| Description | | Exhibits |

From the Elysian Fields to Christian Paradise

Wall painting of Susanna and the Elders
This exhibition presents the funerary customs and cemeteries of the Early Christian period (fourth-seventh centuries AD), a period which marks the passage from paganism to Christianity. It accentuates the continuity with the Roman period and its funerary practices, all of which, except for cremation, were accepted by the Christian church. The Elysian Fields of antiquity, the abode of the blessed after death, were replaced by the concept of Christian Paradise, and this change is reflected in the funerary iconography, symbols and texts of this period. The museum's collection of Early Christian funerary wall-paintings, most of which come from Thessaloniki, is among the most important and impressive in the world.

The exhibition occupies the museum's third room, and is organized by subject. It presents the typology of Early Christian graves, the grave gifts that were placed in them and the funerary wall-paintings which adorn them. Several complete funerary monuments were removed for their original location in the city's cemeteries to be displayed here. Grave gifts are displayed either by type, so as to inform the visitor about the art, manufacturing techniques and daily life customs of this period, or by context, so as to present the full contents of a grave. Explanatory texts and informative material complete the display; information on cemetery topography, the location of cemeteries inside the city and the period's funerary customs is provided on the mezzanine in the centre of the room. This exhibition, together with those of four other European museums (British Museum, and the museums of K?ln, Leiden and Stockholm), participated in the international research project entitled 'Transformation of the Roman World AD 400-900' of the European Science Foundation.
D. Nalpantis, archaeologist

Exhibition Units
- Tomb types
This first exhibition unit presents different types of graves, from the humblest, which consisted of assembled roof-tiles, to the wealthiest, which are the marble sarcophagi. Other grave types include the jar-burial, the shaft grave and the vaulted grave.
- Grave markers
This unit presents a group of marble funerary inscriptions, which combine the typical phrasing and other elements of Late Antiquity with symbols of the new religion, namely the cross or fish, and expressions of a new concept of the afterlife, such as koimeterion (cemetery=the place where one sleeps) and anapausis (rest).
- Grave groups
This unit presents grave groups containing a variety of grave-gifts. Metal jewelry and cosmetics implements, lamps, ceramic and glass vases are presented with the graves they belong to, to enable the visitor to appreciate their significance for the archaeologist.
- Grave-gifts grouped by type
These grave-gifts are grouped by type: ceramic and glass vases used either during the deceased's lifetime or the funerary ceremony, coins that were placed in the deceased's mouth as in antiquity, jewelry, dress accessories and personal possessions. All objects come from third to fifth century AD graves mainly in Thessaloniki. They provide useful information on the burial customs, but also on the art, crafts and everyday life of this period.
- Development of the pictorial repertory
This unit presents wall-paintings and a mosaic floor from graves of the third to sixth centuries AD. The evolution of iconography reflects a change in beliefs. In the earliest graves Greco-Roman traditions coexisted with Christian ideology, while the latest of the series were dominated by the cross, which symbolizes the victory of Christianity over death. The wall-painting of Suzanna from a grave of the city's east cemetery, is especially noteworthy.