, as well as in the admissions test to the program. Applicants over 35 years of age are excluded from the scholarship competition, though they are eligible for the doctoral program if all other requirements are met. After the first year, the scholarship is renewed for two subsequent years only if the candidate gives satisfactory reports on the status of his or her research, according to the deadlines of the doctoral course (s. Art. 15 a-b of the PIAC Statues).

The scholarship deadline for the 2018-2019 academic year is 26 October 2018. At or before that date, all the following application materials must be submitted to the PIAC Rectorate:
a) Official documentation on place of birth (birth certificate), residency, citizenship and an e-mail address.
b) Either a certification of Licentiate in Christian Archaeology or transcript with grades of any courses attended.
c) A copy of the Licentiate thesis and/or other original works, published or in manuscript form.
d) A curriculum vitae that includes degrees and other coursework, degree of proficiency in one or more foreign languages, and current research. Knowledge of Greek and Latin is mandatory for admission.
e) Letters of recommendation from at least a one college or university professor with whom the candidate has studied or is currently engaged in a program or project of studies.
f) Any other documents that illustrate the candidate’s professional activities in the field of Christian Archaeology (like scholarships already held, participation in excavations, congresses, invited lectures, etc.).

PIAC contact information:

Prof. Danilo Mazzoleni, Rector
Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology
Via Napoleone III, 1 – I-00185 ROME
Email: –
Tel. +39.06.44 65 574 – Fax +39.06.44 69 197  

Applications which are incomplete or submitted after the postmarked deadline of 26 October 2018 will be not considered. However, photocopies of degrees are acceptable. All application materials will be returned after the Scholarship Committee at the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology has reviewed all applications and the winner has been notified. Within 15 days of notification, the scholarship winner must accept the established terms and norms of this notice and declare his or her intention to not seek any other form of fixed remuneration/income for the duration of the scholarship. Furthermore, the student is expected to complete the PhD Course within three years. Scholarship payments will be issued monthly. The remaining 50% of the third-year scholarship will be delivered to the student only after he or she has submitted the thesis, as approved by the PIAC professor supervising the work. The scholarship winner is required to assist with lectures scheduled for the first and second years of PhD Program, as well as to work in the library and photo archives, on Institute publications and cataloging; in leading tours and special courses, etc.

Signed: The Secretary of the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, Mons. Pasquale Iacobone - The Rector of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology (President of the Scholarship Commission) Prof. Danilo Mazzoleni

Call for Panels: Hagiography Workshops in Rome, 3d edition, 16–17 January 2019

(Source: AISSCA) Call for Panels: Hagiography Workshops in Rome, 3d edition, 16–17 January 2019
Biblioteca Angelica, Piazza Sant’Agostino 8, Rome, 16–17 January 2019. Deadline for submissions: 30 September 2018

The third installment of the Hagiography Workshops will again be held at the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome over the 16th and 17th of January. We look to encourage both exchanges between scholars and the development of the main or more innovative fields of research and methodological developments in modern hagiographical studies, bearing in mind their diachronic and multi disciplinary characteristics.

A thematic session should be organized by a coordinator and will involve between three to five communications of twenty minutes each. The comité scientifique of the Workshops will nominate a respondent to the session. Papers may be delivered in English, French, Italian, or Spanish.

Each proposal should provide the following:
1. title and abstract of the session (which should not be more than 1000 characters excluding spaces);
2. contact details, academic qualifications and university attachment of the session co-ordinator;
3. contact and academic details for those delivering papers in the session;
4. titles and abstracts (of no more than five hundred characters excluding spaces) for each paper.
Proposals should be sent to by the deadline, which is 23:59 hrs, 30 September 2018.
The board of AISSCA will nominate a comité scientifique to evaluate proposals on the basis of their academic relevance, the originality and homogeneity of the theme, and their impact upon national and international historiographical debates. Proposals for individual papers are also welcomed by the comité scientifique who may, if relevant, add them to pre-existing panels or create new panels where possible, bearing in mind the requirements for a coherent session.
The list of accepted proposals will be communicated by 15 October 2018, and published on the AISSCA website ( 

