In the 4th century AD the city of Sopianae, now called Pécs gave home to an extended Old Christian community. The tombs, burial chambers and memorial chapels they built in their cemetery are extremely well preserved. The walls are decorated with colored murals depicting Biblical and other christian themes. Partly underground, partly on the surface, these buildings – apart from being breathtaking – give you a better understanding of the life and faith of the late-Roman age’s people. To be there is like traveling back in time.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee justified Pecs Necropolis’s inscription on the list of historio-cultural treasures by stating, that the excavated building ensemble embodies an extraordinarily varied and complex example of early Christian funerary art and architecture in the northern and western roman provinces, something, can not been seen elsewhere. The underground burial chambers and memorial chapels testify to the perseverance and faith of the Christian community living in Europe during the late Roman era, as well as illustrating the roots of a culture and civilization that is alive and active to this day. Numerous sepulchral structures, burial chambers, crypts, chapels and mausoleums have survived from the ancient town’s early Christian community. In most cases a chapel was erected above an underground burial chamber, and therefore the ensuing two-story structure was endowed with a dual task; at the same time, they provided a burial place as well as a site for ceremonies. However, despite the fact that they built below the surface there were never any catacombs constructed – the structures were erected for the most part in the 4th century, when Christians were no longer persecuted by the Roman Empire.

The nomination comprises 16 monuments, among which are burial chambers, chapels and a mausoleum. The number I – Peter and Paul – Crypt is perhaps the most renowned Pannonian early Christian structure, because its existence has been known of since 1782. It received its name from the depiction on the main wall facing the entrance of the apostles Peter and Paul, who are pointing to the monogram of Christ, which symbolizes the presence of Jesus. All of the walls in this barrel-vaulted chamber are decorated with frescos portraying biblical scenes, as well as rich floral and animal ornamentation. The number II, Pitcher Crypt, was excavated in 1939, despite the fact that it had already been discovered accidentally during the construction of a cellar at the turn of the 19th century. The two-story structure, on a north-south axis, is again made up of a burial chamber below with a chapel placed above. The chapel was where ceremonies were held, including at least the honoring of the deceased on the anniversary of their death. A small niche was fashioned in the northern half of the burial chamber, where the depiction of a pitcher and cup is visible on the wall, from whence the crypt received its name. Besides these, the Cella Trichora and the Cella Septichora also deserve mentioning. The Cella Trichora, or the funerary chapel with three apses, was a characteristic early Christian sepulchral building; apses were constructed on the east, west and north sides opening from the rectangular central area, and to the south was a vestibule. The funerary building with seven alcoves (Cella Septichora) is a unique construction; alcoves grouped around the structure’s main east-west axis surround an elongated octagonal central area.

The 1,600-year old early Christian cemetery in Pecs wonderfully displays the late Roman funerary practices and cult of the dead. Outside of Rome, Pecs contains the largest and best quality surviving early Christian ensemble of this type. Its value is enhanced by the fact that these 4th century cultic structures have remained in the same state that they existed in during the time of the Great Migrations of Nations in Europe.