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492
CATACOMB

epitaph is usually daubed on the slab in red or black paint. In later examples it is incised in the marbles, the letters being rendered clearer by being coloured with vermilion. The enclosing slab very often bears one or more Christian symbols, such as the dove, the anchor, the olive-branch, or the monogram of Christ (figs. 5, 6). The palm branch, which is also of frequent occurrence, is not an indisputable mark of the last resting-place of a martyr, being found in connexion with epitaphs of persons dying natural deaths, or those prepared by persons in their lifetime, as well as in those of little children, and even of pagans. Another frequent concomitant of these catacomb interments, a small glass vessel containing traces of the sediment of a red fluid, embedded in the cement of the loculus (fig. 7), has no better claim. The red matter proves to be the remains of wine, not of blood; and the conclusion of the ablest archaeologists is that the vessels were placed where they are found, after the eucharistic celebration or agape on the day of the funeral or its anniversary, and contained remains of the consecrated elements as a kind of religious charm. Not a few of the slabs, it is discovered, have done double duty, bearing a pagan inscription on one side and a Christian one on the other. These are known as opisthographs. The bodies were interred wrapped in linen cloths, or swathed in bands, and were frequently preserved by embalming. In the case of poorer interments the destruction of the body was, on the contrary, often accelerated by the use of quicklime.

EB1911 Catacomb - Fig. 2—Section of Galleries at different levels.jpg
Fig. 2.—Section of Galleries at different levels. (From Seroux d’Agincourt)

EB1911 Catacomb - Fig. 3—View of a Gallery.jpg
Fig. 3.—View of a Gallery.

EB1911 Catacomb - Fig. 4.—Loculi.jpg
Fig. 4.—Loculi. (From de Rossi.)

EB1911 Catacomb - Figs. 5 and 6.—Loculi.jpg
Figs. 5 and 6.—Loculi. (From de Rossi.)

Interment in the wall-recess or loculus, though infinitely the most common, was not the only mode employed in the catacombs. Other forms of very frequent recurrence are the table-tomb and arched tomb, or arcosolium. From the annexed woodcuts it will be seen that these only differ in the form of the surmounting recess. In each case the arched tomb was formed by an oblong chest, either hollowed out of the rock, or built of masonry, and closed with a horizontal slab. But in the table-tomb (fig. 8) the recess above, essential for the introduction of the corpse, is square, while in the arcosolium (fig. 9), a form of later date, it is semicircular. Sarcophagi are also found in the catacombs, but are of rare occurrence. They chiefly occur in the earlier cemeteries, and the costliness of their construction confined their use to the wealthiest classes—e.g. in the cemetery of St Domitilla, herself a member of the imperial house. Another unfrequent mode of interment was in graves like those of modern times, dug in the floor of the galleries (Marchi, u.s., tav. xxi. xxvi.). Table-tombs and arcosolia are by no means rare in the corridors of the catacombs, but they belong more generally to the cubicula, or family vaults, of which we now proceed to speak.

EB1911 Catacomb - Fig. 7—Glass Bottles.jpg
Fig. 7.—Glass Bottles. (From Bosio.)

These cubicula are small apartments, seldom more than 12 ft. square, usually rectangular, though sometimes circular or polygonal, opening out of the main corridors. They are not unfrequently ranged regularly along the sides of the galleries, the doors of entrance, as may be seen in a previous illustration (fig. 3), following one another in as orderly succession as the bedchamber doors in the passage of a modern house. The roof is sometimes