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Title: The Catacombs of Rome - and Their Testimony Relative to Primitive Christianity
Author: Withrow, W. H. (William Henry)
Language: English
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                       THE CATACOMBS OF ROME.

                         CATACOMBS OF ROME,
        Their Testimony Relative to Primitive Christianity.

                            BY THE REV.
                        W. H. WITHROW, M.A.


                       HODDER AND STOUGHTON,
                        27, PATERNOSTER ROW.


    Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ld. Printers, London and Aylesbury.

                              PREFACE.                                     5

The present work, it is hoped, will supply a want long felt in the
literature of the Catacombs. That literature, it is true, is very
voluminous; but it is for the most part locked up in rare and costly
folios in foreign languages, and inaccessible to the general reader.
Recent discoveries have refuted some of the theories and corrected
many of the statements of previous books in English on this subject;
and the present volume is the only one in which the latest results of
exploration are fully given, and interpreted from a Protestant point
of view.

The writer has endeavored to illustrate the subject by frequent pagan
sepulchral inscriptions, and by citations from the writings of the
Fathers, which often throw much light on the condition of early
Christian society. The value of the work is greatly enhanced, it is
thought, by the addition of many hundreds of early Christian
inscriptions carefully translated, a very large proportion of which
have never before appeared in English. Those only who have given some
attention to epigraphical studies can conceive the difficulty of this
part of the work. The defacements of time, and frequently the original
imperfection of the inscriptions and the ignorance of their writers,
demand the utmost carefulness to avoid errors of interpretation. The       6
writer has been fortunate in being assisted by the veteran scholarship
of the Rev. Dr. McCaul, well known in both Europe and America as one
of the highest living authorities in epigraphical science, under whose
critical revision most of the translations have passed. Through the
enterprise of the publishers this work is more copiously illustrated,
from original and other sources, than any other work on the subject in
the language; thus giving more correct and vivid impressions of the
unfamiliar scenes and objects delineated than is possible by any mere
verbal description. References are given, in the foot-notes, to the
principal authorities quoted, but specific acknowledgment should here
be made of the author’s indebtedness to the Cavaliere De Rossi’s
_Roma Sotterranea_ and _Inscriptiones Christianæ_, by far
the most important works on this fascinating but difficult subject.

Believing that the testimony of the Catacombs exhibits, more
strikingly than any other evidence, the immense contrast between
primitive Christianity and modern Romanism, the author thinks no
apology necessary for the somewhat polemical character of portions of
this book which illustrate that fact. He trusts that it will be found
a contribution of some value to the historical defense of the truth
against the corruptions and innovations of Popish error.

                             CONTENTS.                                     7

                            Book First.


  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE

    I. THE STRUCTURE OF THE CATACOMBS                             11
    V. THE PRINCIPAL CATACOMBS                                   164

                            Book Second.


    I. EARLY CHRISTIAN ART                                       203
   II. THE SYMBOLISM OF THE CATACOMBS                            225
   IV. OBJECTS FOUND IN THE CATACOMBS                            362

                            Book Third.


     I. GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE INSCRIPTIONS                    395
        THE CATACOMBS                                            453
        CHURCH AS INDICATED IN THE CATACOMBS                     506

                       LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.                              8

