Catacombs are man-made underground passages primarily used for religious purposes, particularly for burial. Any chamber used as a burial place is considered a catacomb, although the word is most commonly associated with the Roman Empire.[1][2]

A procession in the San Callistus catacombs in Rome, painted by Alberto Pisa.

Etymology and history edit

The first place to be referred to as catacombs was the system of underground tombs between the 2nd and 3rd milestones of the Appian Way in Rome, where the bodies of the apostles Peter and Paul, among others, were said to have been buried. The name of that place in Late Latin was L.L. fem. nom. pl. n. catacumbas (sing. catacumba) a word of obscure origin, possibly deriving from a proper name or a derivation of the Greek phrase cata cumbas, "near the quarries". The word referred originally only to the Roman catacombs, but was extended by 1836 to refer to any subterranean receptacle of the dead, as in the 18th-century Paris catacombs.[3] The ancient Christians carved the first catacombs from soft tufa rock. (ref)" (World Book Encyclopedia, page 296)

All Roman catacombs were located outside city walls since it was illegal to bury a dead body within the city,[4] providing "a place…where martyrs' tombs could be openly marked" and commemorative services and feasts held safely on sacred days.[5]

Around the world edit

Grave niches in the Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome.
Paris Catacombs.
Jesus and his twelve apostles, fresco with the Chi-Rho symbol , Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome.
The Chi-Rho symbol with Alpha and Omega, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome.

Catacombs around the world include:

There are also catacomb-like burial chambers in Anatolia, Turkey; in Sousse, Tunisia; in Syracuse, Italy; Trier, Germany; Kyiv, Ukraine. Capuchin catacombs of Palermo, Sicily were used as late as the 1920s. Catacombs were available in some of the grander English cemeteries founded in the 19th Century, such as Sheffield General Cemetery (above ground) and West Norwood Cemetery (below ground). There are catacombs in Bulgaria near Aladzha Monastery[9] and in Romania as medieval underground galleries in Bucharest.[10] In Ukraine and Russia, catacomb (used in the local languages' plural katakomby) also refers to the network of abandoned caves and tunnels earlier used to mine stone, especially limestone.

In Italy, possible Catacombs are also located in Alezio, beside the Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Assunta, as well as the basement of Santa Maria della Lizza Sanctuary [it].[clarification needed]

Decorations edit

Catacombs, although most notable as underground passageways and cemeteries, also house many decorations. There are thousands of decorations in the centuries-old catacombs of Rome, catacombs of Paris, and other known, some of which include inscriptions, paintings, statues, ornaments, and other items placed in the graves over the years.

Most of these decorations were used to identify, immortalize and show respect to the dead. Decorations in the catacombs of Rome were primarily decorated with images and words exalting Christ or depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.[11] Much of the sculpture work and art, other than engravings on the walls or tombs, has been preserved in places such as the Museum of Saint John Lateran, Christian Museum of Berlin University, and the Vatican.[12]

Three representations of Christ as Orpheus charming animals with peaceful music have been found in the catacombs of Domatilla and St. Callista.[13] Another figure was made of gilded glass and dates back to the fourth century, featuring Jesus with the world balanced in his hand and a scroll at his feet.[14]

Inscriptions edit

Although thousands of inscriptions were lost as time passed, many of those remaining indicate the social rank or job title of its inhabitants; however, most of the inscriptions simply indicate how loving a couple was, or the love of parents and such. A common and particularly interesting one found in Roman catacombs is the Ichthys, or "Monogram of Christ" which reads ΙΧΘΥΣ, standing for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior".[13]

Bacteria edit

In recent years unique strains of bacteria have been discovered that thrive in catacombs, inducing mineral efflorescence and decay. These include Kribbella sancticallisti, Kribbella catacumbae, and three types of non-thermophilic (low-temperature) Rubrobacter.[15][16]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Other examples include a Neolithic long barrow, an Ancient Egyptian necropolis, or modern underground vaults such as the Catacombs of Paris.
  2. ^ Reich, Ronny; Katzenstein, Hannah (1992). "Glossary of Archaeological Terms". In Kempinski, Aharon; Reich, Ronny (eds.). The Architecture of Ancient Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. p. 312. ISBN 978-965-221-013-5. (Latin: catacumbas - district near ancient Rome where one of the earliest Christian cemeteries was located). Subterranean rock-cut burial complex.
  3. ^ "Catacombs", Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed 10 July 2010.
  4. ^ Hurst, John Fletcher (1897). History of the Christian Church. Vol. 1. Eaton and Mains.
  5. ^ Webb, Matilda (2001). The Churches of riles often used these ctacombs, And Catacombs of Early Christian Rome: a Comprehensive Guide. Sussex Academic Press. p. xiv, xi-xii. ISBN 9781902210575.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Weiss, Z. (2010). Burial practices in Beth She'arim and the question of dating the patriarchal necropolis. Follow the Wise”: Studies in Jewish History and Culture in Honor of Lee I. Levine. Winona Lake, 207-231.
  7. ^ "Maltese Catacomb Complexes". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 17 April 2008.
  8. ^ "Take a photo tour of the crypts underneath St. Patrick's Old Cathedral". Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Aladzha Monastery | Black Sea Coast, Bulgaria | Attractions". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 21 February 2024.
  10. ^ "Romania Libera:Network of tunnels under the capital city". Archived from the original on 29 January 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2008.
  11. ^ Hurst, John Fletcher (1900). Short History of the Christian Church. Harper and Brothers. pp. 87–88.
  12. ^ Hurst, John Fletcher (1900). Short History of the Christian Church. Harper and Brothers. p. 87.
  13. ^ a b Hurst, John Fletcher (1900). Short History of the Christian Church. Harper and Brothers. p. 88.
  14. ^ Hurst, John Fletcher (1900). Short History of the Christian Church. Harper and Brothers. p. 89.
  15. ^ ScienceDaily, Bacteria Cause Old Buildings To Feel Off-Color 28 October 2008
  16. ^ ScienceDaily, New Life Found in Ancient Tombs, 1 October 2008

References edit

External links edit