Catacombe ebraiche di Venosa

Catacombe di S. Rufina - Catacombe ebraiche - Catacomba Vecchia - Catacombe Cristiane

Useful Information

Location: SP18, 85029 Venosa PZ.
A16/E842 exit Candela, follow SS655 south towards Potenza, Matera. Turn right at Venosa Sud and follow SP18 to Venosa, the catacombs are on the right after 5 km, right before Venosa.
(40.978263, 15.839754)
Open: Catacombs: Only after appointment.
Museum: All year Mon 9-20, Tue 14-20, Wed-Sun 9-20.
Archaeological Park: All year Mon 9-20, Tue 14-20, Wed-Sun 9-20.
Fee: Catacombs: Only after appointment.
Museum: Adults EUR 5, Children EUR 3.
Archaeological Park: Adults EUR 4.
Classification: SubterraneaCatacomb
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Giancarlo Lacerenza, Jessica Dello Russo, Maurizio Lazzari, Sabrina Mutino (2020): Le Catacombe Ebraiche Di Venosa - Recenti Interventi, Studi E Ricerche, Università degli studi di Napoli L’Orientale, Dipartimento Asia, Africa e Mediterraneo - Centro di Studi Ebraici, Judaica Venusina I. pdf Italiano - Italian
Harry J. Leon (1954): The Jews of Venusia, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Apr., 1954), pp. 267-284 (18 pages), Published By: University of Pennsylvania Press. DOI pdf JSTOR
Cesare Colafemmina (1973): Apulia cristiana, Venosa: Studi e scoperte, Ecumenica Editrice, Bari 1973. Italiano - Italian
Cesare Colafemmina (2003) Le catacombe ebraiche nell'Italia meridionale e nell'area sicula: Venosa, Siracusa, Noto, Lipari, Malta in: Mauro Perani (ed), I beni culturali ebraici in Italia. Situazione attuale, problemi, prospettive e progetti per il futuro, Longo, Ravenna 2003. Italiano - Italian
Gian Piero Bognetti (1954): Les inscriptions juives de Venosa et le problème des rapports entre les Lombards et l'Orient in: Comptes-rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, année 1954, volume 98, numéro 2. pp. 193-203. Français - French
Giancarlo Lacerenza (2010): Gli Ebrei in: Umberto Eco (ed), Il Medioevo: barbari, cristiani, musulmani, Encyclomedia Publishers, 2010, pp. 247-251, ISBN 978-88-905082-0-2. Italiano - Italian
Address: Museo archeologico nazionale "Mario Torelli", piazza Castello, 85029 Venosa, Tel: +39-0972-36095. E-mail: E-mail: E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


3rd to 7th century catacombs created.
1584 written mention of the catacombs.
1842 visited by D’Aloe who transcribed inscriptions written in the caves.
1853 catacombs "officially" rediscovered.
1880 inscriptions studied by the linguist and glottologist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli.
1944 studied by Umberto Cassuto.
1974 scientific exploration by Cesare Colafemmina, an Italian historian, writer and biblical scholar.
1981 excavations led by Cesare Colafemmina.


Catacombe ebraiche di Venosa, Italy. Public Domain.

The Catacombe ebraiche di Venosa (Jewish catacombs of Venosa) are located near the Italian city of Venosa on Maddelena Hill. The age is unknown. It is estimated that they were built between the 3rd and 7th century. Estimated means in this case: the dating is based on an epigraphic basis, in other words the stype of the artworks is compared to similar artworks with known age. This is the oldest and most inaccurate dating method, but unfortunately the only one available, as there are nor remains for isotope dating and no historic documents. There is one inscription which gives the year 521. According to some pages, even the Wikipedia page repeats this, they were rediscovered in 1853 they were unfortunately not systematically studied until 1974. That's obviously both untrue, the site was visited and examined several times sind the 19th century.

The structure of the catacombs is simple, and quite typical for such burial places. There are two parallel tunnels connected by passages. The passages have graves dug into the walls in two levels. Some graves were dug into the floor. There are also chambers containing multiple graves and arcosolia, which are tombs placed in arched recesses.

There are depictions of Hanukkiah, the typical nine-branched candelabrum, which is lit during the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. This is why it is called Jewish catacombs. It is further supported by the names which are engraved at numerous graves. During the Jewish diaspora, they took Greek or Latin names as opposed to names in Hebrew. Only a small minority of the people buried there have names reflecting a Hebrew etymology. There are texts in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, where older texts are in Greek while younger texts are in Latin. This combination is typical for a Jewish population which tries to integrate in a foreign country but keep its identity.

The Jewish people worked mostly in the commercial and agricultural field, were wheat, wool and textiles traders. Several had important roles in the city administration.

The examination of the site in the 1970s and the excavation in the 1980s were made by Cesare Colafemmina, an Italian historian, writer and biblical scholar. He taught Epigraphy and Jewish Antiquities at the Aldo Moro University of Bari and Jewish Language and Literature at the University of Calabria.

The catacombs are part of the Museo archeologico nazionale "Mario Torelli" (National archaeological museum "Mario Torelli") and the Parco archeologico (archaeological park). The museum is located in the Castello Aragonese in the center of nearby Venosa. This castle was built in 1470 by Pirro del Balzo. The exhibition underwent a complete renovation in 2021 and is located in the basement. It's a good starting point for the Archaeological Park and the catacombs. The Archaeological Park is located on the north-eastern outskirts of the city, at the road SP18 towards the catacombs. It shows remains from the Republican age to the Middle Ages, a 1st-2nd century thermal complex, a Roman domus and more. There is a signposted route which is visited self-guided, there are educational signs. The visit of the catacombs requires a guided tour, which is offered by the museum only after appointment.