Early Christian Necropolis of Pécs (Sopianae)

Early Christian Necropolis of Pécs (Sopianae)

In the 4th century, a remarkable series of decorated tombs were constructed in the cemetery of the Roman provincial town of Sopianae (modern Pécs). These are important both structurally and architecturally, since they were built as underground burial chambers with memorial chapels above the ground. The tombs are important also in artistic terms, since they are richly decorated with murals of outstanding quality depicting Christian themes.

Nécropole paléochrétienne de Pécs (Sopianae)

Au IVe siècle, une série remarquable de tombeaux ornés fut érigée dans le cimetière de la ville romaine provinciale de Sopianae (la Pécs moderne). Ces tombeaux sont importants, tant du point de vue structurel qu'architectural, car ils ont été construits sous terre comme des chambres funéraires surmontées de chapelles commémoratives en surface. Ils sont également importants sur le plan artistique dans la mesure où ils sont richement ornés de peintures murales d'une qualité exceptionnelle représentant des thèmes chrétiens.

مقبرة بيك الكبيرة المسيحية القديمة في مدينة سوبيانايي

شُيّدت في القرن الرابع مجموعة مدهشة من الأضرحة المزيّنة في مقبرة مدينة سوبيانايي الرومانية. واتّسمت هذه الأضرحة بأهمية بالغة إن من حيث بنائها أو هندستها لأنها شُيّدت تحت الأرض كغرف جنائزية تقوم على سطحها كنائس تذكارية. وتتخذ هذه الأضرحة أهميةً أخرى من حيث التصميم الفني إذ أنها زُيّنت زينةً غنية برسوم جدرانية ذات نوعية استثنائية تحمل رموزا دينية.

source: UNESCO/ERI

佩奇的早期基督教陵墓

公元4世纪,罗马帝国索皮阿瑙埃省(现代的佩奇城)建造了大量带有装饰的基督徒墓地。墓地不仅有地下墓室,而且地面上还有礼拜堂,在结构和建筑方面都具有重要意义。墓室里的装饰以基督为主题,创作精美细腻,这一切使皮阿尼亚基督徒墓地在人类建筑史和艺术史上都占有一席之地。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Раннехристианское захоронение в городе Печ (древнеримская Сопиана)

В IV в. на кладбище древнеримского центра провинции – города Сопиана (современный Печ) - было сооружено несколько богато украшенных гробниц. Подземные склепы и наземные мемориальные часовни выделяются в строительно-техническом и архитектурном отношении. Гробницы также имеют художественное значение, так как богато украшены великолепными настенными изображениями на христианские темы.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Necrópolis paleocristiana de Pécs (Sopianae)

En el siglo IV se construyó un excepcional conjunto de tumbas ornamentadas en el cementerio de la ciudad provincial romana de Sopianae (la actual Pécs). Estos sepulcros poseen un gran valor estructural y arquitectónico, porque fueron excavados bajo tierra como cámaras funerarias y encima de ellos se construyeron capillas funerarias. También poseen un valor artístico importante porque están ricamente ornamentados con excelentes pinturas murales de temática cristiana.

source: UNESCO/ERI

ペーチ(ソピアネ)にある初期キリスト教墓地遺跡

source: NFUAJ

Vroegchristelijke necropolis van Pécs (Sopianae)

In de 4e eeuw bouwde men een opmerkelijke reeks versierde graven op de begraafplaats van de Romeinse provinciestad Sopianae (het moderne Pécs). De tombes zijn belangrijk qua structuur en architectuur omdat ze als ondergrondse grafkamers met gedenktekenkapellen boven de grond werden gebouwd. De graven zijn ook van artistiek belang; ze zijn rijkelijk versierd met muurschilderingen van uitstekende kwaliteit die christelijke thema’s uitbeelden. De stad Sopianae werd in de 2e eeuw gesticht door kolonisten uit West-Pannonia en Italië. Sopianae was vooral in de 4e eeuw welvarend door de ligging op het kruispunt van verschillende belangrijke handelsroutes.

Source: unesco.nl

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Early Christian Necropolis of Pécs (Sopianae)
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis 

In the 4th century A.D. a remarkable series of decorated tombs were constructed in the cemetery in the town of Sopianae, in the Roman Province of Pannonia, the ruins of which survived under the ground and are situated in the current city of Pécs, in South Hungary. The burial chambers, chapels and mausoleum excavated on the site of the Sopianae cemetery form a complex that bears witness to an ancient culture and civilization that had a lasting impact. It is the richest collection of structural types of sepulchral monuments in the northern and western Roman provinces reflecting a diversity of cultural sources. These monuments are important both structurally and architecturally as they were built above ground and served as both burial chambers and memorial chapels. They are also significant in artistic terms because of their richly decorated murals of outstanding quality depicting Christian themes.

