Editorial Photocolor Archives

Roman tombs often had stuccoed walls which were painted in a variety of decorative schemes. Shown here is part of the mausoleum wall of M. Clodius Hermes, from the Saint Sebastian Catacomb. It was preserved when the tomb was filled in with the dirt which formed the foundations for a Christian building in the mid-third century. The niche is decorated with a row of swastikas alternating with quatrefoil rosettes, a band of garlands and flowers (common decorations for graves), and over the grave itself a pair of flying storks holding a string of pearls in their beaks. At the bottom of the picture is a pottery coffin and storage jar for water, needed for the ritual washings.