Recap of “New Lives of Ancient Arts”: Evening to Honor ICS Founding Directors Estelle S. Brettman and Florence Z. Wolsky

On May 24, 2018, International Catacomb Society members and friends came together on the premises of Grogan and Company on Charles Street in Boston to honor two of the organization's founders and longtime directors, Estelle S. Brettman and Florence Z. Wolsky. The joint commemoration was made to celebrate the deep friendship between the two and shared interest in the Classical world, which led to collaboration on exhibits and events for the Museum of Fine Arts and Boston Society of the Archaeological Institute of America before the birth of a new non-profit foundation in 1980 to promote research on Jews in the Greco-Roman world. This new entity, the International Catacomb Society (ICS), originally the International Committee for the Conservation of Catacombs in Italy (ICCI), in time widened the scope of its mission, but never lost the dedicated, focused presence of these two women, who believed in the visionary enterprise not only at its start, but as long as they were able, Wolsky even retiring from the MFA's Classical Arts department to take over the public operations of the ICS after Brettman's death in June of 1991, and remaining on the board until her own death in 2018, just as her final, posthumous collaboration with Brettman, the catacomb study, "Vaults of Memory: The Roman Jewish Catacombs in Context in the Ancient Mediterranean World," was being released in digital form. The May 24 event was, in fact, one of the very few to date at which Wolsky was lacking, though her presence was as strong as ever, thanks to the showing of a documentary by artist Karen Audette, "The Nike Chariot Earring" (2015), narrating Wolsky's involvement in the recovery of a priceless artifact in the MFA's collection, and personal tributes to her spirit and character movingly delivered by her son, Alfred Wolsky, current president of ICS, and John J. Herrmann, Jr, Wolsky's longtime colleague and supervisor at the MFA from 1976-2004. The Audettes have graciously given ICS permission to share the film here (link)

Florence Wolsky with Prof. Leonard V. Rutgers at ICS event in 1997

In addition to the presentations, the evening was made especially pleasurable by the generous hospitality of the Grogan family; the delicious Mediterranean refreshments from Boston Kebab House provided by ICS financial advisor David Basile; an abundant displays of flowers from ICS president Alfred Wolsky, son of one of the honorees; and donations to the Shohet Scholars Fund by many ICS supporters and friends. Their kindness helped make this event not one of nostalgia for the past, but hope for the future of ICS.

From Stone to Light with Janet Shapero

Of Estelle Brettman, much has been said and recorded on the ICS website, including an eulogy by Wolsky at an early tribute held in 1992. "New Lives of Ancient Arts," however, brought a new voice into the act, that of artist Janet Shapero, who as a young girl developed a special bond with Brettman during a trip to Sicily in the mid-1970's, an experience which Brettman later said was the impetus for her creation of the ICS. The "lightning-flash" moment, as recounted by Shapero, happened during a visit to the necropolis of Palazzolo Acreide in Eastern Sicily. Close to the entrance to one of the burial caves cut into the hillside, one of the women hit her foot against a small boulder and dislodged it. Rolled over, it revealed a scratched design that resembled a straight-branched candlestick, similar to some ancient depictions of the Jewish ritual object known as the menorah. An extra detail that Shapero added to the story during her May 24 lecture is that right before the Sicily trip, she and the Brettmans had seen the exhibit "Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which featured several artifacts with Jewish emblems or other documentation that linked the material to a Jewish context. The show's ground-breaking approach for the time was to look back at the Late Roman era not as a period of decadence and destruction but as an Empire-wide passage to Christian rulership under many ancient norms. Brettman and Shapero were thus "primed" to consider Jewish artifacts in mixed settings, as the burial grounds had been used over many centuries for pagans, Christians, and, apparently, also by Jews. 

Janet Shapero at Palazzolo Acreide, Sicily.

