Volume 62, Issue 2, December 2022

Massimiliano Ghilardi
Pages 485-496

Giovanni Battista de Rossi, archaeologiae christianae fundator, nel bicentenario della nascita

Since the end of the 16th century, when the perfectly preserved remains of an ancient early Christian underground cemetery were discovered accidentally along the Via Salaria in Rome, Christian antiquities were studied mainly for apologetic propaganda purposes, i.e. to defend the primacy of the Church of Rome, which was faltering under the blows of the Protestant reformers. Everything changed, however, around the middle of the 19th century, thanks to Giovanni Battista de Rossi, a famous archaeologist whose 200th birthday falls this year. This essay sets in the context of his biography the main coordinates of his training, his numerous and fundamental discoveries and his main publications, which brought him recognition in international cultural circles of the time as the “founder of Christian archaeology”, a science that was finally recognised as such, and no longer seen as just a learned pastime for amateur antiquarians.