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date: 19 September 2019

Sarcophagus of Junius Bassuslocked

  • Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

Extract

Early Christian carved stone Sarcophagus (Rome, Vatican, Mus. Stor. A. Tesoro S Pietro) of Roman city prefect Junius Bassus who, according to an inscription on the sarcophagus, was ‘neofitus’ (newly baptized) at his death in 359. It was originally placed near the tomb of St Peter and discovered in 1597.

This double-register, columnar sarcophagus of white marble (2.4×1.4×1.0 m) is carved with ten intercolumnar façade scenes of biblical characters in the ‘fine style’ and five spandrel scenes of biblical characters personified by lambs, with shallowly carved double-register harvest and season scenes on the two ends. The now-fragmented lid contains the remains of a verse inscription and two scenes, the most complete of which represents a funerary meal. Thus the Junius Bassus sarcophagus, one of only two extant double-register columnar Early Christian sarcophagi, presents a distinctive combination of carving styles and both Christian and Roman iconography.

The façade scenes on the upper register (under a level entablature) are: ...

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