Christian catacombs

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The Christian Catacombs

Catacombs are underground cemeteries that were used by the Christians form the second to the fifth century to bury their dead.

The word catacomb is Greek, the ancient Christians did not use the word. The Romans used it to describe a place where there were caves that they used for the removal of tuff blocks of rock. It is near this place that the catacombs were dug for Saint Sebastian. By the ninth century the term was used to describe all cemeteries that went under the ground.

Roman law forbids the dead to be buried inside the city. Open spaces were not as available, so the Christians looked for another way to bury their dead. The Christians believed the body should be buried whole so when they are raised during the coming of Christ, their body would be intact to go. They did not believe in cremation.

The catacombs start with a stairway in the ground that leads to about forty-nine feet or more underground to a gallery that is about ten feet high. It then spreads out to other galleries and corridors that are wide enough for two gravediggers to go through. Side galleries branch off form the main galleries, and cross other passages. There are other stairways to lower levels where there is another group of galleries, there are catacombs that are three and four stories under the ground. Graves are along the wall from the floor to the ceiling, the number of graves in the Roman catacombs is estimated to be about two million. The graves are cut to match the length of the person's body. The body was wrapped in cloth and laid in the spot that was dug out for it. It was then sealed with a marble slab or sometimes by...