Early Christian Necropolis of Pécs (Sopianae) (2000)

Early Christian Necropolis of Pécs (Sopianae) (2000)

Pécs, situated in the southern part of Hungary at the foot of the Mecsek mountains, radiates a real Mediterranean atmosphere due to its climate, flora and narrow, rambling streets. With its rich cultural life, including theatre, museums and festivals, the town is a significant cultural centre for the region and the whole country.

Getting there (from Budapest): by car, on route 6 (213 km); by Intercity Train from Déli Railway Station

The town was founded by the Romans at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. By the 4th century, Sopianae was a flourishing provincial capital and a significant centre of early Christianity. Saint Stephen, the first Hungarian king, founded an episcopate here in 1009, and Hungary's first university was founded here in 1367. The architectural monuments of the 150 years of Turkish occupation, the mosques, the Turkish bath and Pasha Idris's tomb, can still be seen.

In the cemetery of ancient Sopianae, our 4th century Roman forebears built simple churches, chapels and mausoleums with tombs beneath them. In the course of the archaeological excavations that have been going on for more than 200 years, hundreds of graves rich in artefacts have been found around the tombs. On the basis of the Christian symbols decorating the artefacts and the buildngs Biblical frescos, the cemetery of Sopianae is assumed to be an early Christian cemetery. The site has the largest number of frescoed cemetery buildings, not just in Hungary but in the whole of Europe, and for this reason is considered an unrivalled monument of ancient history and the early history of the Church.

The Early Christian Mausoleum
There is a tomb under the large chapel. There was no direct architectural link between the level of the cubiculum (tomb) with the painted walls and the chapel, both of which had (and still have) a separate entrance. The northern and eastern walls of the tomb are decorated with Biblical frescos: Adam and Eve in Paradise with the tree and the snake, and the Prophet Daniel thrown into the den of lions. On the eastern wall there is a fragment of the Christ monogram and a sitting figure wearing white clothes. A carved white marble sarcophagus from the 3rd century stands in front of the southern side wall. The areas of the walls between the figurative representations are decorated with painting imitating marble and with plant motifs.

Tomb No. 1 (The Peter & Paul Tomb)
In the two-storey building, the whole internal wall area of the barrel-vaulted tomb that remains undamaged is covered with frescos. On the wall opposite the entrance, Apostles Peter and Paul are pointing at the Christ monogram symbolising the presence of Jesus. On the side walls the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, the Three Kings, Jonah, the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus are pictured. On the vault, decorated with rich plant and animal (doves, peacocks) ornamentation, four portraits in circular frames can be seen, perhaps the portraits of those who were buried here.
The tomb and two smaller buildings, the walls of which are not painted, will be open to the public soon after the completion of the restoration work.

Tomb No. 2 (The Jug Tomb)
There is a chapel above the underground tomb. The latter was originally barrel-vaulted and has painted walls. There were two graves in the tomb, one of which had a special, double-bottom cover. The rich geometrical and plant decorations on the wall show the Garden of Eden. The picture of a jug and a cup in the small closet cut in the northern wall of the tomb, after which the tomb was named, symbolises the Holy Sacrament.

Early Christian Cemetery Chapel in Apáca Utca
The building with a north-south axis ends with an apse at the north end. At around 390 AD a bench and an altar were placed in the apse. In its internal area, under the floor level, four graves were found. The cemetery chapel is different from other cemetery buildings in Sopianae, because the town's Christian inhabitants were buried in graves cut under the floor of the building and not in tombs.

Recommended Excursions:
Other monuments from the Turkish era - mosques and caravanserai - can be seen in Szigetvár. In the castle in Siklós there is a dungeon museum, a hall of rocks and various exhibitions. The settlements of Mecseknádasd and Mánfa are famous for their churches from the Árpád era (13th century).

The Danube-Dráva National Park features the water habitats of the two rivers; the gallery forests along the banks and beside the oxbow lakes shelter a rich bird life.

An approximately 500 m long section of the stalactite cave of Abaliget is open to the public. Those who get tired after visiting all these sites can play sports near the lakes of Orfű, soothe aching muscles in the Harkány spa, or relax by tasting some of the excellent red wines of the Villány-Siklós wine region.

Further Information:
Janus Pannonius Museum Department of Archaeology
7621 Pécs, Széchenyi tér 12. Tel.: +36 72 312-719, 324-950
Baranya County Museum Headquarters
7621 Pécs, Káptalan u. 5. Tel.: +36 72 310-172, 315-276
Baranya County Cultural and Tourist Centre
7621 Pécs, Széchenyi tér 9. Tel.: +36 72 212-632, 213-315
Pécs Cultural Centre Information Office
7621 Pécs, Széchenyi tér 1. Tel.: +36 72 336-622 More information>>>