fbpx

I was told the incredible story of the Mausoleum of Lucio Poblicio a few years ago by Manfred, the co-author of the series An Architect at the Time of the Roman Empire.
He comes from those places, and while talking to me about the discovery of the mausoleum, he showed me that, as sometimes happens, reality surpasses the imagination of any screenwriter or writer.
A story like that of Poblicio Mausoleum could not but have a profound influence on the trilogy we were writing together, to the point that a marble funeral monument, designed and built with enviable skill along a road in Germania Superior, has become almost the core of the last volume of the series The Darkness Among the Hills.
To make the mausoleum’s architecture and construction technique credible in the novel, it was necessary to examine how similar works used to be built in the first century.
The most interesting mausoleum among those studied is precisely that of Lucio Poblicio, entirely reconstructed, integrating some missing blocks, and preserved in Cologne inside the Römisch-Germanisches Museum.
I got to examine it in person during one of the visits to the places where the novels are set.
Lucio Poblicio was an Italic man belonging to the gens Teretina, presumably coming from the area of Sessa Aurunca – Cassino. He had completed the military service of about 25 years under Emperor Claudius, at the Legio V Alaudae stationed on the Rhine River, and he had received an Honesta Missio (end of service payment) equal to about thirteen years of salary (stipendium).
The monument dates back to 40 AD and does not represent Lucio as a military man, but as a Roman citizen surrounded by his family.
The marbles are expertly sculpted to represent classical motifs: a small temple, friezes and garlands, the dedication, and a rich iconography typical of the first century and of the Rhine Valley.
The monument was reassembled starting from the rubble fortunately found during an excavation in the city of Cologne. The ruins had remained buried in the Roman layer of the city, many meters below the current ground level, and above them, the medieval city was built first and then the modern one, razed to the ground by the Allied bombing during the Second World War.

1. The mausoleum inside the Römisch-Germanisches Museum. (Photo by the Author)
2 .At the end of the “Millennium” operation (30 May 1942), the city of Cologne had been completely destroyed. The construction plans of the buildings, of which sometimes only the foundations remained, had been lost. (Credit Wikipedia)

In the mid-sixties, the Gens family wanted to know the state of the foundations, of which there were no surviving documents from the war, in view of a reconstruction of the original building, which had been totally destroyed. In addition to the project drawings, money was scarce as well, and the Gens decided to trust the opinion of the owner’s 20-year-old son, Josef, who was studying engineering at the time.
Young Josef started an excavation by hand, almost immediately stumbling upon a tunnel, or a well, in which he lost his pickaxe. He went down into the tunnel, more out of curiosity than anything else, and came across fragments of capitals and vases with a very old look. He had his brother Heinz help him in the excavation and the two realized that the remains were very ancient. They called the three Hermann brothers together with Goldenberg and Bernhard Straesser to help them. Along with very old bones, Roman remains emerged.
Continuing the excavation, carved blocks were extracted in which a bust, arms and a flute of Pan, the god of shepherds, were depicted

3 .On the right side of the monument is visible the figure of Pan, the god of shepherds, recomposed with several blocks of marble, together with mythological references. Inside, you can see the statues depicting Poblicio and his family (photo by the author).

At this point, the young archaeologist-explorers involved the officials of the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, and Director Otto Doppelfeld visited the recently-discovered tunnels together with four archaeologists with whom the excavation continued for a few days.
Unfortunately, however, the enlargement of the excavations, which were producing real tunnels underneath inhabited buildings, had to be interrupted in order not to cause damage to the surface.
At this point, the Gens family was forced to stop the excavations.
After some time, the group of young excavators, now in the throes of an “excavation rush,” decided to try to secretly reinforce the foundations of the building and continue the exploration anyway.
As we know, one lie leads to another: they bought steel for reinforced concrete, ten thousand bricks and ninety bags of concrete with the excuse of building a dance club in their cellar. With painstaking patience, they shored up the foundations meter after meter until the excavation was safe.
The excavations continued for two years in secret, and most of the marble blocks of the mausoleum of Lucio Poblicio re-emerged from the subsoil. At this point, in 1967, the amateur archaeologists decided to come out by calling the press.
The news of the sensational discovery went around the world, and despite million-dollar offers (according to German law, findings belong to the discoverers-owners of the area), Poblicio Mausoleum was donated to the Römisch-Germanisches Museum.
“We unearthed it for passion, not for money,” explains Josef Gens in Grabungsfieber (English: “Digging Fever”), published by Kiepenheuer and Witsch, in which he tells the complicated story of the discovery and of the volunteers who participated in the excavations.

4. The front part of the monument recalls a temple where the statues of Poblicio and his family are placed (photo by the author).

5 .The top part of the Monument with a roof carved with tiles and the capitals with ichthyocentaurs typical of the Rhenish tradition (photo by the author).

6. Outside the museum are housed blocks of marble worked with tiles that formed the top part, similar to a roof, of funeral monuments similar to that of Poblicio (photo by the author).

7 . The book that tells the story of the discovery of the monument.

BEHIND THE SCENES

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Claudio Rossi © 2019. All rights reserved.