   Fig.                                                         Page

     1. Entrance to Catacomb of St. Priscilla                     12
     2. Entrance to Catacomb of St. Prætextatus                   16
     3. Part of Callixtan Catacomb                                17
     4. Gallery with Tombs                                        18
     5. Interior of Corridor                                      20
     6. Loculi--Open and Closed                                   23
     7. Tomb of Valeria                                           24
     8. Arcosolium with Perforated Slab                           25
     9. Plan of Double Chamber                                    26
    10. Section of Gallery and Cubicula                           27
    11. Suite of Chambers                                         28
    12. Vaulted Chamber with Columns                              29
    13. Cubiculum with Arcosolia                                  30
    14. Section of Catacomb of Callixtus                          32
    15. Cubicula with Luminare                                    35
    16. Gallery in St. Hermes                                     42
    17. Part of Wall of Gallery in St. Hermes                     42
    18. Slab in Jewish Catacomb                                   51
    19. Epitaph of Martyrus                                       66
    20. Reputed Martyr Symbol                                     77
    21. Epitaph of Lannus, a Martyr                               98
    22. Secret Stairway in Catacomb of Callixtus                 101
    23. Diogenes the Fossor                                      133
    24. Fossor at Work                                           134
    25. Tombs on Appian Way                                      165
    26. Plan of Area in Callixtan Catacomb                       171
    27. Plan of Crypt of St. Peter and St. Paul                  187
    28. Crypt of St. Peter and St. Paul                          188
    29. Section of Catacomb of Helena                            191
    30. Entrance to Catacomb of St. Agnes                        195
    31. Mithraic Painting                                        216
    32. Leaf Point                                               227
    33. Phonetic Symbol--Leo                                     229
    34. Phonetic Symbol--Porcella                                230
    35. Phonetic Symbol--Nabira                                  230
    36. Wool-comber’s Implements                                 231
    37. Carpenter’s Implements                                   231
    38. Vine Dresser’s Tomb                                      232
    39. Symbolical Anchor                                        234
    40. Symbolical Ship                                          235
    41. Symbolical Palm and Crown                                236
    42. Symbolical Doves                                         237
    43. Symbolical Dove                                          238
    44. Doves and Vase                                           238
    45. Locus Primi                                              238
    46. Symbolical Peacock                                       240
    47. The Good Shepherd                                        245
    48. Good Shepherd with Syrinx                                246
    49. Symbolical Lamb                                          249
    50. Symbolical Fish                                          255       9
    51. Symbolical Fish                                          256
    52. Fish and Anchor                                          256
    53. Fish and Dove                                            256
    54. Eucharistic Symbol                                       256
    55. Constantinian Monogram                                   265
    56. Early Christian Seal                                     266
    57. Various Forms of Monogram                                267
    58. Epitaph of Tasaris                                       267
    59. Opisthographæ                                            268
    60. Early Christian Seal                                     270
    61. Monogram and Cross                                       270
    62. The Temptation and Fall                                  284
    63. Adam and Eve Receiving their Sentence                    285
    64. Noah in the Ark                                          286
    65. Noah in the Ark                                          287
    66. Noah in the Ark, from Sarcophagus                        287
    67. Apamean Medal                                            288
    68. Sacrifice of Isaac                                       289
    69. Sacrifice of Isaac                                       289
    70. Moses on Horeb                                           290
    71. Moses Receiving the Law                                  290
    72. Moses and the Baskets of Manna                           291
    73. Moses Striking the Rock                                  291
    74. Moses Striking the Rock                                  291
    75. The Sufferings of Job                                    293
    76. Ascension of Elijah                                      295
    77. The Three Hebrew Children                                296
    78. The Three Hebrew Children                                297
    79. The Three Hebrew Children                                298
    80. Daniel in the Lions’ Den                                 299
    81. The Story of Jonah                                       300
    82. Jonah, Moses, and Oranti                                 301
    83. Jonah and the Great Fish                                 302
    84. Noah and Jonah                                           302
    85. Jonah’s Gourd                                            304
    86. Adoration of Magi                                        305
    87. Adoration of Magi                                        306
    88. Orante                                                   309
    89. Supposed Madonna                                         311
    90. Earliest Madonna                                         312
    91. Christ with the Doctors                                  324
    92. Christ and the Woman of Samaria                          325
    93. Paralytic Carrying Bed                                   325
    94. Woman with Issue of Blood                                326
    95. Miracle of Loaves and Fishes                             327
    96. Opening the Eyes of the Blind                            327
    97. Christ Blessing a Little Child                           328
    98. Lazarus (rude)                                           330
    99. Lazarus (in fresco)                                      330
   100. Lazarus (in relief)                                      331
   101. Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem                            331
   102. Peter’s Denial of Christ                                 332
   103. Pilate Washing his Hands                                 333
   104. Sculptured Sarcophagus                                   334
   105. Painted Chamber                                          339
   106. Oldest Extant Head of Christ (mosaic)                    347
   107. God Symbolized by a Hand                                 356
   108. God as Pope                                              359
   109. Domestic Group in Gilt Glass                             366
   110. Reputed Martyr Relic                                     371
   111. Reputed Martyr Symbol                                    371
   112. Symbolical Lamp                                          377
   113. Symbolical Lamp                                          378
   114. Vases from the Catacombs                                 381
   115. Amphora from the Catacombs                               382      10
   116. Earthen and Metal Vessels                                383
   117. Early Christian Ring                                     385
   118. Early Christian Seal                                     385
   119. Impressions of Seals                                     386
   120. Children’s Toys                                          387
   121. Statue of Good Shepherd                                  390
   122. Epitaph of Gemella                                       401
   123. Epitaph of Ligurius Successus                            402
   124. Epitaph of Domitius                                      402
   125. Epitaph Inverted                                         404
   126. Epitaph Reversed                                         404
   127. Epitaph of Cassta                                        405
   128. Triple Epitaph                                           405
   129. Belicia                                                  500
   130. Chamber with Catechumens’ Seats                          531
   131. Baptismal Font                                           537
   132. Baptism of Our Lord                                      538
   133. Baptismal Scene                                          539
   134. Fresco of Early Christian Agape                          546

                            BOOK FIRST.                                   11


                             CHAPTER I.

                    STRUCTURE OF THE CATACOMBS.

“Among the cultivated grounds not far from the city of Rome,” says the
Christian poet Prudentius, “lies a deep crypt, with dark recesses. A
descending path, with winding steps, leads through the dim turnings,
and the daylight, entering by the mouth of the cavern, somewhat
illumines the first part of the way. But the darkness grows deeper as
we advance, till we meet with openings, cut in the roof of the
passages, admitting light from above. On all sides spreads the
densely-woven labyrinth of paths, branching into caverned chapels and
sepulchral halls; and throughout the subterranean maze, through
frequent openings, penetrates the light.”[1]

  [Illustration: Fig. 1.--Entrance to the Catacomb of St. Priscilla.]     12

This description of the Catacombs in the fourth century is equally
applicable to their general appearance in the nineteenth. Their main
features are unchanged, although time and decay have greatly impaired
their structure and defaced their beauty. These Christian cemeteries
are situated chiefly near the great roads leading from the city, and,
for the most part, within a circle of three miles from the walls. From
this circumstance they have been compared to the “encampment of a
Christian host besieging Pagan Rome, and driving inward its mines and
trenches with an assurance of final victory.” The openings of the         13
Catacombs are scattered over the Campagna, whose mournful desolation
surrounds the city; often among the mouldering mausolea that rise,
like stranded wrecks, above the rolling sea of verdure of the
tomb-abounding plain.[2] On every side are tombs--tombs above and
tombs below--the graves of contending races, the sepulchres of
vanished generations: “_Piena di sepoltura è la Campagna_.”[3]