The Roman cemetery was found by archaeological excavations which began two centuries ago. Subsequent excavations revealed that the early Christian complex of monuments provides exceptional evidence of a historical continuity that spanned the turbulent centuries from the decline of the Roman Empire in the 4th century to the conquest of the Frankish Empire in the 8th century. Sixteen structures constitute the World Heritage property, although the cemetery includes over five hundred more modest graves which cluster around the major monuments.

Criterion (iii): The burial chambers and memorial chapels of the Sopianae cemetery bear outstanding testimony to the strength and faith of the Christian communities of the Late Roman Empire.

Criterion (iv): The unique Early Christian sepulchral art and architecture of the northern and western Roman provinces is exceptionally well and fully illustrated by the Sopianae cemetery at Pécs.

Integrity

The property includes a collection of 16 monuments which are part of the Early Christian Necropolis of Sopianae. They have been revealed through archaeological excavations which are ongoing; further delimitation of the property may change as a result of this ongoing research. With regard to the surviving attributes, all of which are under the ground level today, the intactness of the ruins and of their historic interrelations is sustained to the extent possible considering that subsequent urban layers, including the contemporary living city, are sedimented over the property.

Authenticity

Burial chambers, memorial chapels and other sepulchral remains and fragments excavated since the 18th century have been preserved at their original location following scientific research and restoration, using techniques available at the given time as well as technical solutions available today. Modern interventions necessary to conserve and present the remains are distinguished from original fabric.

Protection and management requirements

The property and its buffer zone are situated within a Historic Monuments Area declared in 1966. The Roman cemetery is also protected as an archaeological site. At local level, City Government Order No. 40 of 1994 declared the historic centre of the city and the area of the Roman cemetery a historic zone. The city has also passed several other ordinances in relation to the protection of historical and architectural values within the context of city development. Ownership of the sixteen monuments is varied: two belong to the Hungarian State, thirteen to the City of Pécs, and one to Baranya County.

Based on National World Heritage Act of 2011 , a new management plan will enter into legal force as a governmental decree and will be reviewd at least every seven years. The management body is the World Heritage Division of Zsolnay Heritage Management Nonprofit Ltd. Once finalized and approved, the Management Plan and the management body will provide clear governance arrangements that involve representatives of different stakeholders. Based on the World Heritage Act , the state of the property, as well as threats and preservation measures will be regularly monitored and reported to the National Assembly; the management plan will be reviewed at least every seven years. Balance has to be kept between the preservation of authenticity and contemporary needs of presentation. In order to ensure increased authenticity of the attributes, modernisation of earlier technical solutions is an on-going management task. Ongoing research within the area of the former Necropolis may provide a base for the extension of the property in the future.

Long Description

The burial chambers and memorial chapels of the Sopianae cemetery bear outstanding testimony to the strength and faith of the Christian communities of late Roman Europe, and well illustrate the unique early Christian sepulchral art and architecture of the northern and western Roman provinces.

The part of modern Hungary west of the Danube came into the Roman Empire in the 1st century AD, as part of the Roman province of Pannonia. The town of Sopianae was founded on the southern slope of the Mecsek massif in the 2nd century by colonists from western Pannonia and Italy, who intermarried with the indigenous Illyrian-Celtic peoples. Sopianae was especially prosperous in the 4th century because of its situation at the junction of several important trading and military routes. St István (King Stephen I), founder of the Hungarian state, established one of his ten bishoprics there.

The medieval town grew outside the walls of the episcopal castle complex, and it was in turn fortified in the 15th century as protection against the growing Turkish threat. The central part of the country was taken by the Ottomans in the mid-16th century and the episcopal castle of Pécs became the administrative centre of a sandjak . Most of the Hungarian inhabitants of the town fled, to be replaced by Muslims from Turkey or the Balkans, who demolished the churches and monasteries (with the exception of the cathedral) and used their stones for the construction of mosques and other Islamic buildings. Pécs was freed from Ottoman rule in 1686, becoming part of the Habsburg lands. The bishopric was re-established and the town was repopulated with Hungarians and German colonists. The mosques and other Muslim buildings were converted for Christian purposes, although the baths (hammams ) continued in use for a considerable time. The fortifications around the castle were demolished and the town began to take on a Baroque appearance.

