Jewish Catacombs of Rome: Times of Israel Article Features ICS ED, Jessica Dello Russo

Visit to the Vigna Randanini Catacombs

A Times of Israel article of July 15, 2016 by Italian correspondent Rossella Tercatin quotes at length International Catacomb Society Executive Director Jessica Dello Russo about structural and artistic features inside of the Jewish Catacombs of the Vigna Randanini in Rome.  Dello Russo's research and publications as a doctoral candidate at the Vatican's Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana (PIAC) focus on the layout and excavation of burial sites used by Jews in Ancient Rome and how these sites have been contextualized in the study and excavation of Christian catacombs to the present.  Prior to her nomination as executive director of the ICS in 2015, Dello Russo received a stipend from the society to complete course work at the PIAC and assist with the ICS-funded project to restore wall surfaces inside the Vigna Randanini catacomb to ensure the site's continued accessibility.  The preliminary results of her PIAC work on Jewish catacombs was published in the form of reports on the "Roma Subterranea Judaica" between 2010 and 2012.  These peer-reviewed articles made available for the first time in print government reports and other unpublished data on the excavation and study of the Jewish catacombs, and revealed a number of features and artifacts in these sites that Dello Russo was able to identify through on-site survey work and archival research.  They can be downloaded for free from: http://www.catacombsociety.org/roma-subterranea-judaica-series/.  Dello Russo's lectures and publications since then have focused on her PIAC doctoral study, "Between Rome and the Levant: The Architecture, Setting, and Cultural Significance of Late Antique Jewish Burials in Rome", which is being prepared with additional data and a more unified presentation of structural and architectonic features of ancient tombs of Jews that should contribute to a greater understanding of the Jewish element in the making and mapping of "Subterranean Rome".  

The Times of Israel article also includes observations on the Vigna Randanini site by retired laborer for the Pontificia Commissione di Archeologia Sacra (PCAS), Alberto Marcocci, who is rightly identified as the individual who knows the site best, thanks to over forty years of employment as a catacomb excavator and restorer and twenty in his present position as custodian of the Jewish catacomb site.  As one of the PCAS's chief diggers, Marcocci often accompanied scholars and other visitors to the Christian and Jewish catacombs (the latter under Vatican jurisdiction until 1986), including ICS founder Estelle Shohet Brettman, who took much pleasure in the subterranean visits with her "Diogenes".  Images of Marcocci and Brettman are here.

The link to the Times of Israel article on the Jewish Catacombs of Rome is here.

Photo: Alberto Marcocci, Jessica Dello Russo, Suor Maria Francesca Antongiovanni of the Catacombs of Priscilla, New Liturgical Movement editor Gregory Di Pippo, and other visitors to the Vigna Randanini catacomb.