The Ancient Christian Necropolis in Pécs
What is now the region of Transdanubia in modern Hungary was once part of the Roman Empire, with the Danube River forming its natural border. In ancient times, it was known as Pannonia. The town of Sopianæ now the city of Pécs was founded in the 1st century A.D. Thanks to its rapid development, when the province of Pannonia was divided up in 295, the town became the seat of the district of Valeria, and the provincial administrative center.
The Edict of Milan in 313 by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great gave Christians the freedom to practice their religion, leading to the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the Empire. In the 4th-5th centuries, a dynamic, wealthy Christian community developed in Sopianæ. Archaeological relics from this community include tombs, brick and stone headstones, and sarcophagi, most of which were unearthed when new buildings were under construction. The first ancient Christian burial tomb, known as the ‘Peter and Paul Chamber', was discovered in 1782 right next to the cathedral in Pécs. Systematic excavations finally began in the 20th century. In the necropolis to the north and east of the city, more than 1,000 graves dating to the 3rd-5th centuries have been unearthed. Some of the graves were made of brick or sarcophagi, the rest were simple earthen graves. The necropolis on the south slopes of the Mecsek mountains were built in a terrace-like fashion. Shrines and memorial chapels were situated on the terraced areas, with the actual tombs underneath, on the terrace itself. In general, the tombs were square cellar-like structures, with barrel-vaulted roofs. Opposite the entryway there was a eucharistic niche, It is thought that the tombs were built between 312 and 435. The murals in the tombs depict Christian symbols and scenes from the Bible. The artistic quality of the works and the size of the necropolis reflect the importance of this provincial seat in the late Roman Empire.
With this third silver commemorative coin in its series depicting Hungarian World Heritage sites (after the Hortobágyi National Park in 2002 and the village of Hollóko in 2003), the National Bank of Hungary Bank has chosen to celebrate the truly unique ancient Christian cemetery in Pécs (Sopianæ), a World Heritage site since 2000.
The artist László Szlávics Jr. selected the "Korsós" burial chamber as the theme for this silver coin. This burial tomb was presumably built in the 4th century and was only excavated in the last century. The side walls of the chamber are decorated by ornamental and geometric designs symbolizing the Garden of Eden, while the chamber takes its name from depiction of the "pitcher" by the eucharistic niche. The front of the coin also shows the monogram of Christ found in the Peter and Paul burial chamber.
Face Value: 5,000 Forint
Fineness: .925 Silver
Weight: 31.46 g.
Diameter: 38.61 mm