A grotto for burial; a sepulchral vault.
A subterranean place for the burial of the dead, consisting of galleries or passages with recesses excavated at their sides for tombs.
Later applied in the plural to all the subterranean cemeteries lying around Rome which, after having been long covered up and forgotten, were fortuitously discovered in 1578.
They are found elsewhere, as, at Naples, at Syracuse, in Egypt, at Paris, etc.
The term is chiefly applied to those lying about Rome, the principal ones lying along the Appian Way.
The accompanying engraving shows a small portion of the Northern section of the Catacomb of Saint Calixtus.
There seems to have been no plan for these excavations, for they shoot off in the most unexpected directions, forming such a labyrinth of connected passages that persons often have been lost for several days at a time, giving the monk attendants much trouble.
They are several miles in extent.
Those about Rome are under the care of various monks of the church, and are a source of considerable revenue from tourists.
They are now entered by narrow passages and some, as in the case of Saint Calixtus, descend to considerable depth.
Along the passages are small chambers at the sides for tombs, one above another, each of which generally closed by a slab of stone on which was placed the letters D. M., the initials of Dea Maximo, or X. P., the Greek letters for Christ. Tombs of saints bore inscriptions of identification.
The passages are generally three or four feet wide and were at intervals along their course enlarged into chambers, usually square or rectangular, that were used for worship. One in Saint Calixtus was an irregu1ar semicircle and about thirty-two feet in diameter.
In these chambers is usually found a stone bench or chair for the bishop or teacher. They were ventilated and partially fighted by shafts that extended to the surface of the ground. Some frescoes were found on the walls.
Many catacambs were destroyed and traces of them lost when the Goths, Lombards, and others besieged Rome at various times.
The foregoing would not justify a place in a work of this character, were it not for the influence it sheds on the beginning of Christian architecture, as for three centuries Pagan Rome would not permit Christians to meet above ground.
The Twenty-sixth Degree in the Ancient and Accepted Rite refers to catacombs (see also Labyrinth).
From an Italian word meaning scaffold. A temporary structure of wood, appropriately decorated with funereal symbols and representing a tomb or cenotaph. It forms a part of the decorations of a Sorrow Lodge, and is also used in the ceremonies of the Master Mason's Degree in Lodges of the French Rite.
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