Irina Oryshkevich

Columbia University

Associate Fellow

From necropolis to metropolis: the rediscovery of the catacombs in Counter Reformation Rome


Irina Oryshkevich received her Ph.D. in Art History from Columbia University in 2003. Since completing her dissertation--a study of the history of the Roman catacombs from late antiquity to the early modern period--she has been a fellow at the Society of Fellows at Columbia University and a recipient of a grant from the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
Since her dissertation, Dr. Oryshkevich has focused on the cult of martyrs and the historiography of the early Church in the Counter Reformation, and their impact on the nascent discipline of 'Christian archaeology'. She will devote her residency at the Italian Academy to what is in effect a sequel to her dissertation, namely, the transformation of the catacombs, which had been viewed throughout the middle ages as mere cemeteries, into 'Roma sotterranea', a clandestine city that sheltered thousands of Christians from imperial persecutions. This transformation, assisted through imagery and rhetoric, provided Christian Rome with physical foundations, thereby reconfirming its primacy at a time when the papacy was under fierce attack on every confessional front.