Antonio Bosio

Antonio Bosio (c. 1575 or 1576  1629) was a Maltese scholar, the first systematic explorer of subterranean Rome (the “Columbus of the Catacombs“), author of Roma Sotterranea and first urban spelunker.

Maltese-Italian historian

. . . Antonio Bosio . . .

Bosio was born in Malta, and was sent as a boy to the care of his uncle, who was a representative at the Holy See of the Knights of Malta. He studied literature, philosophy, and jurisprudence, but at the age of eighteen he gave up his legal studies, went to Rome and for the remainder of his lifetime was devoted to archaeological work in the Roman catacombs. He died in Rome in 1629.

The accidental discovery in 1578 of an ancient subterranean cemetery on the Via Salaria had attracted general attention in Rome. Few, however, realized the importance of the discovery, and with the exception of three foreign scholars, Alfonso Chacon,[1] the antiquarian Philips van Winghe (1560–1592) from Leuven[2] and Jean L’Heureux (alias Macarius),[3] no one seriously thought of pursuing further investigations. Bosio began the systematic exploration of subterranean Rome and thus became a precursor of the science of Christian archaeology, an inspiration to Giovanni Battista de Rossi. The young explorer realized that early Christian literature such as acta of the martyrs and accounts of the councils would offer clues to the locations of the catacombs; an idea of the vast scope of his reading is in two great folio volumes of his manuscript notes in the Vallicelliana library at Rome, each of which contains about a thousand pages.

The scholarly labors of Bosio accounted for only half of his time; after he had collected all the data possible relative to the location of a catacomb on one of the great Roman roads leading from Rome, Bosio would set out for the places indicated, and cover the ground carefully in the hope of discovering a forgotten stairway offering access, or a luminarium lighting the underground galleries of a cemetery. He had the sense to question the local peasants. He would then descend to the subterranean galleries and commence his explorations. Narrow passages led from one series of galleries to another. Years could pass without any new entrances being discovered.

. . . Antonio Bosio . . .

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. . . Antonio Bosio . . .

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