Origin of the Roman Catacombs
The Roman Christians are believed to have adopted this custom from the Jewish mode of interment; and they would wish to follow in this the example of their Lord, who was laid in an excavated tomb. It was abhorrent to early Christians to burn their dead. The Christian religion religion had taught them to value the body, as an integral part of human nature, and has its own share in the redemption of man.
The Number of Roman Catacombs
Their customs in relation to their dead therefore required larger space and as the Christians grew and multiplied, and more burials took place, they extended the subterranean passages and galleries in every direction. It is computed that upwards of six millions of the bodies of the early Christians were deposited in the Catacombs.
Roman Catacombs - the Law
The name which these rock-hewn sepulchres first received was cemeteries, places of sleep; for the Christians looked upon their dead as only asleep, to be awakened at the resurrection. And being used as burial-places, the Catacombs became the property of the Christians; for, according to Roman law, land which had once been used for interment became religious, and could not be transferred for any other purpose.
Roman Catacombs used for religious meetings
It was long believed that the Roman Catacombs were made use of as places of abode, when persecution drove the Christians to seek the loneliest spots as hiding places although this idea has been has been disputed by some experts. There can be no doubt, however, that the Roman Catacombs were employed as places of religious meeting. Numerous inscriptions found in them record the problems faced by Christians. No Christian worship could be performed in the imperial city of Rome without the risk of discovery and certain death as the Christian religion was against the Roman law. The members of the Christian sect were therefore obliged to meet for worship in these dark vaults. The passages in some catacombs were expanded into large chambers, and there divine service was performed; not only for the benefit of those who came to bury their dead, but also for those who resided in the city, and were secret Christians.
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