How marvelous that beneath the remains of a proud pagan civilization
exist the early monuments of that power before which the myths of
paganism faded away as the spectres of darkness before the rising sun,
and by which the religion and institutions of Rome were entirely
changed.[4] Beneath the ruined palaces and temples, the crumbling
tombs and dismantled villas, of the august mistress of the world, we
find the most interesting relics of early Christianity on the face of
the earth. In traversing these tangled labyrinths we are brought face
to face with the primitive ages; we are present at the worship of the
infant Church; we observe its rites; we study its institutions; we
witness the deep emotions of the first believers as they commit their
dead, often their martyred dead, to their last long resting-place; we
decipher the touching record of their sorrow, of the holy hopes by        14
which they were sustained, of “their faith triumphant o’er their
fears,” and of their assurance of the resurrection of the dead and the
life everlasting. We read in the testimony of the Catacombs the
confession of faith of the early Christians, sometimes accompanied by
the records of their persecution, the symbols of their martyrdom, and
even the very instruments of their torture. For in these halls of
silence and gloom slumbers the dust of many of the martyrs and
confessors, who sealed their testimony with their blood during the
sanguinary ages of persecution; of many of the early bishops and
pastors of the Church, who shepherded the flock of Christ amid the
dangers of those troublous times; of many who heard the words of life
from teachers who lived in or near the apostolic age, perhaps from the
lips of the apostles themselves. Indeed, if we would accept ancient
tradition, we would even believe that the bodies of St. Peter and St.
Paul were laid to rest in those hallowed crypts--a true _terra
sancta_, inferior in sacred interest only to that rock-hewn sepulchre
consecrated evermore by the body of Our Lord. These reflections will
lend to the study of the Catacombs an interest of the highest and
intensest character.

It is impossible to discover with exactness the extent of this vast
necropolis on account of the number and intricacy of its tangled
passages. That extent has been greatly exaggerated, however, by the
monkish _ciceroni_, who guide visitors through these subterranean
labyrinths.[5] There are some forty-two of these cemeteries in all now
known, many of which are only partially accessible. Signor Michele De     15
Rossi, from an accurate survey of the Catacomb of Callixtus, computes
the entire length of all the passages to be eight hundred and
seventy-six thousand _mètres_, or five hundred and eighty-seven
geographical miles, equal to the entire length of Italy, from Ætna’s
fires to the Alpine snows.

The entrance to the abandoned Catacomb is sometimes a low-browed
aperture like a fox’s burrow, almost concealed by long and tangled
grass, and overshadowed by the melancholy cypress or gray-leaved ilex.
Sometimes an ancient arch can be discerned, as at the Catacomb of St.
Priscilla,[6] or the remains of the chamber for the celebration of the
festivals of the martyrs, as at the entrance of the Cemetery of St.
Domitilla. In a few instances it is through the crypts of an ancient
basilica, as at St. Sebastian, and sometimes a little shrine or
oratory covers the descent, as at St. Agnes,[7] St. Helena,[8] and St.
Cyriaca. In all cases there is a stairway, often long and steep,
crumbling with time and worn with the feet of pious generations. The
following illustration shows the entrance to the Catacomb of St.
Prætextatus on the Appian Way, trodden in the primitive ages by the
early martyrs and confessors, or perhaps by the armed soldiery of the
oppressors, hunting to earth the persecuted flock of Christ. Here,
too, in mediæval times, the martial clang of the armed knight may have
awaked unwonted echoes among the hollow arches, or the gliding            16
footstep of the sandaled monk scarce disturbed the silence as he
passed. In later times pilgrims from every land have visited, with
pious reverence or idle curiosity, this early shrine of the Christian

  [Illustration: Fig. 2.--Entrance to St. Prætextatus.]

The Catacombs are excavated in the volcanic rock which abounds in the
neighborhood of Rome. It is a granulated, grayish _breccia_, or
_tufa_, as it is called, of a coarse, loose texture, easily cut
with a knife, and bearing still the marks of the mattocks with which
it was dug. In the firmer volcanic rock of Naples the excavations are
larger and loftier than those of Rome; but the latter, although they
have less of apparent majesty, have more of funereal mystery. The
Catacombs consist essentially of two parts--corridors and chambers, or
_cubicula_. The corridors are long, narrow and intricate passages,
forming a complete underground net-work. They are for the most part       17
straight, and intersect each other at approximate right angles. The
accompanying map of part of the Catacomb of Callixtus will indicate
the general plan of these subterranean galleries.

  [Illustration: Fig. 3.--Part of Catacomb of Callixtus.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 4.--Gallery with Tombs.]

The main corridors vary from three to five feet in width, but the
lateral passages are much narrower, often affording room for but
one person to pass. They will average about eight feet in height,         18
though in some places as low as five or six, and in others, under
peculiar circumstances, reaching to twelve or fifteen feet. The
ceiling is generally vaulted, though sometimes flat; and the floor,
though for the most part level, has occasionally a slight incline, or
even a few steps, caused by the junction of areas of different levels,
as hereafter explained. The walls are generally of the naked _tufa_,
though sometimes plastered; and where they have given way are
occasionally strengthened with masonry. At the corners of these
passages there are frequently niches, in which lamps were placed,         19
without which, indeed, the Catacombs must have been an impenetrable
labyrinth. Cardinal Wiseman recounts a touching legend of a young girl
who was employed as a guide to the places of worship in the Catacombs
because, on account of her blindness, their sombre avenues were as
familiar to her accustomed feet as the streets of Rome to others.

Both sides of the corridors are thickly lined with _loculi_ or graves,
which have somewhat the appearance of berths in a ship, or of the
shelves in a grocer’s shop; but the contents are the bones and ashes
of the dead, and for labels we have their epitaphs. Figure 4 will
illustrate the general character of these galleries and _loculi_.

The following engraving, after a sketch by Maitland, shows a gallery
wider and more rudely excavated. On the right hand is seen a passage
blocked up with stones, as was frequently done, to prevent accident.
The daylight is seen pouring in at the further end of the gallery, as
described by Prudentius,[9] and rendering visible the rifled graves.

  [Illustration: Fig. 5.--Interior of Corridor.]

