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Title: The study of the Maltese paleochristian catacombs
Authors: Buhagiar, Mario
Keywords: Tombs -- Malta
Excavations (Archaeology) -- Malta
Catacombs -- Malta
Christian antiquities -- Malta
Issue Date: 1983
Publisher: Melita Historica
Citation: Melita Historica.1983, Vol.8 (4), p. 291-298
Abstract: The first known account of the Maltese Paleochristian catacombs occurs in a Description of Malta written about 1610 by the Maltese galley surgeon Marc Antonio Axiaq. Axiaq did not suspect a Christian origin but he recognised them as burial places. A much more detailed and valueable account of the Rabat and Marsa catacombs, based on a personal investigation, appeared in 1647 in Giovanni Francesco Abela's Della Decrittione di Malta. A scholar and a diplomat who was Vice-Chancellor of the Order of St John, Abela (1582-1635) counted among his friends Antonio Bosio (c. 1576-1629), the great explorer of the Roman catacombs, who may have been born in Malta of a Maltese mother. Abela calls him "nostro Antonio Bosio" and cites the authority of his Roma Sotteranea but the extent of his influence has yet to be investigated. Abela distinguished between Pagan and Christian hypogea and noted their graves, iconography and inscriptions. He over estimated their size and complexity and sometimes reached wrong conclusions but is otherwise full of careful observations which constitute an important source of information about their appearance in the 17th century. An impulse to visit the catacombs had by now been given. At St Paul's Catacombs visitors were shown round by guides carrying tapers. Abela himself sometimes conducted tours for friends or guests of the Order. These included, in 1637, the great scholar Lukas Holste or Holstentius and, at an earlier period, about 1620, Georgio Gaulteri or Gaulterus whom he took to Marsa where he had discovered a hypogeum with a Greek inscription. Gaulteri's laconic account contains probably the first printed reference to Maltese catacombs.
Appears in Collections:Melitensia Works - ERCWHMlt
Scholarly Works - FacArtHa

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