The funerary areas of San Biagio in Cittiglio, Varese, Italy

The old medieval church of San Biagio in Cittiglio (Varese, Northern Italy) is one of the oldest religious buildings of Valcuvia. Since 2006, the interior of the church has been under investigation to acquire historical data and to reconstruct the archaeological site. These excavations yielded a series of discoveries, such as a significant number of tombs and pictorial elements. During our first field season, we exposed several architectural phases of the church, from the 9th to the 15th century. Inside the church, a funerary atrium was discovered and it was fascinating to find several tombs placed on different chronological layers. We observed the conspicuous presence of child graves.

In order to better investigate the paleodemography, we needed more osteoarchaeological data. Therefore, we focused our attention on the funerary area (7.5 m North–South × 18 m East–West) immediately outside the church. The archaeological excavation, which started in March 2016, brought to light several burials. During this phase, we discovered five overlapping archaeological layers, which testified an important funerary context. In the superficial layer, we recovered fragmented human bones, coins and numerous metallic artefacts. In the underling layer, we found tombs with coins, which allowed us to date it back to the Renaissance period. Square stones of different dimensions delimited the tombs of adults, while dead infants and foetuses were buried inside tiles. In the same layer, we also recovered archaeological findings such as an iron key, an iron knife, bronze buckles and bronze rings. The anthropological data for this cemeterial phase also documented the high infant mortality together with findings of pathological indicators such as arthrosis, dental diseases and traumatic injuries.

Our Field-Lab inside the Church of San Biagio
Two unearthed burials in the external area
Excavations of the external cemeterial area