SHARE
COPY LINK

IT

Italy gives world’s oldest illustrated book new display

Following a lengthy restoration project, the world's oldest illustrated book will be put on display in the Calabrian town of Rossano - where it was discovered by chance 240 years ago.

Italy gives world's oldest illustrated book new display
The book features illustrated scenes from the gospels of Mark and Matthew. Photo: Michele Abastante/Wikimedia

The 1600-year-old book, known as the The Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, tells the life of Jesus according to the gospels of Matthew and Mark.

The book features Greek text written in gold and silver ink on dyed parchment and contains a stunning series of biblical episodes illustrated in Byzantine style.

Following a lengthy three-year restoration project in Rome, the codex will now return to its home city to be given a state-of-the-art display.

“The book is the only one of its kind in the world and is of extraordinary historical, artistic and religious significance,” said Anna Russo, a spokesperson for the diocese of Rossano.

“We are expecting many national and international visitors, making the book's exhibition important not just for our town but for the whole of Calabria.”


An illustration shows Jesus arriving into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Photo: Michele Abastante/Wikimedia

Inside the book's new high-tech display room, air temperature and humidity will be carefully controlled to stop its fragile pages from disintegrating. 

Only 188 of the book's original pages still remain, with the rest having been lost or destroyed over time.

Multimedia installments will tell visitors more about the history of the codex and allow them to explore its detailed illustrations.

Recent studies of the book, which was discovered in Rossano's sacristy in 1876, reveal it was composed in Syria between 400 and 500 AD but little is known of its early history.

The display at the Diocesean Museum of Rossano will open to the public from July 2nd. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

HISTORY

Italian archaeologists uncover slave room at Pompeii in ‘rare’ find

Pompeii archaeologists said Saturday they have unearthed the remains of a "slave room" in an exceptionally rare find at a Roman villa destroyed by Mount Vesuvius' eruption nearly 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologists in Pompeii who discovered a room which likely housed slaves. 
Archaeologists said the newly-discovered room in Pompeii likely housed slaves charged with maintaining chariots.  Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The little room with three beds, a ceramic pot and a wooden chest was discovered during a dig at the Villa of Civita Giuliana, a suburban villa just a few hundred metres from the rest of the ancient city.

An almost intact ornate Roman chariot was discovered here at the start of this year, and archaeologists said Saturday that the room likely housed slaves charged with maintaining and prepping the chariot.

READ ALSO: 8 things you probably didn’t know about the Romans

“This is a window into the precarious reality of people who rarely appear in historical sources, written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite,” said Pompeii’s director general Gabriel Zuchtriegel.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The “unique testimony” into how “the weakest in the ancient society lived… is certainly one of the most exciting discoveries in my life as an archaeologist,” he said in a press release.

Pompeii was buried in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, killing those who hadn’t managed to leave the city in time. They were either crushed by collapsing buildings or killed by thermal shock.

The 16-square metre (170-square feet) room was a cross between a bedroom and a storeroom: as well as three beds – one of which was child sized – there were eight amphorae, stashed in a corner.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The wooden chest held metal and fabric objects that seem to be part of the harnesses of the chariot horses, and a chariot shaft was found resting on one of the beds.

The remains of three horses were found in a stable in a dig earlier this year.

“The room grants us a rare insight into the daily reality of slaves, thanks to the exceptional state of preservation of the room,” the Pompeii archaeological park said.

READ ALSO: Four civilizations in Italy that pre-date the Roman Empire

Image: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

Experts had been able to make plaster casts of the beds and other objects in perishable materials which left their imprint in the cinerite — the rock made of volcanic ash — that covered them, it said.

The beds were made of several roughly worked wooden planks, which could be adjusted according to the height of the person who used them.

The webbed bases of the beds were made of ropes, covered by blankets.

While two were around 1.7 metres long, one measured just 1.4 metres, and may therefore have belonged to a child.

The archaeological park said the three slaves may have been a family.

Archaeologists found several personal objects under the beds, including amphorae for private things, ceramic jugs and what might be a chamber pot.

The room was lit by a small upper window, and there are no traces or wall decorations, just a mark believed to have been left by a lantern hung on a wall.

“This incredible new discovery at Pompeii demonstrates that today the archaeological site has become not only one of the most desirable visitor destinations in the world, but also a place where research is carried out and new and experimental technologies are employed,” said Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.

“Thanks to this important new discovery, our knowledge of the daily life of ancient Pompeians has been enriched, particularly of that element of society about which little is known even today. Pompeii is a model of study that is unique in the world.”

READ ALSO: Why is Italy called Italy?

The excavation is part of a programme launched in 2017 aimed at fighting illegal activity in the area, including tunnel digging to reach artefacts that can be sold on illicit markets.

The Villa of Civita Giuliana had been the target of systematic looting for years. There was evidence some of the “archaeological heritage” in this so-called Slave Room had also been lost to looters, the park said.

Damage by grave robbers in the villa had been estimated so far at almost two million euros ($2.3 million), it added.

SHOW COMMENTS