Shapero also recalled Brettman's faith in visionary thinking and individual goals, those seemingly impossible but important to achieve for the soul's sake, beyond any promise of material rewards. With evident gratitude, she described how Brettman had helped her through the early stages of her career as a multimedia artist in sculpture and film to get out of dead ends and take risks with her work. Later, in her exploration of the effects of light and color layering in her signature "Rete-Chrome" series, Shapero thought back to Brettman's interest in ancient Jewish motifs, and integrated a variation on the menorah they had found in the piece "Menorah-In Memory of Estelle" (2013), and the Hebrew letter "Shin" in another (2012). In this way, she felt connected to Brettman once again over the use of art to express one's own inclusion in the whole, "owning what is my own, my Jewish experience," as she put it.

In her talk, Shapero also elaborated upon her artistic development with memories of her apprenticeship to a public sculptor in Italy and realization of installations in sites throughout the United States and abroad. She works today in a studio near Boston, which can be visited upon request and on occasion holds "open studios". A digital catalogue of her work is on view at

The second part of the evening was a very personal and immediate commemoration of Florence Wolsky, who died this past winter at the age of 95. In addition to the film showing and remarks by MFA curator emeritus, John J. Herrmann, Jr., on Wolsky's resolve of the Nike Earring Caper, a vivid sense of Wolsky's personality was evoked by her son, ICS President, Alfred Wolsky, who described his mother as a formidable scholar, writer, artist, and matriarch. It was impossible not to imagine Wolsky in the room, sitting near the front, listening with pleasure and pride to her son's lively but also deeply heartfelt narrative of her achievements and character. With permission, Alfred Wolsky's talk is reproduced below.

Florence Wolsky: Wife, Mother, Scholar, Artist: Tribute by Alfred Wolsky

"I thought originally that it would be easy for me to write and say a few words about my extraordinary mother, Florence Wolsky. After all, I thought, there are so many things to talk about.
But it has proven difficult for me, very difficult; and for the exact same reason. There are so many things to talk about.

She had a distinguished and successful life by any standard, jammed, it seems in hindsight, into a mere 95 years: a life made all the richer both for herself and for the many many people who knew her - and loved her; by the wonderful animus, energy, kindness, and remarkable initiative she brought to living it.

She was born in the last days of 1922 in Fall River. Her father, Max Zundell (Zundell is an Ellis Island pronouncement "Sonny boy" given to his father, Isaac Juvantischi). Max, born in the US in July of 1884, was a professional and talented violinist, and I am certain that Florence inherited her considerable musical talents and artistic temperament from him. Her mother, Helen, was a dressmaker who had immigrated to the United States in 1913 to avoid the pogroms in Eastern Europe. She was an unassuming, very smart lady who, when I came onto the scene many years later, was fluent in at least 5 languages: Russian, Yiddish, Polish, German and English*. (*My mother was also a champion speller, and could complete Henry Hook crosswords in the Globe -no matter how unreasonable the clues were- almost always without any assistance). Helen & Max were caring, dedicated, loving parents to my mother, and I knew them as kind, extremely gentle and loving grandparents. My mother certainly inherited these qualities and did her best to pass them on to my sister, Liza, and to me.

After some moving around during the Depression years which hit her and her family very hard, indeed, Florence finished her high school at Girls' Latin School in Boston and then studied at Cambridge Junior College, where she made lasting friendships which endured and guided her as long as life allowed; and perhaps beyond that, depending upon perspectives...

She met my Father, Leonard Wolsky, during the war, probably during the period she worked as a drafts-person at MIT on the first digital computer prototype, WHIRLWIND 1 -as her contribution to the war effort. During their courtship, she told me, she would go on walking dates with Lenny, because neither of them had any money, and Florence had no problem going out for a date on the super cheap!

