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CENTUM CELLAE (Centcelles) Tarragona, Spain.

Roman-Christian villa of the 4th c., in the municipality of Constantí, about 5 km from Tarragona (Tarraco), near the highway between Lérida (Ilerda) and Zaragoza (Caesaraugusta) and not far from the cemetery of S. Fructuoso. There are no ancient literary references to this place, but the mausoleum discovered here is one of the best known Early Christian monuments in the Iberian peninsula. It is mentioned in A.D. 888 in the Cartularium of Ripoll and was originally a church dedicated to St. Bartholomew.

Until recent excavations only two rooms were known, square on the exterior and domed on the interior, also a large baptistery room, the remains of a cella memorine from among those dedicated to various martyrs, and traces of a basilica which perhaps had three aisles. Today, however, parts of a second phase of a large Roman villa built in the 3d and reconstructed in the 4th c. have been recognized. Out-houses with large storage jars (dolia) survive from the 3d c. villa, which was destroyed at an unknown date; a large complex was built in its place, whose most important elements were two aulae. That to the E was round in interior plan, while that to the W was quadrilobed.

The E aula had four small arched recesses at the ends of its axes. The diameter of the hall was 10.6 m and the diameter of each exedra 2.7 m. The hemispherical dome was covered with mosaic decoration (now poorly preserved). The second aula was 7 m square by 6 m high, and its exedrae 4.8 m in diameter. Despite the suggested resemblance to baths, the overall appearance is that of a mausoleum. Analysis of the brick and mortar of the dome and its mosaics permits a sure dating of the structure to the 4th c. The mosaic and pictorial decoration that entirely covers the drum and dome is unique in that the person dominating the scenes of the chase may be identified with the deceased proprietor of the tomb. The subjects of the friezes (from the bottom up) are a) wall paintings with architectural motifs and scenes of the chase; b) scenes from the Old and New Testament, including Adam and Eve, Daniel and the lions, the story of Jonah, and Noah's ark; c) cycle of the four seasons; and d) in the center of the dome, some unidentified figures.

The 4th c. date of the structure is certain, but two identifications of the person interred there have been proposed: someone belonging to the family of Constantine, e.g. Constance (a theory based on a letter from Athanasius to Constance II, giving a date of 353-358), or a rich rural landowner.


H. Schlunk, “Untersuchungen im frühchristlichen Mausoleum von Centcelles,” Neue deutsche A usgrabungen: Mittelmeer und varderer Orient (1959) 344-65MPI; id. & T. Hauschild, “Informe preliminar sobre los trabajos realizados en Centcelles,” Excavaciones Arqueológicas en España 18 (1962)PI; id., MadrMitt 6 (1965) 126ffP; 8 (1967) 226ff; 10 (1969) 251ff.


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