It is evident that the principle followed in the formation of these
galleries and _loculi_ was the securing of the greatest amount of
space for graves with the least excavation. Hence the passages are
made as narrow as possible. The graves are also as close together as
the friable nature of the _tufa_ will permit, and are made to suit the
shape of the body, narrow at the feet, broader at the shoulders, and
often with a semi-circular excavation for the head, so as to avoid any
superfluous removal of _tufa_. Sometimes the _loculi_ were made large
enough to hold two, three, or even four bodies, which were often
placed with the head of one toward the feet of the other, in order to     20
economize space. These were called _bisomi_, _trisomi_, and
_quadrisomi_, respectively. The graves were apparently made as
required, probably with the corpse lying beside them, as some
unexcavated spaces have been observed traced in outline with chalk or
paint upon the walls. Almost every inch of available space is
occupied, and sometimes, though rarely, graves are dug in the floor.      21
The _loculi_ are of all sizes, from that of the infant of an hour to
that of an adult man. But here, as in every place of burial, the vast
preponderance of children’s graves is striking. How many blighted buds
there are for every full-blown flower or ripened fruit!

Sometimes the _loculi_ were excavated with mathematical precision. An
example occurs in the Cemetery of St. Cyriaca, where at one end of a
gallery is a tier of eight small graves for infants, then eight,
somewhat larger, for children from about seven to twelve, then seven
more, apparently for adult females, and lastly, a tier of six for
full-grown men, occupying the entire height of the wall. Generally,
however, a less regular arrangement was observed, and the graves of
the young and old were intermixed, without any definite order.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to compute the number of graves in
these vast cemeteries. Some seventy thousand have been counted, but
they are a mere fraction of the whole, as only a small part of this
great necropolis has been explored. From lengthened observation Father
Marchi estimates the average number of graves to be ten, five on each
side, for every seven feet of gallery. Upon this basis he computed the
entire number in the Catacombs to be seven millions! The more accurate
estimate of their extent made by Sig. Michele De Rossi would allow
room for nearly four millions of graves, or, more exactly, about three
million eight hundred and thirty-one thousand.[10] This seems almost
incredible; but we know that for at least three hundred years, or for     22
ten generations, the entire Christian population of Rome was buried
here. And that population, as we shall see, was, even at an early
period, of considerable size. In the time of persecution, too, the
Christians were hurried to the tomb in crowds. In this silent city of
the dead we are surrounded by a “mighty cloud of witnesses,” “a
multitude which no man can number,” whose names, unrecorded on earth,
are written in the Book of Life. For every one who walks the streets
of Rome to-day are hundreds of its former inhabitants calmly sleeping
in this vast encampment of death around its walls--“each in his narrow
cell forever laid.”[11] Till the archangel awake them they slumber.
“It is scarcely known,” says Prudentius, “how full Rome is of buried
saints--how richly her soil abounds in holy sepulchres.”

These graves were once all hermetically sealed by slabs of marble, or
tiles of _terra cotta_. The former were generally of one piece,
which fitted into a groove or mortice cut in the rock at the grave’s
mouth, and were securely cemented to their places, as, indeed, was
absolutely necessary, from the open character of the galleries in
which the graves were placed. Sometimes fragments of heathen
tombstones or altars were used for this purpose. The tiles were
generally smaller, two or three being required for an adult grave.
They were arranged in panels, and were cemented with plaster, on which
a name or symbol was often rudely scratched with a trowel while soft,
as in the following illustration. Most of these slabs and tiles have      23
disappeared, and many of the graves have long been rifled of their
contents. In others may still be seen the mouldering skeleton of what
was once man in his strength, woman in her beauty, or a child in its
innocence and glee. The annexed engraving exhibits two graves, one of
which is partially open, exposing the skeleton which has reposed on
its rocky bed for probably over fifteen centuries.

  [Illustration: Fig. 6.--Loculi--Open and Closed.]

If these bones be touched they will generally crumble into a white,
flaky powder. D’Agincourt copied a tomb (Fig. 7) in which this “dry
dust of death” still retained the outline of a human skeleton. Verily,
“_Pulvis et umbra sumus._” Sometimes, however, possibly from some
constitutional peculiarity, the bones remain quite firm notwithstanding
the lapse of so many centuries. De Rossi states that he has assisted      24
at the removal of a body from the Catacombs to a church two miles
distant without the displacement of a single bone.[12] The age of the
deceased and the nature of the ground also affect the condition in
which the remains are found. Of the bodies of children nothing but
dust remains. Where the _pozzolana_ is damp, the bones are often well
preserved; and where water has infiltrated, a partial petrifaction
sometimes occurs.[13] Campana describes the opening of a hermetically
sealed sarcophagus, which revealed the undisturbed body clad in
funeral robes, and wearing the ornaments of life; but while he gazed
it suddenly dissolved to dust before his eyes. Sometimes the
sarcophagus was placed behind a perforated slab of marble, as shown in
the following example, given by Maitland. The lower part of the slab
is broken.

  [Illustration: Fig. 7.--Valeria Sleeps in Peace.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 8.--Arcosolium with Perforated Slab.]

The other essential constituent of the Catacombs, besides the
galleries already described, consists of the _cubicula_.[14] These are
chambers excavated in the _tufa_ on either side of the galleries, with    25
which they communicate by doors, as seen in Fig. 4. These often bear
the character of family vaults, and are lined with graves, like the
corridors without. They are generally square or rectangular, but
sometimes octagonal or circular. They were probably used as mortuary
chapels, for the celebration of funeral service, and for the
administration of the eucharist near the tombs of the martyrs on the
anniversaries of their death. They were too small to be used for
regular worship, except perhaps in time of persecution. They are often
not more than eight or ten feet square. Even the so-called “Papal
Crypt,” a chamber of peculiar sanctity, is only eleven by fourteen
feet; and that of St. Cecilia adjoining it, one of a large size, is       26
less than twenty feet square. Even the largest would not accommodate
more than a few dozen persons. These chambers are generally facing one
another on opposite sides of a gallery, as in the annexed plan of two
_cubicula_ in the Catacomb of Callixtus.

