Rossi, Giovanni Battista de
ROSSI, GIOVANNI BATTISTA DE
Founder of Christian archeology; b. Rome, Feb. 22, 1822; d. Castelgondolfo, Sept. 20, 1894. De Rossi studied law at the Collegio Romano (1838–40) and jurisprudence at the Sapienza (1840–44). After being introduced to the study of the catacombs by the Jesuit archeologist G. Marchi in 1841, he was appointed a scriptor in the Vatican Library. He followed A. Bosio in applying modern scientific method to his archeological explorations, utilizing, in particular, evidence available in the ancient Christian inscriptions, patristic writings, calendars, martyrologies, and the itineraries of the seventh and eighth centuries to identify his discoveries.
In the catacombs of St. Callistus he identified the tomb of Pope cornelius (1852) and the crypt containing the remains of the third–century popes (1854), as well as the graves of St. cecilia (1854) and St. Eusebius (1856). By a further systematic search of the debris and the already identified artifacts in the catacombs of Praetextatus (1863), Domitilla (1864), the basilica of Nereus and Achilleus (1873), the crypt of hippolytus (1882) and feli citas (1883), and the Hypogeum or vault of Acilius, he eventually was able to describe the typography of the ancient Christian cemeteries of Rome. In this work he was assisted by geological information supplied by his brother, M. S. de Rossi (d. 1898), and was aided by the benevolence of Pope Pius IX. In his basic publication, Roma sotterranea cristiana (3 v. Rome 1864–77), De Rossi described the catacombs of St. Callistus and of St. Generosa and laid the foundations for the scientific study of Christian archeology. With his collaborators he founded and edited the Bullettino di archeologia cristiana (Rome 1864–), and took a special interest in classical and Christian epigraphy. He collaborated in the CIL (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum ) and edited the first two volumes of the Inscriptiones christianae urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores (Rome 1861–88). His contributions to learned journals on particular subjects of Christian archeology and epigraphy were enormous; they fill 32 volumes of a collection in the Vatican Library. He also published Mosaici … delle chiese di Roma anteriori dal secolo XV (25 fasc. 1872–96) and Piante iconografiche e prospettiche di Roma ant. al sec. XVI (Rome 1879). With L. Duchesne he edited the martyrology of st. jerome (Acta Sanctorum Nov. 2:1; 1894).
Bibliography: p. m. baumgarten, Giovanni Battista de Rossi (Cologne 1892). g. gatti, in Albo dei sottoscrittori … del Comm. G. B. de Rossi (Rome 1892). o. marucchi, Giovanni Battista de Rossi (Rome 1903). e. kirschbaum, Gregorianum 21 (1940) 564–606. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church 390–391. u. m. fasola, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 9:58–59. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie 15.1:18–100.
[f. x. murphy]