The Devil’s Chair in Rome: The Tomb of Aelius Callistion

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The “Devil’s Chair”, or the tomb of Aelius Callistion (Elio Callistio), is a funerary architecture of ancient Rome located in Piazza Elio Callistio in Rome.

Related articles: The Ancient Pagan Temple of Diana, The Abbey of Thelema

The tomb stood on a hillock along the ancient Via Nomentana. The square was called Piazza della Sedia del Diavolo until the 1950s.

Aelius Callistion was a freedman of Hadrian. His sepulcher was built in the first half of the 2nd century AD, and it’s comparable to the cenotaph of Annia Regilla on the ancient Appian Way.

The building began to be called “Devil’s Chair” after the collapse of the facade when the remains took on the appearance of a chair with arms. In medieval times, a series of legends arose around the monument. It was believed that it was a demonic place, as well as the throne of Satan; during the night, men and homeless shepherds took refuge in the tomb. 

According to some, in a point of the “Chair”, it is possible to read the word “kabala” engraved on the stones of the ruin by the ancient alchemist Leonhard Thurneysser zum Thurn who lived briefly in Rome during the sixteenth century.

Through a staircase, obtained under the podium, it was possible to reach the lower semi-subterranean room, with a white mosaic floor; on each of the walls, which support a ribbed vault, there are two arcosolia and, above them, five niches surmounted by small splayed windows.

The upper chamber, on the back wall, has a large arched niche, framed by two small brick columns, with a tympanum and a shell-shaped cap. 

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