  [Illustration: Fig. 9.--Plan of Double Chamber.]

It is thought that in the celebration of worship one of these chambers
was designed for men and the other for women. Sometimes separate
passages to the chapels and distinct entrances to the Catacombs seem
intended to facilitate this separation of the sexes. Sometimes three,
or even as many as five, _cubicula_, as in one example in the
Catacomb of St. Agnes, were placed on the same axial line, and formed     27
one continuous _suite_ of chambers. The accompanying section of
what is known as “The Chapel of Two Halls,” in the Catacomb of St.
Prætextatus, illustrates this: A is the main gallery, D a large
_cubiculum_ known as “The Women’s Hall,” to the right, and to the left
B, a hexagonal vaulted room with a smaller chamber, C, opening from
it. The length of the entire range from G to F, according to the
accurate measurement of M. Perret, is twenty-three and a half
_mètres_, or nearly seventy-seven feet. The larger engraving (Fig. 11)
gives a perspective view looking toward the left of the hexagonal
chamber, (D. Fig. 10,) and the smaller one, C, opening from it. By
means of these connected chambers the Christians were enabled in times
of persecution to assemble for worship in these “dens and caves of the
earth,” surrounded by the slumbering bodies of the holy dead.

  [Illustration: Fig. 10.--Section of Gallery and Cubicula.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 11.--Perspective of Lower Chamber in Fig. 9.]       28

  [Illustration: Fig. 12.--Vaulted Chamber with Columns.]

The _cubicula_ had vaulted roofs, and were sometimes plastered or
cased with marble and paved with tiles, or, though rarely, with
mosaic. These, however, were generally additions of later date than
the original construction, as were also the semi-detached columns in
the angles, with stucco capitals and bases, as indicated in Fig. 9,
and shown more clearly in the following engraving, which is a
perspective view of the lower chamber in Fig. 9. The walls and ceiling    29
were often covered with fresco paintings, frequently of elegant design,
to be hereafter described.[15] Sometimes, as in some examples in the
Catacomb of St. Agnes, _tufa_ or marble seats are ranged around the
chamber, and chairs are hewn out of the solid rock.[16] These chambers
were used probably for the instruction of catechumens. Occasionally
the _cubiculum_ terminates in a semicircular recess, as in the upper
chamber in Fig. 9. These probably gave rise to the _apse_ in early
Christian architecture, of which a good example is found in the Church
of St. Clement, one of the most ancient Christian edifices in Rome.
Niches and shelves for lamps, an absolute necessity in the perpetual
darkness that there reigns, frequently occur, such as may be seen in
Italian houses to-day. Without the least authority, some Roman
Catholic writers have described these as closets for priestly             30
vestments and shelves for pictures.

  [Illustration: Fig. 13.--Cubiculum with Arcosolia.]

A peculiar form of grave common in these chambers, as well as in the
galleries, is that known as the _arcosolium_, or arched tomb. It
consists of a recess in the wall, having a grave, often double or
triple, excavated in the _tufa_, or built with masonry, like a solid
sarcophagus, and closed with a marble slab. These are seen in the
plan, Fig. 9, in the section, Fig. 10, at G and E in Fig. 15, and in
perspective in Figs. 11 and 12. Sometimes the recess is rectangular
instead of arched, and is then called by De Rossi _sepolcro a mensa_,
or table tomb. Sometimes the arch was segmental, especially when
constructed of masonry.[17] An example of both sorts is seen in the
accompanying engraving of a _cubiculum_ in the Catacomb of St.
Prætextatus. The narrow door into the corridor is also seen, and the
stucco capitals and bases of the columns. In course of time these
_arcosolia_ were used as altars for the celebration of the eucharist,     31
and eventually grave abuses arose from the superstitious veneration
paid to the relics of the martyr or confessor interred therein.
Frequently, also, the back of this arched recess was pierced with
graves of a later date, often directly through a painting,[18] in
order to obtain a resting place near the bodies of the saints.

  [Illustration: Fig. 14.--Section of the Catacomb of Callixtus.]

Hitherto only one level of the Catacombs has been described, but
frequently “beneath this depth there is a lower deep,” or even three
or four tiers of galleries, excavated as the upper ones became filled
with graves. Thus there are sometimes as many as five stories, or
_piani_, as they are called, one beneath the other. These are
carefully maintained horizontal, to avoid breaking through the floor
of the one above or the roof of the one below, the danger of which
would be very great if the strict level were departed from. For the
same reason the different _piani_ were generally separated by a thick
stratum of solid _tufa_. The relative position of these levels is
shown by the following engraving, reduced from De Rossi. It represents
a section of the Crypt of St. Lucina, a part of the Cemetery of
Callixtus. The dark colored stratum, marked I in the margin, is
entirely made up of the _débris_ of ancient monuments, buildings, and
other materials accumulated in the course of ages in this place to the
depth of eight feet. It has completely buried the ancient roads,
except where excavated, as shown in the engraving. The next stratum,
II, is of solid grayish _tufa_. In this the first level or _piano_,
φ, is excavated. It is not more than twenty feet below the surface,
and in many places only half that depth. Consequently its area is
comparatively limited, because if extended it would have run out
into the open air, from the sloping of the ground in which it is          32
dug. The next stratum, III, is softer and more easily worked, and
therefore is that in which are found the most important and extensive
_piani_ of galleries. The cross sections P and X, and the longitudinal
section U, will show how the lower surface of the more solid stratum
above was made the ceiling of these galleries, in order to lessen the
danger of its falling. At B will be observed the employment of masonry
to strengthen the crumbling walls of the friable _tufa_. The descent      33
of a few steps, some of which have been worn away, will also be
noticed at U. At IV a more rocky stratum is found, called _tufa
lithoide_, below which the ancient fossors[19] had to go to find
suitable material for the excavation of the third _piano_. This was
found in stratum V, in which are two _piani_ at different levels. The
lower one is not vertically beneath that here represented above it,
but at some little distance. It is here shown, to exhibit at one view
a section of all the stories of this Catacomb. The upper _piano_, _g_,
consists of low and narrow galleries, but the lower one, marked Γ Γ Γ,
seventy-one feet beneath the surface of the ground, is of great
extent. Several of the _loculi_, it will be perceived, are built of
masonry, in consequence of the crumbling nature of the soil. The three
large _arcosolia_ will also be observed. The floor of this _piano_
rests on a somewhat firmer stratum, in which is still another level of
galleries, Ω Ω Ω, ten feet lower down. This lower level is generally
subject to inundation by water, in consequence of the periodical
rising of the adjacent Almone, the level of which is shown at a depth
of one hundred and four feet, and that of the Tiber at one hundred and
thirty-one feet, below the surface.