They were married in 1944. I must say a few words about my Father, and it is no digression, because my parents were happily and inseparably married for more than 50 years until he passed away in 1996. In many ways they were, or over time, became- serious reflections of each other's backgrounds and leanings; so that in commenting on the one, the other had to be included for clarification or essential reference! Leonard had gone to Boston Latin School and hated it, but graduated first in his class of 1940; he then attended Harvard on a full scholarship, and, in his junior year was first in his class at the College, but never graduated (his was the Class of '44). He proceeded, instead - under wartime considerations - with a full scholarship to the Medical School from his junior year. My Mother complained - if that is the word to use - self-deprecatingly, that after my father met her, he stopped studying, took her out for dates on nights preceding exams--- and only graduated 5th in his medical school class. She also would state - a little wistfully - that she might have had a professional career in music had she not married him and settled down…and had children…. She was an accomplished singer and skilled performer on piano, zither and guitar, and wrote numerous funny songs, skits and even a whole kosherized spoof on Madama Butterfly (Butterfly Finklestein, Queen of the Ginza, I dip all mein bagels in Sake). She even snuck into the back stage of the Boston Opera, one evening, threw on a costume and majestically waved a huge fan in the AIDA Triumphal scene! For those who knew her, close your eyes: can't you just see it?

My Father, Dr. Wolsky, was, first and foremost and by his personal mission statement, a healer -but, in addition, he was a self-disciplined and accomplished scholar. To give just one example, he was asked to deliver a series of lectures on biblical history to students at Regis College, a Roman Catholic institution - very well received by students and faculty alike! - this certainly encouraged Florence's aspirations to study the subjects which interested her, and during the early 60's she returned to college, studying at Boston University and eventually obtaining a masters degree. It was there, as a mature undergraduate, that she became acquainted with Emily Vermuele, first as her professor, and later (after she recovered the Nike Earring for the MFA)--more about that later- as a mentor and friend; all leading to Florence's 40+ year stint (overall) in the Classical Department (later Arts of the Ancient World) at the MFA.

And as it may be said, whilst all this was going on, Florence also maintained her active interest in music by becoming the assistant director (working with her close friend Anita Kurland) of the Youth Concerts at Symphony Hall program, and she was an expert on the concert hall itself (I became and expert in making paper airplanes form the program brochures at concerts), and on the somewhat risqué (for Boston) statuary adorning the place, giving talks on the subject, and publishing articles which I understand are still quoted in Symphony Hall program pamphlets!

She was active in the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, giving gallery talks, and she composed The Isabella Gardner Rag ("though she really was a bossy old bag!"); a song which will live forever, I am certain, among the cognoscenti…

And, she became a close friend of Estelle Brettman, the founder of the ICS, and, as the original Secretary of the new organization, was one of the principals involved in setting up the outfit and in carrying on Ms. Brettman's original research and vision which, as you can all attest, right now, is a legacy in progress!

Of course, my interface with Florence was as my mother. I forgive her for trying to educate me (as should those of you who know me). After all, she tried very hard. If you agree with that astute sage -whose name I can't recall just now- that education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he was able to learn in school then maybe her efforts were not in vain...

Florence Wolsky was one of the kindest, most compassionate, diplomatic, polite, tolerant and generous people who ever lived; except that she was much tougher with herself and her children, upon whom she attempted to impose her standards---which were exceedingly high- to be honest, at the level of absolute perfection! These standards, however, led to her painstaking thoroughness and undeniable attainment of excellence in her career of scholarship and research at the MFA (and in the ICS); leading her to be published and co-cast as an author with Professor Emily Vermuele of that WEIGHTY bestseller, Toumba Tou Skouru , and to be of vital assistance in many MFA departmental projects such as: the Pompeii AD 79 show; the Romans & Barbarians exhibition; The Search for Alexander; and numerous gallery talks over the years.

She had scores of friends - many close friends - and admirers. Her social calendar was jammed! My mother smuggled me into lectures, semi-private receptions at the MFA- and elsewhere; and I met many people through her good offices who inspired me and enriched my life. To name a random few of the many: I became well acquainted with the Vermueles; Cornelius and Emily, met Zahi Hawas, Mme. Deroches Noblecourt, Mark Lehner, Peter Lacovara, Lawrence Berman, Tim Kendall, John Herrmann and Annewies (whom I am still on speaking terms with); Jessica Dello Russo… even Malcolm Rogers---and one Sunday afternoon I almost knocked over, by mistake, Michael Dukakis at one of the gallery exhibitions (we both apologized); I listened to ancient musical instruments from the Museum Collection, visited the basement "exhibits" -some of the best stuff there… and got to know many of the guards and other folks whose lives revolved around the place.

