We went on the brief but and delightfully short catacomb tour climbing down into the uneven and claustrophobic depths. The tour guide was focused on the scare versus the significance of the place from either a historical or religious perspective. I had one question. I never got a clear answer from the guide. To me it seemed like a phenomenal effort to do all this digging to bury four million people just in this one catacomb. It was made clear to us that the Roman authorities had a map of the nine miles on three levels of the Catacombs of Domitilla. So obviously the Christians were not hiding the catacombs or the specific graves from the Romans. Men (fossors) were working for some 500 years digging the tunnels (ambulacra), the half moon burial spaces (loculi) in the walls, family vaults (cryptae), and the ventilation shafts to the surface. Wikipedia makes clear the reason for the catacombs “Though most famous for Christian burials, either in separate catacombs or mixed together, people of all the Roman religions are buried in them, beginning in the 2nd century AD, mainly as a response to overcrowding and shortage of land.” The “Catacombs of Rome” Wikipedia article goes on to say that as Christianity came into legality and primacy the burials moved to graveyards around churches. So now I have another question…where did all the previously tough to come by land spring from?
January 18th, 2016
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