Rome: The Catacombs
The word catacomb comes from the Greek word meaning underground burial (5).? Catacombs are just that, underground cemeteries.? The early Christian church in ancient Rome used these cemeteries from the second century to the fifth century AD (5).? At first, these underground burials were only used as cemeteries.? During the persecutions of the Christian church around 64 AD, these catacombs were used as places of refuge for Christians (5).? Here they could celebrate the Eucharist and other ceremonies that were condemned by the Roman government (5).? After the persecutions ended around 366 AD, the catacombs became a shrine for the martyrs and a place of pilgrimage and devotion for Christians throughout the entire Roman Empire (5).? The Catacombs were uncovered again in the late 16th century (3).? A total of about 60 Catacombs have been discovered in and around the city of Rome (3).
?The burial places were located underground, instead of above ground like today?s cemeteries, for numerous reasons.? The main reason tombs were built underground was because of the lack of space above ground (5).? Rome was a growing city that left little room for above ground cemeteries (5).? It was also against Roman law to bury within the city walls of Rome (4).? Early Christians believed in burials, instead of cremations, because Christ had been buried.? Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 15: 3 and 4, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1).? Later, in verse 20 Paul says, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1).? This shows that all will rise from the dead one day.? The early Christians thought a burial showed respect to these bodies that would rise from the dead (5).? Because of this belief, more space was needed in order to bury people, but because of the limited space, land was very expensive (5).? The catacombs were started as a solution to this problem.?
Men called fossores, or gravediggers, created the underground wonders in a period of three centuries (5).? These men would dig underground by lamplight and would carry the dirt away by baskets or bags (5).? Underground Rome was made up of a volcanic rock called Tuff (3).? It was a very strong and stable rock, which created the support and strength for the tunnels that the fossores would dig (3).? The fossores started the building process by digging an eight-foot high, four-foot wide tunnel into the hillside (4).? Passages were then built at right angles from this first tunnel.? After that point, construction continued downward.? The baskets and bags of dirt and rock would be removed from the ground through light wells that were created throughout the building process (4).?
?The labyrinth-like tunnels that created the Catacombs were...