There were many unique and unforgettable memories, but my favorite one (and you will please forgive me for relating an anecdote) is when we took Prince Ank-Haf home.

You must understand that my Mum was close friends with everyone at MFA. Everybody. I wonder if one minor reason was that she, out of genuine solicitude for all her many, many personal friends - kept her purse full of dark chocolate - especially almond mini Hershey bars, which she freely gave out to everyone whether they needed a chocolate fix or not. Florence's attitude was that they always did. Chocolate- particularly the dark, concentrated kind- was a mood elevator, she said, and had anti-oxidants in it ….among other ingredients…. It is not that far-fetched of a concept to consider that the whole ambience - mood if you will - of the MFA may have been influenced - elevated - to some small degree - by my mother's daily and widespread circulation of these beneficent and healthful treats to curators, staff, guards, security, maintenance people, administration - bewildered visitors - in fact, everybody.

Anyway, Florence was able to arrange with the Egyptian Department to - if the word is right - de-accession one of the three or four exact plaster castings made (from the original) statue of Prince Ank-Haf, which is one of the greatest treasures of the MFA, and arguably, though suffering slight damage over 4-1/2 millennia, the finest individual portrait sculpture yet discovered from any period of Egyptian history. Found in George Reisner's Harvard Expedition, it was given to the MFA in gratitude for his discovery and excavation of G7000x, the tomb of Hetep-Heres of which exact reproductions of the art-deco furnishings and some original equipment (silver butterfly bracelets) may be seen on exhibit at MFA, while the original artifacts, now restored, are in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Well, Florence surprised me - blew my mind, I should say - when one afternoon she invited me to the museum and took me down to the basement where two of the Ank-Haf castings were stored on top of a filing cabinet. Which one did I want? she suddenly asked. We examined these twin statues, shockingly alike and more shockingly similar in minute details to the original. Even the damage was faithfully transferred. After we painstakingly chose one (the slightly better one, of course!), which I carried very carefully in my arms, we went to the back basement exit where we were 'greeted' by security, who had absolutely no warning at all that this major sculpture -recognizable to everyone there - was coming through. The guards' shock was much more profound than even my own. They were nearly apoplectic since they knew to a moral certainty that we both had to be arrested, but how could they arrest Florence…. and she had brought Hershey chocolate bars with her… Me, on the other hand? No problem at all, but I have never seen such heartrending conflict of emotion in anyone's face before or since that day!

So this evening we pay a well-deserved tribute to my mother, Florence Wolsky, a genuinely outstanding, amazing lady - not just in the lengthy catalogue of achievements reached by her, but also in her unique and precious personal qualities; especially her warmth, her benevolent nature. I am being redundant. To those of you here who know her well, everything I am saying is redundant and - as as she used to say about much of what I had in mind - not necessary.

To those of you here who might not have known her as well, you will have a clear glimpse into the persona of my Mother, Florence Wolsky, in a few minutes, due to the creative virtuosity and sensitive artistry of Karen Audette, who created a movie - a documentary - of the recovery of the Nike Earring, starring my mother, which, apart from telling the story very well. is a lasting legacy of Florence; allowing us to virtually meet her, and enjoy her outside of the constraints of time.

Thank you Karen, so very much for this priceless gift.

And I know there are others patiently waiting with their words of praise and remembrance. I thank them, and I thank you all for coming here, for your kind attention to what I had to say, and for your patience in view of what is ahead."