To secure immunity from dampness, which would accelerate decomposition
and corrupt the atmosphere, the Catacombs were generally excavated in
high ground in the undulating hills around the city, never crossing
the intervening depressions or valleys. There is, therefore, no
connection between the different cemeteries except where they happen
to be contiguous, nor, as has been asserted, with the churches of
Rome. Where a Catacomb has been excavated in low ground, as in the        34
exceptional case of that of Castulo on the Via Labicana, the water has
rendered it completely inaccessible.

Access to these different _piani_ is gained by stairways, which
are sometimes covered with tile or marble, or built with masonry, or
by shafts. The awful silence and almost palpable darkness of these
deepest dungeons is absolutely appalling. They are fitly described by
the epithet applied by Dante to the realms of eternal gloom: _loco
d’ogni luce muto_--a spot mute of all light. Here death reigns
supreme. Not even so much as a lizard or a bat has penetrated these
obscure recesses. Nought but skulls and skeletons, dust and ashes, are
on every side. The air is impure and deadly, and difficult to breathe.
“The cursed dew of the dungeon’s damp” distills from the walls, and a
sense of oppression, like the patriarch’s “horror of great darkness,”
broods over the scene.

  [Illustration: Fig. 15.--Section of Cubicula with Luminare.]

The Catacombs were ventilated and partially lighted by numerous
openings variously called _spiragli_, or breathing-holes, and
_luminari_, or light-holes. They were also probably used for the
removal of the excavated material from those parts remote from the
entrance. They were even more necessary for the admission of air than
of light. Were it not for these the number of burning lamps, the
multitude of dead bodies, no matter how carefully the _loculi_ were
cemented, and the opening of _bisomi_, or double graves, for
interments, would create an insupportable atmosphere. They were
generally in the line of junction between two _cubicula_, a branch of
the _luminare_ entering each chamber, as shown in the accompanying
section of a portion of the Catacomb of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter.
Sometimes, indeed, four, or even more, _cubicula_ were ventilated and
partially lighted by the same shaft. De Rossi mentions one _luminare_
in the recently discovered Cemetery of St. Balbina, which is not          35
square but hexagonal, or nearly so, and which divides into eight
branches, illumining as many separate chambers or galleries. Sometimes
a funnel-shaped _luminare_ reaches to the lowest _piano_; but from the
faint rays that feebly struggle to those gloomy depths there comes “no
light, but rather darkness visible.” In the upper levels, however,
some _cubicula_ are well lighted by large openings. The brilliant
Italian sunshine to-day lights up the pictured figures on the wall as
it must have illumined with its strong Rembrandt light the fair brow
of the Christian maiden, the silvery hair of the venerable pastor, or
the calm face of the holy dead waiting for interment in those early
centuries so long ago. These _luminari_ are often two feet square at
the top, and wider as they descend; sometimes they are cylindrical in
shape, as in the Catacomb of St. Helena.[20] The external openings,       36
often concealed by grass and weeds, are very numerous throughout the
Campagna near the city, and are often dangerous to the unwary rider.
In almost every vineyard between the Pincian and Salarian roads they
may be found, and through them an entrance into the Catacombs may
frequently be effected. After the persecution had ceased, and there
was no longer need for concealment, their number was increased, and
they were made of a larger size, and frequently lined with masonry, or
plastered and frescoed. In the Catacombs of St. Agnes and of Callixtus
are several in a very good state of preservation.

We have already seen the contemporary account of the Catacombs by
Prudentius, in the fourth century. Jerome also describes their
appearance at the same period in words which are almost equally
applicable to-day. “When I was a boy, being educated at Rome,” he
says, “I used every Sunday, in company with others of my own age and
tastes, to visit the sepulchres of the apostles and martyrs, and to go
into the crypts dug in the heart of the earth. The walls on either
side are lined with bodies of the dead, and so intense is the darkness
as to seemingly fulfill the words of the prophet, ‘They go down alive
to Hades.’ Here and there is light let in to mitigate the gloom. As we
advance the words of the poet are brought to mind: ‘Horror on all
sides; the very silence fills the soul with dread.’”[21]

It must not be supposed that the features above described are always      37
perfectly exhibited. They are often obscured and obliterated by the
lapse of time, and by earthquakes, inundations, and other destructive
agencies of nature. The stairways are often broken and interrupted,
and the corridors blocked up by the falling in of the roof, where it
has been carried too near the surface, or by the crumbling of the
walls, and sometimes apparently by design during the age of
persecution. The rains of a thousand winters have washed tons of earth
down the _luminari_, destroyed the symmetry of the openings, and
completely filled the galleries with _débris_. The natural dampness of
the situation, and the smoke of the lamps of the early worshipers, or
the torches of more recent visitors, and sometimes incrustations of
nitre, have impaired or destroyed the beauty of many of the paintings.
The hand of the spoiler has in many cases completed the work of
devastation. The rifled graves and broken tablets show where piety or
superstition has removed the relics of the dead, or where idle
curiosity has wantonly mutilated their monuments.

