House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario) (Herculaneum)

Herculaneum Christian Cross


House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario) (Herculaneum)  House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario) (Herculaneum)

House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario) (Herculaneum)The bicentennial house was found in 1938 and 200 years after the start of the Herculaneum excavations, hence the name of the structure. This is probably one of the most interesting buildings in the city, as it is probably the world's first Christian prayer house or chapel.
In the wall of one of the rooms on the second floor there is a cruciform recess, where a wooden cross apparently hung. Nail marks are still visible in the wall. Also on both sides there are traces of metal buttonholes on which wooden shutters were hung. That is, most of the time the cross was not visible and these doors were opened only during prayers. The very location of this room suggests that the guards did not enter here. It was a small closet, hidden from the eyes of a stranger.
In principle, this is not difficult. Although the Romans treated different religions and cults quite liberally, but certain limits still existed. You could pray to anyone and anywhere, but the recognition of the supremacy of the Roman gods was mandatory. That is, you could worship Mithras or Osiris, but Jupiter was more important. When visiting a Roman family, the etiquette of the time was to bring several gifts: for the owner of the house, his wife, his children, and of course one gift for the genius or deity of the house. If a person refused to bring a gift to a genius, it was not just an insult to the deity, it was a challenge that could bring grief to the family of the God who lived there. The same principles existed throughout the Roman Empire. Those religions that did not recognize the Roman gods were considered hostile simply because the Roman gods could turn against the Romans for being soft on heretics.
Residents who profess Judaism were given some relief. They were allowed to pray, but they were not allowed to get close to them. To make friends with a Jew was to incur the wrath of the gods or of one's own patron genius. Therefore, European anti-Semitism has its roots far beyond the borders of Christianity. But while it was possible to compromise with the Jews for the sake of peace in the Empire, Christianity was no longer treated with ceremony. The new religion had no strict ethnic boundaries. New ideas attracted many Romans and turned them away from the old Roman gods. That is why the relatively liberal Roman society was so harsh with representatives of the new (later world) religion: they burned them at the stake, threw them to be eaten by animals in the arenas of the amphitheatres, and generally found clever ways to destroy the Christians. Truth as history has shown without much success.


Acts 28
13 From there we cast off and arrived at Rhegium, and after one day a south wind sprang up and on the second day we came to Puteoli.
14 There we found some brothers and were invited to stay with them seven days. And in this way we came to Rome.



House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario) (Herculaneum)  House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario) (Herculaneum)

The bicentennial house was discovered by Amadeo Maiuiri, and named after the bicentennial celebration that was celebrated in the same year to commemorate the beginning of the excavation of Herculaneum. The house belonged to Gaius Petronius Stephanus and was one of the best private houses in Herculaneum. The guy Petri the Stephanus did not manage to live up to the eruption. However, his wife Calatoria apparently lived to see the death of Herculaneum.
The entrance to the house is located on the South side of Decumanus street, located between the shops. The lobby (a) leads to a large atrium, with a marble floor, an impluvium, and several rooms on all four sides. The walls are covered with frescoes of the fourth architectural style on a red background.

At the far end of the atrium, there are several cubicles (C), one of which was enclosed by a simple wooden partition (pictured on the left). In the northeast, the atrium also gives direct access to the back room of the store (e), and in the Southeast corner there is a door that leads to the large triclinium (g). The walls of the Tablinum are covered with frescoes in the fourth style with three large red panels, surmounted by a frieze of tiny cupids on the facing East and West walls. The Central panel of each wall contains mythological scenes, one of which depicts Daedalus and Pasiphae, and the other Venus and Mars. The tablinum is decorated with a mosaic floor in the style of opus etesselatum: a geometric pattern with black and white marble tiles, with a Central mosaic panel (pictured on the right).

South of the Tablinum is the peristalum (h), surrounded by a colonnade with a Central garden (I). A staircase (J) in the Northwest corner of the peristyle leads to more modest rooms on the second floor, which was probably rented out. A white stucco panel with a cruciform cavity was found on the far wall of one of these apartments. Archaeologist Maiuri suggested that it was intended to hold a wooden cross, which would make it the oldest known Christian symbol. Beneath it was a low, wooden Cabinet, probably used as a lararium, that is, to store religious objects. A more recent interpretation suggests that the cavity was simply used to support a wooden Cabinet. However, such methods of strengthening the Cabinet to the wall were not found anywhere in Herculaneum or Pompeii.

Also in the bicentennial House, several papyri were found with records of the opening of a long legal battle over the claim of a girl, Justa, who was born in the house. The girl claimed to be Freeborn, but this fact was disputed by Stephanus ' widow, Calatoria. The claims were made in 75-76 and the court did not have time to give its opinion during the eruption. It is surprising that a woman with such capabilities (judging by the house) could not solve the situation for a girl for so long. This stroke says a lot about the judicial system in Ancient Rome.


House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario) (Herculaneum)  House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario) (Herculaneum)