Photogallery of Florence Wolsky (1922-2018), International Catacomb Society Director (1980-2018):

Postscript to PCAS Website Review: Rome Catacomb List Updated

Miraculously (for servers work in mysterious ways), just hours after posting a review of the PCAS's new website "Catacombe d'Italia", the missing page on Rome's catacombs reappeared with an enhanced list of catacombs in the city in the care of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology (previous versions seen did not include many of the sites now listed). Very exciting is the confirmation that the Catacombs of San Lorenzo (or Cyriaca) in the Campo Verano are expected to reopen after repairs. This catacomb, with a winding, uneven route through the hillside surrounding the Basilica of San Lorenzo, has an intriguing layout, some real curiosities, like a perfectly-preserved columbarium, and the prestige of being one of Rome's great Medieval martyrial shrines, very easy to access from the city's central transportation hub at Termini Station. The public route will likely explore a few galleries around the lower church and cloister, but the busloads of tourists and faithful already visiting St. Lawrence's tomb will keep guides busy, and the parish priest is a noted enthusiast of his church's long history and characterization as a "cemetery church". Aside from an irregular distribution of floor levels, the catacomb, sacked in centuries past, can probably endure groups of visitors without more damage to its structure than what already has been done. 

The other regularly-open catacombs are: Callisto, Sebastiano; Domitilla; Sts. Marcellino and Peter; Priscilla; Agnes; and Pancrazio. 

The list of "Catacombs open by Request" happily includes remarkable sites that the public should know better, such as the Catacombs of Vigna Chiaraviglio and Catacombs of Vibia on the via Appia; the Catacombs of Commodilla on the via delle Sette Chiese; the Catacombs of Generosa on the via Magliana; that known as "Cimitero Maggiore" on the via Nomentana; and, in the neighborhood of the via Salaria, the catacombs of Pamfilo, Giordani, Felicita, and and Ermete. Note that the two lists of catacombs in this category on the website currently do not correspond, but the more extensive one is found on the menu of catacombs by region ("Per regione").

A third category has now been added: "Special Visits (for Patrons)". Here we find the Catacomb of via Dino Compagni (or via Latina); the Catacomb of Via Anapo; the Hypogeum of the Aurelii; the Catacombs of Pretestato and Sarcophagi Museum; the Crypts of Lucina and Torretta Museum; the newly-restored "Crypt of the Bakers" in the Domitilla Cemetery and Museum; and the Catacomb of St. Tecla near Saint Paul's Outside the Walls. Many of these cemeteries have been subject to restoration in recent years, and, until now, could be visited only by request. According to this website, they are now "reserved for (those)... who are interested in sponsoring (the PCAS's) activity of tutelage, conservation, and valorization of the Christian catacombs of Italy". Likely scholars and university programs will continue to have access to these sites as before, with fees for the custodian and a guide. There is no indication as to the minimum "donation" for an exclusive tour and prospective sponsors are invited to contact the PCAS directly at: It is a good idea and an old one to arrange special visits for patrons of a pet project - PCAS officers of the past, including de Rossi and Marucchi, cultivated wealthy donors of many nationalities, promising - and delivering - notable results.

As for the "Closed Catacombs" at the very bottom of the list - the good news is that it is a short one, with three named: San Valentino, the Cimitero Minore, and the "Anonymous Hypogeum of via Paisiello (though in all honesty, parts of San Valentino are in fact accessible). 

Still, even with such an appetizing menu to chose from, glaring omissions remain. Why are the hugely historic catacombs of Hippolytus, Novaziano, Marco and Marcelliano, Calepodio, and Ponziano not included in any of the lists? They exist, and almost certainly remain in PCAS hands as Christian sites with martyrs' shrines. There are also small cemeteries like that of "Nunziatella", the catacomb in proximity to the Villa dei Gordiani, the "Catacomb of Villa Celere", and the anonymous (but Christian-occupied) Hypogeum at the Circus of Maxentius: these, too, fortunately survive, unlike the vestiges that are virtually impossible to visit of the Castulo catacombs next to railroad tracks and poor, scattered pieces of cemeteries along the via Latina, which might not yet go in the "Lost" category but are certainly "closed". Perhaps what we're really asking is for the PCAS to list all of the catacombs it supervises - whether or not they can be seen. As important as this would be to scholarship, it would mean even more to today's Christians as a confirmation that someone is looking out for the very precious material traces of early Christians Rome. For that endeavor alone, credit is due. (Jessica Dello Russo, 7 June 2018)