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The picture world's oldest Virgin, dating from 3rd century, is kept in Rome 20 meters underground in one of the cubicles of the Priscilla catacombs, in the old basilica of San Silvestro, on Via Salaria, in the Villa Ada complex.
This image is almost unknown to the general public despite its exceptional importance and in which historians and archaeologists agree that it is considered the effigy of the oldest Virgin.
“Nowhere else on the planet are there such extraordinary and direct testimonies of the Virgin and Child”, Explains Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.
The new enlightenment that has been carried out in this catacomb now he manages to make this small fresco shine, almost hidden in the ceiling of a niche that housed a venerated tomb, probably of a martyr.
The stucco has been preserved to us and shows a seated Madonna with the Child on her knees and next to her the prophet Balaam pointing to a star.
«The painting dates back to the 3rd century, so it is believed that this painting, after the Adoration of the Magi in the Greek Chapel, represents the Virgin and the eldest son Jesus we received«, Vatican sources explained.
The catacombs are located just below what was the altar of the basilica of San Silvestre, named after the name of Pope Sylvester, who reigned for 21 years, but whose image was hidden by that of Emperor Constantine.
Silvestre was declared a saint and his body, according to tradition, was transferred to this place.
Centuries passed before this catacomb came to light again in its theological and artistic splendor.
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