The Acoustics of the Catacombs

Open access


The catacombs are underground places. This paper reports the results of acoustic measurements carried out inside the catacombs of “San Gennaro” (Naples) and in those one of “San Callisto” (Rome). Originally the catacombs were also used to perform sacred functions, although we don't know the type of these functions i.e. if they were spoken, sung or performed as psalms. This paper presents acoustic measurements carried out in catacombs using the impulse response method, and by the analysis of the monaural acoustic parameters, (T30, EDT, C80, D50 and STI), the authors intend to understand the type of religious ceremony performed in the catacombs. If the catacombs had been reverberant places, they could not have been used for prayers because the echoes would have created difficulties in concentration and meditation for the devotees due to the poor speech comprehension.

[1] ABELA J.S., RICKB J.W., HUANGA P.P., KOLA-RA M.A., SMITHA J.O., CHOWNINGA J.M. (2008), On the Acoustics of the Underground Galleries of Ancient Chavin de Huàntar, Peru, Proceedings of Acoustics'08, pp. 4167-4172, Paris.

[2] BARUFFA A. (1992), Le catacombe di San Callisto. Storia, archeologia, fede [in Italian], Libreria Editrice Vat-icana.

[3] BARRON M. (1993), Auditorium Acoustics and Architectural Design, E&FN SPON London.

[4] DEICHMANN F.W. (1993), Archeologia cristiana [in Italian], L'Erma di Bretschneider, Roma.

[5] DE JORIO A. (1839), Guidaperle Catacombe diS. Gen-naro de' Poveri [in Italian], (Reprint).

[6] DE SANTIS L., BIAMONTE G. (2011), Le catacombe di Roma [in Italian], Newton Compton Italiana.

[7] FASOLA U.M. (1974), Le catacombe di S. Gennaro a Capodimonte [in Italian], Editalia.

[8] FIOCCHI NICOLAI V., BISCONTI F., MAZZOLONI D. (1999), The Christian Catacombs of Rome, Schnell & Steiner Regensburg.

[9] GARBINI L. (2012), Breve storia della musica sacra [in Italian], il Saggiatore, Milano.

[10] IANNACE G., MARLETTA L., SICURELLA F., IAN-NIELLO E. (2010), Acoustic measurements in the Ear of Dionysius at Syracuse (Italy), Proceedings of 39th International Congress on Noise Control Engineering, paper 580, Lisbon.

[11] IANNACE G., IANNIELLO C., IANNIELLO E. (2012), Acoustic measurements in underground rooms of Castelcivita Caves (Italy), Proceedings of European Conference on Noise Control -Euronoise 2012, pp. 124-129, Prague.

[12] IANNACE G., TREMATERRA A., MASULLO M. (2013), The large theatre of Pompeii: Acoustic evolution, Building Acoustics, 20, 215-227.

[13] IANNACE G., TREMATERRA A. (2014), The acoustics of caves, Applied Acoustics, 86, 42-46.

[14] IANNIELLO C. (2011), Acustica delle caverne, Rivista Italiana di Acustica, 35, 7-22.

[15] ISO-3382 (2012), Acoustics -Measurement of the re-verberation time of rooms with reference to other acous-tical parameters.

[16] JAHN R.G., DEVEREUX P., IBISON M. (1996), Acou-stical resonances of assorted ancient structures, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 99, 2, 649-658.

[17] JIMENÉZ GONZÁLEZ N., PICÓ R., REDONDO J. (2008), The Parpallo Cave: A singular archaeological acoustic site, Proc. Acoustics'08, Paris.

[18] PICÓ R., HORTELANO PIQUERAS L., ROIG B., RE-DONDO J. (2006), Simulaciòn acústica de la cueva del Parpallò mediante el metodo de elementos finitos, Tec-niacustica, Gandia.

[19] PLUMMER W.T. (1969), Infrasonic Resonances in Nat-ural Underground Cavities, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 46, 5, 1074-1080.

[20] REZNIKOFF I. (2008), Sound resonance in prehistoric times: A study of Paleolithic painted caves and rocks, Proceedings of Acoustics'08, pp. 4137-4141, Paris.

[21] STEVENSON J. (1978), The Catacombs, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London.

[22] SUÁREZ R., JUAN J., SENDRA J.J., ALONSO A. (2013), Acoustics, Liturgy and Architecture in the Early Chris-tian Church. From the domus ecclesiae to the basilica, Acta Acustica, 99, 292-301.

[23] TREMATERRA A., IANNACE G. (2013), The acoustic of the Catacombs of “San Gennaro” in Naples, Pro-ceedings of International Congress on Noise Control Engineering, Innsbruck.

[24] WALLIN N.L., MERKER B. (2000), The Origins of Music, Steven Brown [Ed.], MIT Press.

[25] WATSON A., KEATING D. (1999), Architecture and sound: an acoustic analysis of megalithic monuments in prehistoric Britain, Antiquity, 3, 325-336.

Archives of Acoustics

The Journal of Institute of Fundamental Technological of Polish Academy of Sciences

Journal Information

IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.816
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.835

CiteScore 2016: 1.15

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.432
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.948

Cited By


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 61 61 5
PDF Downloads 25 25 4