The present extent of the Catacombs is the result, not of primary
intention, but of the contact of separate areas of comparatively
limited original size, and the inosculation, as it were, of their
distinct galleries. This is apparent from the fact that this contact
and junction sometimes take place between areas of different levels,
causing a break in their horizontal continuity, like the “faults” or
dislocations common in geological strata. Sometimes, too, this
junction between two adjacent areas takes place through a tier of
graves, and evidently formed no part of the original design. These
separate areas were originally, as we shall see in the following
chapter, private burial places in the vineyards of wealthy Christian
converts, and were early made available for the interment of the          38
poorer members of the infant Church. In accordance with a common Roman
usage the ground thus set apart for the purpose of sepulture was
placed under the protection of the law, and was accurately defined, to
secure it from trespass or violation. While the protection of the law
was enjoyed, the excavations were strictly confined within the limits
of these areas, and lower _piani_ were dug rather than transgress
the boundary. But when that protection was withdrawn the galleries
were horizontally extended, often for the purpose of facilitating
escape, and connections were made with adjacent areas, till the whole
became an intricate labyrinth of passages and chambers. These areas
are still further distinguished by certain peculiarities in the
inscriptions, _cubicula_, and paintings, and were greatly modified by
subsequent constructions.

It has till recently been thought that the Catacombs were originally
excavations made by the Romans for the extraction of sand and other
building material, and afterward adopted by the Christians as places
of refuge, and eventually of sepulture and worship. This opinion was
founded on a few misunderstood classical allusions and statements in
ancient ecclesiastial writers, and on a misinterpretation of certain
accidental features of the Catacombs themselves. It was held,
nevertheless, by such eminent authorities as Baronius, Severano,
Aringhi, Bottari, D’Agincourt, and Raoul-Rochette. Padre Marchi first
rejected this theory of construction, and the brothers De Rossi have
completely refuted it. An examination of the material in which these
sand pits and stone quarries and the Catacombs were respectively
excavated, as well as of their structural differences, will show their
entirely distinct character.

The surface of the Campagna, especially of that part occupied by the      39
Catacombs, is almost exclusively of volcanic origin. The most ancient
and lowest stratum of this igneous formation is a compact conglomerate
known as _tufa lithoide_. It was extensively quarried for building,
and the massive blocks of the Cloaca Maxima and the ancient wall of
Romulus attest the durability of its character. Upon this rest
stratified beds of volcanic ashes, pumice, and scoria, often
consolidated with water, but of a substance much less firm than that
of the _tufa lithoide_, and called _tufa granolare_. In insulated
beds, rarely of considerable extent, in this latter formation, occurs
another material, known as _pozzolana_. It consists of volcanic ashes
deposited on dry land, and still existing in an unconsolidated
condition. This is the material of the celebrated Roman cement, which
holds together to this day the massy structures of ancient Rome. It
was conveyed for building purposes as far as Constantinople, and the
pier on the Tiber from which it was shipped is still called the Porto
di Pozzolana. It is in these latter deposits exclusively that the
_arenaria_, or sand pits, are found. The _tufa granolare_ is too firm,
and contains too large a proportion of earth, to use as sand, and is
yet too friable for building purposes. Yet it is in this material,
entirely worthless for any economic use, that the Catacombs are almost
exclusively excavated; while the _tufa lithoide_ and the _pozzolana_
are both carefully avoided where possible, the one as too hard and the
other as too soft for purposes of Christian sepulture. Sometimes,
indeed, as at the cemeteries of St. Pontianus and St. Valentinus, for
special reasons, Catacombs were excavated in less suitable material;
but still the substance removed--a shelly marl--was economically
useless, and the galleries had to be supported by solid masonry. The
_tufa granolare_, on the contrary, was admirably adapted for the          40
construction of these subterranean cemeteries. It could be easily dug
with a mattock, yet was firm enough to be hollowed into _loculi_
and chambers; and its porous character made the chambers dry and
wholesome for purposes of assembly, which was of the utmost importance
in view of the vast number of bodies interred in these recesses.

The differences of structure between the quarries or _arenaria_
and the Catacombs are no less striking. To this day, the vast grottoes
from which the material for the building of the Coliseum was hewn,
most probably by the Jewish prisoners of Titus, may still be seen on
the Coelian hill. It is said that in those gloomy vaults were kept
the fierce Numidian lions and leopards whose conflicts with the
Christian martyrs furnished the savage pastime of the Roman
amphitheatre. But nothing can less resemble the narrow and winding
passages of the Catacombs than those tremendous caverns.

