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Pagan Graveyard

Pagan Graveyard

A partially exposed skeleton
Our film crew standing amid half-buried artifacts
Archaeologist Giandomenico Spinola
A partially exposed skeleton
A partially exposed skeleton
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One coffin displays Christian and Pagan symbols

Why are both faiths celebrated on the same coffin?

During construction of a car park just behind the Vatican Museums, an ancient tomb was found... and then another and another.

Vatican Museum curator and archaeologist, Dr. Giandomenico Spinola, was called in to assess the tombs. His team discovered over two hundred human remains. On some coffins the symbols are Christian, while some display images of pagan gods including Dionysus.

One coffin is different from the rest. Though inscribed with a dedication to the pagan gods, it also bears the image of a dolphin (often a Christian symbol) and an image of a philosopher holding a rosary (definitely a Christian symbol).

Why would one coffin display both Christian and pagan beliefs?

To take a close look at the coffin, watch our Web Exclusive Video:  Necropolis.

The coffin's secret can only be revealed through an understanding of the religious climate in Rome in 200 AD. By this date, Christianity had gained a foothold but the Roman Empire's official religion was still polytheistic. Christians could not practice their faith openly. And so the person who commissioned the coffin acted prudently by featuring a pagan inscription honoring the Roman Gods while including a Dolphin symbol that would be recognized as Christian by Christians only.

Perhaps he explained his split-decision by way of these words from the New Testament: Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's.

 

Beg to Differ

As well as having significance for Christians, the dolphin symbol is employed by believers in other faiths, including pagans. To discover the dolphin's many meanings we invite you to visit the writers community web site: suite101.

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