The Roman cemetery was found by archaeological excavations, which began two centuries ago, in the area now immediately in front of the cathedral, which had been terraced in antiquity. The World Heritage site consists of 16 funerary monuments, of which the most outstanding are:

  • Burial chamber I (Peter-Paul): discovered in 1782, this late 4th-century chamber consists of an above-ground chapel, the subterranean burial chamber proper, with religious wall paintings, and a small vestibule leading to the burial chamber. It is cut into the slope of the Mecsek hills.
  • Burial chamber II (Wine Pitcher Chamber): a two-storey structure, with limestone walls and brick vaulting. On the wall of the niche carved above the sarcophagus there is a painting of a wine pitcher and glass, symbolizing the thirst of the soul journeying to the netherworld.
  • The Cella Trichora: this elaborate chapel has a rectangular central space with three apses and a southern vestibule (narthex); the eastern apse has a raised floor and was probably an altar.
  • The Cella Septichora, a sepulchral building with a unique floor plan with seven apses; it was not used for burial purposes. It dates from the end of the Roman period, in the 430s.
  • The Early Christian Mausoleum, a subterranean burial chamber entered from a vestibule or narthex surmounted by a single-nave church with an apse at its east end. The northern, eastern and southern walls are all decorated with mural paintings of biblical subjects.
  • The Early Christian Burial Chapel was used solely as a chapel. There is a cluster of more than 100 graves from the late 4th and early 5th centuries around it.
  • The Painted Twin Grave: a gabled double grave contains wall paintings of Christian symbols in red, carmine and yellow on a white background.
  • Communal burial containing fourteen graves, separated from one another by stones and bricks. Stone and brick fragments bear names, presumed to be members of a single family.
Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The part of modern Hungary west of the Danube, which was first settled in the Neolithic period, came into the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE. It formed part of the Roman province of Pannonia. The town of Sopianae was founded on the southern slope of the Mecsek massif in the 2nd century by colonists coming from western Pannonia and Italy, who intermarried with the indigenous Illyrian-Celtic peoples. It became the headquarters of the civil governor (praeses) of the new province of Valeria at the end of the 3rd century. Sopianae was especially prosperous in the 4th century because of its situation at the junction of several important trading and military routes. Archaeological excavations have revealed a number of new public buildings in the forum area from this time.

The town was also probably made the seat of an archbishopric around this time. There was a cemetery to the north of the town, with many Christian burials from the 4th century; in the post-Roman period, up to the 8th century, the imposing tombs probably served as shelters for different incoming groups of Huns, Germans, and Avars. It was not until the 9th century that Christianity was re-established in the town.

St István (King Stephen I), founder of the Hungarian state, established one of his ten bishoprics there in 1009, no doubt influenced by the monumental Christian sepulchral buildings; the Cella Trichora was restored to its original use as a chapel. The fortified episcopal complex was to be expanded and reconstructed in the succeeding centuries, and it was within this enceinte that the Angevin King Laszlo I the Great established the first university in Hungary (1367). The medieval town grew outside the walls of the episcopal castle complex, and it was in turn fortified in the 15th century as protection against the growing Turkish threat.

Despite the heroic struggles of successive Hungarian monarchs over more than a century, the whole of the central part of the country was taken by the Ottomans in the mid 16th century. The episcopal castle of Pécs became the administrative centre of a sandjak. Most of the Hungarian inhabitants of the town fled, to be replaced by Moslems from Turkey or the Balkans, who demolished the churches and monasteries (with the exception of the cathedral) and used their stones for the construction of mosques and other Islamic buildings. The town walls were strengthened with bastions.

Pécs was freed from Ottoman rule in 1686, becoming part of the Habsburg lands. The bishopric was re-established and the town was repopulated with Hungarians and German colonists. The mosques and other Moslem buildings were converted for Christian purposes, although the baths (hammams) continued in use for a considerable time. The fortifications around the castle were demolished and the town began to take on a Baroque appearance. It was designated the administrative centre of a county and fine public buildings were added.

Pécs secured its independence from episcopal rule in 1780. During the 19th century it witnessed a spectacular development as a commercial centre, and was graced with many buildings in the architectural styles of the period - classical, romantic, historicizing, and eventually Art Nouveau. Fortunately, it was spared from inappropriate insertions during the second half of the 20th century.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation