In Siracusa there are three groups of catacombs: those of Saint Lucia (second century AD), the Catacombs of Vigna Cassia and the Child Jesus (third century AD) and the Catacombs of St. John.
Built in the fourth century (after the edict of Constantine), following the path of a former aqueduct greek (with their tanks) and extended until the fifth century, they have a plant that reproduces much of the “castrum” (the typical military camp Roman). Therefore, we can identify a central gallery (decumanus maximus) from which it spread ten secondary (cardines): five in the north and five in the south side. These cardines led to four “round” (former water cisterns): one in the north it is called “round of Antioch” and three ones in the south are called: the “round Marina”, the “round Adelphia” and “‘Round sarcophagi. ” It also adds one more small rectangular tank called “cubicle Eusebio”: this one had been set up to temporarily bury the pope Eusebius (died in Siracusa in exile in 310 AD) before being moved to Rome. The walls of these tunnels and roundabouts were exploited to derive the niches for singles and for the graves of deceased family or group with more seats (arcosolia polychrome).
The first tank is reached southward through a cardines is the “Round Navy.” Through a very small corridor, ranging from round to the south, you can see graffiti representing a stylized monogram and two boats in the shape of a fish: this point indicates the tomb of Bishop Siracosio. For the early Christians the boat in the storm meant the church the path of holiness, the fish was used because the translation in greek is STROKE and those letters were the initials of the phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”
From the “Round Marina”, through a short tunnel, you can then move on a larger roundabout, to Adelphia. Here in 1872 it was found a prestigious marble sarcophagus carved in Roman workshops: 62 presents biblical characters of the Old and New Testament, and in the center a shell with two busts (husband and wife), then it was sent to Siracusa to receive the body of Adelphia, the wife of the proconsul Valerio (fourth century). This sarcophagus is now in the Regional Museum “Paolo Orsi” in Siracusa.
Of course, as the nearby basilica, over the centuries the catacombs have suffered the depredation and desecration of the various invaders arrived in Siracusa: the Genseric’s Vandals in 440, the Goths of Totila in 549 and the Saracens in the eleventh century. Of the old funeral home we did not – in the words of P. Bears – the skeleton stripped.
The catacombs were completely abandoned in the late sixth century. The Siracusa underground, almost unknown until the sixteenth century, aroused interest and curiosity only in the early seventeenth century. But only at the end of the last century, because Paolo Orsi began archaeological excavations, the catacombs were conducted with scientific rigor.