Nor is there any greater resemblance in the excavations of the
_arenaria_. These are large and lofty vaults, from sixteen to twenty
feet wide, the arch of which often springs directly from the floor, so
as to give the largest amount of sand with the least labour of
excavation. The object was to remove as much material as possible;
hence there was often only enough left to support the roof. The
spacious passages of the _arenaria_ run in curved lines, avoiding
sharp angles, so as to allow the free passage of the carts which
carried away the excavated sand. In the Catacombs, on the contrary, as
little material as possible was removed; hence the galleries are
generally not more than three, or sometimes only two, feet wide, and
run for the most part in straight lines, often crossing each other at
quite acute angles, so that only very narrow carts can be used in
cleaning out the accumulated _débris_ of centuries--a very tedious        41
process, which greatly increases the cost of exploration. The walls,
moreover, are always vertical, and the roof sometimes quite flat, or
only slightly arched. The wide difference in the principle of
construction is obvious. The great object in the Catacombs has been to
obtain the maximum of wall-surface, for the interment of the dead in
the _loculi_ with which the galleries are lined throughout, with the
minimum of excavation. The structural difference will at once be seen
by comparing the irregular windings of the small _arenarium_
represented in the upper part of Figs. 3 and 26 with the straight and
symmetrical galleries of the adjacent Catacomb. Connected with the
Catacomb of St. Agnes is an extensive _arenarium_, whose spacious,
grotto-like appearance is very different from that of the narrow
sepulchral galleries beneath. In the floor of this _arenarium_ is a
square shaft leading to the Catacomb, in which Dr. Northcote
conjectures there was formerly a windlass for removing the excavated
material. There are also footholes, for climbing the sides of the
shaft, cut in the solid _tufa_, perhaps as a means of escape in the
time of persecution. This _arenarium_, which was probably worked out
and abandoned long before its connection with the Catacomb, may have
been employed as a masked entrance to its crypts, when the more public
one could not be safely used. Its spacious vaults may also have been a
receptacle for the broken _tufa_ removed from the galleries beneath.

  [Illustration: Fig. 16.--Gallery in St. Hermes.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 17.--Part of Wall of Gallery in St. Hermes.]

Many of these _arenaria_ may be observed excavated in the
hill-sides near Rome; but except when incidentally forming part of a
Catacomb, they have never been found to contain a single grave.
Indeed, in consequence of the utter unfitness of the _pozzolana_
for the purposes of Christian sepulture, the intrusion of a deposit       42
of that material into the area of a Catacomb prevented the extension
or necessitated the diversion of its galleries. Moreover, where the
attempt has been made to convert an _arenarium_ into a Christian
cemetery, the changes which have been made show conclusively its
original unfitness for the latter purpose. The accompanying section of
a gallery in the Catacomb of St. Hermes will exhibit the structural
additions necessary to adopt an _arenarium_ for Christian sepulture.
The sides of the semi-eliptical vault had to be built up with
brick-work, leaving only a narrow passage in the middle. The _loculi_
were spaces left in the masonry, in which the mouldering skeletons may
still be seen. The openings were closed with slabs in the usual
manner, as shown in the elevation, (Fig. 17,) except at the top, where
they cover the grave obliquely, like the roof of a house. The vault is
often arched with brick-work, and at the intersection of the galleries     43
has sometimes to be supported by a solid pier of masonry. In part of
an ancient _arenarium_ converted into a cemetery in the Catacomb of
St. Priscilla similar constructions may be seen. The long walls and
numerous pillars of brick-work concealing and sustaining the _tufa_,
and the irregular windings of the passages, show at once the vast
difference between the _arenarium_ and the Catacomb, and the immense
labour and expense required to convert the former into the latter.

It has been urged in objection to this theory, that the difficulty of
secretly disposing of at least a hundred millions of cubic feet of
refuse material taken from the Catacombs must have been exceedingly
great, unless it could be removed under cover of employment for some
economic purpose. It will be shown, however, that secrecy was not
always necessary, as has been assumed, but that, on the contrary, the
Christian right of sepulture was for a long time legally recognized by
the Pagan Emperors; and that the Catacombs continued to be publicly
used for a considerable time after the establishment of Christianity
on the throne of the Cæsars. During the exacerbations of persecution
there is evidence that the excavated material was deposited in the
galeries already filled with graves, or, as we have seen, in the
spacious vaults of adjacent _arenaria_. If the Catacombs were merely
excavations for sand or stone, as has been asserted, we ought to find
many of their narrow galleries destitute of tombs, and many of the
_arenaria_ containing them; whereas every yard of the former is
occupied with graves, and not a single grave is found in the latter,
nor do they contain a single example of a mural painting or
inscription. The conclusion is irresistible that the Catacombs proper
were created exclusively for the purpose of Christian burial, and in      44
no case were of Pagan construction.

The erroneous theory here combated has arisen, as we have said,
chiefly from certain classical allusions to the _arenaria_, and from
passages in the ancient ecclesiastical records describing the burial
places of the martyrs, as _in cryptis arenariis_, _in arenario_, or
_ad arenas_. Some of these localities, however, have been identified
beyond question, and found to consist merely of a sandy kind of rock,
and not at all of the true _pozzolana_. In others a vein of
_pozzolana_ does actually occur in the Catacombs, or they are
connected with ancient _arenaria_, as at St. Agnes and at Calixtus. In
the other instances the localities are either yet unrecognized, or the
expression merely implies that the cemetery was _near_ the sand
pits--_juxta arenarium_, or _in loco qui dicitur ad Arenas_.

The mere technical description of the Catacombs, however, gives no
idea of the thrilling interest felt in traversing their long-drawn
corridors and vaulted halls. As the pilgrim to this shrine of the
primitive faith visits these chambers of silence and gloom,
accompanied by a serge-clad, sandaled monk,[22] he seems like the
Tuscan poet wandering through the realms of darkness with his shadowy

         “Ora sen’ va per un segreto calle
          Tra l’ muro della terra.”[23]

His footsteps echo strangely down the distant passages and hollow
vaults, dying gradually away in the solemn stillness of this valley of
the shadow of death. The graves yawn weirdly as he passes, torch in       45
hand. The flame struggles feebly with the thickening darkness, vaguely
revealing the unfleshed skeletons on either side, till its redness
fades to sickly white, like that _fioco lume_,[24] that pale light, by
which Dante saw the crowding ghosts upon the shores of Acheron. