Italian expert links first Christmas celebration to pagan shrine in Rome
2007 12 23
A recently discovered pagan shrine dedicated to Rome's legendary founder Romulus and his brother Remus is being linked by a scholar to the first celebration of Christmas held on the date that still marks the festivity today.
Last month Italian archaeologists unveiled an underground grotto which they believe ancient Romans worshipped as the place where a wolf nursed the legendary twins.
Now, a top Italian scholar says that because of that shrine, 4th century Emperor Constantine chose the site to build the church where Christmas was first marked on Dec. 25. The choice was part of efforts in the early days of Christianity to link pagan practices to Christian celebrations.
"This is very probably the church where the first Christmas was celebrated," Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome's La Sapienza University, told reporters Friday. "Now we know why."
Carandini said while it was known among scholars that the first Christmas service was held at the Basilica of St. Anastasia, it was not known that the grotto of Romulus and Remus — the "Lupercale" — was possibly so close.
The discovery helps explain the transition from paganism to Christianity, scholars said.
"The church was built to christianize these pagan places of worship," Carandini said. "It was normal to put a church near these places to try to 'save' them."
Rome's archaeological superintendent Angelo Bottini, who did not take part in the research, said Carandini's hypothesis was "evocative and coherent" and "helps us understand the mechanisms of the passage from paganism to Christianity."
Bottini and Carandini both said future digs would be able to prove the link between the shrine and the church if structures belonging to the "Lupercale" were found directly below the basilica.
The Basilica St. Anastasia was the first church to rise not on the ancient city's outskirts, but on the Palatine Hill, the palatial center of power and religion in imperial Rome, Carandini said. Though little known today, at the time of Constantine it was one of the most important basilicas for Christians in Rome, he said.
Constantine, who ended the frequent waves of anti-Christian persecutions in the Roman empire by making Christianity a lawful religion in 313, played a key role in unifying the beliefs and practices of the early followers of Jesus.
In one defining moment, he presided over the Council of Nicaea in 325, which among other things homogenized the dates of important Christian festivals. The council opted to mark Christmas, at that point celebrated at different dates throughout Christianity, on Dec. 25 to coincide with the Roman festival celebrating the birth of the sun god, Carandini said.
Sometime after the council, St. Anastasia was built on the Palatine, possibly as early as 326, Carandini said.
The "Lupercale" shrine — named after the "lupa," Latin for she-wolf — is buried 16 meters (52 feet) underground. So far archaeologists have only been able to see it by inserting probes and cameras that have revealed a vaulted ceiling decorated with colored marble and a white imperial eagle.
Though some experts have expressed doubts on the identification of the "Lupercale," most archaeologists believe the shrine fits the descriptions found in ancient texts, and plans are being drawn up to excavate the structure further.
Read more: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/
'Mythical Roman cave' unearthed
Rome's She-Wolf Younger Than Its City
More Clues in the Legend (or Is It Fact?) of Romulus
List of winter festivals
The Pharmacratic Inquisition (Video)
Red Ice Creations Radio - Michael Tsarion - Inquisitions Old and New
Red Ice Creations Radio - Michael Tsarion - Irish Origins Part 1 - The West to East Movement of Civilization, Land Bridges & Age of Catastrophe
Latest News from our Front Page
US Silent on Psychologists Role in CIA’s Tortures: Doctors
Physicians for Human Rights had not received any response from the US Federal Commission to their call to investigate the role of health professionals in CIA’s torture program, Deputy Director of the organization told Sputnik.
December 19 (Sputnik) — US government has not responded to calls to prosecute doctors, who participated in CIA torture program, the Deputy Director of Communications for ...
Ziolebrities: Simon Cowell donates £100,000 to Israeli soldiers to please pregnant jewish girlfriend Lauren Silverman
Cowell, 54, is also planning a secret trip to Israel soon as he embraces the Jewish faith of Silverman, 36
Gala: Billionaire Haim Saban with Cowell
Simon Cowell has publicly donated nearly £100,000 in support of the Israeli army.
The X Factor boss pledged the cash to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at a US fund-raiser in Beverly Hills.
The lavish gala ...
Former Chief Security Officer for NewsCorp: N. Koreans Not Behind Sony Hack, Interview Leak
Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor and former chief security officer for NewsCorp/Fox studios, says North Korea isn’t behind the Sony Hack.
Nigam gave several bullet points for why the hack was likely an inside job.
Attack code borrowed from a previous attack on Seoul, that’s why it’s in Korean. Private hackers typically borrow malicious code from other hackers.Nations state attacks follow ...
Sony Fires Back at Obama: Actually We Did Call the White House – Several Times
Sony fired back at Obama after the press conference saying they had several conversations with the Obama White House before and after the movie was canceled.
Via The Hollywood Reporter:
After President Obama criticized Sony for its decision to cancel The Interview's release after theater chains decided not to show the film, the studio has issued a statement elaborating on the move.
The Bankster International
Geopolitical analysis, the art of explaining power relationships through the prism of impersonal geography, can be a helpful tool for observers of the Great Game – but it also has its limitations. A case in point is the renewed US-Russia confrontation. Think tanks and policy insiders easily sell the narrative that from the dark days of the Cold War to ...
|More News » |