Sarcophagus of Flavius Vitalis and Bruttia Aureliana

Third quarter of the third century AD (260-270AD); Reused and reworked mid-fourth century AD.


Marble (Marmara); 197 x 221 x 119cm

This monument was found in 1353-56 during construction work for the city wall at Porta Cittanova (now Largo Sant’Agostino), a site used during the Roman era as a burial ground along the Via Aemilia, west of Mutina. Placed on display at the Duomo, the monument took on a certain political significance due to the prestige and historic fame attributed to it. The name ‘Bruttia’ referenced in the long epigraph on the front (“most noble” consort of Flavius Vitalis, the monument’s other patron) was associated with Caesar’s assassin Brutus, often confused with fellow conspirator Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus who died during the Battle of Mutina against Octavian. Since it was believed to be Brutus’ tomb, this sarcophagus became a symbol of the city’s struggle against tyranny during the years in which Modena was under threat from the expansionist aims of Giovanni Visconti.