MAUSOLEUM M OF THE NECROPOLIS BENEATH ST. PETER'S BASILICA, VATICAN CITY, ROME, ITALY.
Third century (Oakeshott: 60); late third to early fourth century (Age of Spirituality: 522).
In the middle of the fourth century Constantine built St. Peter's Basilica over a magnificent pagan necropolis near the circus of Gaius and Nero (Appolonj-Ghetti et al.:Figure 8 on page 24; Snyder: Figure 35 on page 106). The mausoleum designated by the excavators as M, about two-thirds of the way towards the west end of the complex, is, however, an exception in being Christian (Appolonj-Ghetti et al.:Figures 18,20,21 on pages 36,39,40; Testini: Figure 15 on page 76; Snyder: Figure 36 on page 107).
The ceiling of the mausoleum shows Jesus as the Sol Invictus [M1.1]. He is haloed with the sun and sun-rays go out from his head, two on either side and three to top. He has, apparently, a heavy beard possibly to link him more closely with the Sun God. He ascends on a quadriga or four-horse chariot of which one wheel is visible (but the two left horses have been destroyed. He holds an orb in his left hand and the now-lost right hand was probably extended with open palm. The entire ceiling/sky is yellow and the central figures are surrounded by naturalistic rather than stylized green vines. The tesserae have been lost in the lower left-hand quadrant but the underlying frescoed design is still quite visible. A large hole made as the mausoleum was entered from above in the sixteenth century is immediately to the left of the Jesus-Son picture and narrowly escaped destroying it completely. On the right or east wall of the mausoleum is Jonah being cast into the sea [M1.2]. Although all the tesserae have been lost, the underlying design and mosaic impression is still quite clear. The ship, moving to left, contains two sailors, one on either side of the mast, with their right hands raised and their left hands on their hips. Jonah is outside the boat, more or less across it between mast and prow, but he is falling feet first with arms in Orans pose and his feet are already entering the open jaws of the ketos, coming towards the boat from the left. On the back or north wall is a Fisherman, also with the tesserae gone but the impression still fairly clear [M1.3]. He is turned to left/west holding a rod and line in his right hand. One large fish is already on the hook but another equally large is getting away further to left. On the left or west wall is the remnant of a Good Shepherd, with tesserae all gone and most of the under-lying stucco also. The head and part of the shoulders holding the sheep are visible and, maybe, the back of another sheep to right [M1.4]
(a) Appolonj-Ghetti et al.: 1.38-42.
(b) Oakeshott: 16, 57 (Notes 3,4) & 59-60.
(c) Finney: 285
(d) Snyder: 62-63 & 105-106.
(a) Appolonj-Ghetti et al.: Vol. 1 (color), Plates B, facing page 38 (complete
ceiling [M1.1]), and C, facing page 42 (close-up [M1.1]); Vol. 2 (sepia),
Plates X (east wall), XI (ceiling [M1.1]), XIIa [M1.3], XIIb [M1.2]; Figure
22 on page 42 [M4].
(b) Testini: Figure 196, between pages 288-289 (ceiling [M1.1]).
(b) Oakeshott (black & white): Figures 3 (complete ceiling [M1.1]) & 4
up [M1.1]) on page 34.
(c) Snyder: Plate 31 (close-up [M1.1]