Pagan cult found under a Christian Cathedral
Reggio Emilia, Italy – An ongoing archaeological investigation in the crypt of the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia, in central-northern Italy, unveiled a more than 1600-year old mosaic pavement which depicts Roman pagan gods of ancient times filled with scenes depicting pagan rites and oriental gods.
The mosaic floor measures 13 square meters (140 square feet) and dates to the fourth century A.D., was unearthed at a depth of about 4 meters (13 feet) below the the ground’s surface suggesting to be a huge room of some wealthy Roman during that time. The discovery doesn’t come too much as a surprise, according to the archaeologist since the church was built on top of preexisting building structures and that is rather normal in Reggio Emilia.
What makes the mosaic unique, however, are three large mythological scenes which resembled to the snake cults that dominated pre-Islamic Middle Eastern regions.
“So far all scenes show naked figures. We are still trying to figure out their meaning. I believe that more clues might come to light as we continue to dig,” said Renata Curina, the archaeologist in charge of the dig.
According to Luigi Malnati, superintendent of archaeological heritage in Emilia Romagna, such pagan scenes must have been pieced together before 380 A.D., the year when the emperor Theodosius proclaimed Christianity the state religion. Indeed, a series of decrees in 391-392 A.D. banned and punished pagan cult practices within the empire.
“This is one of the most important and interesting mosaics in northern Italy. It stands out for its size, design and refined technique,” Malnati said.
Roger Ling, a professor of classical art and archaeology at the University of Manchester, U.K., and the author of “Ancient Mosaics,” agreed. “It’s a sensational discovery,” Ling told Doscovery News.
Once fully detached and restored, the mosaic will be put on display at a local museum.
Source : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28995380/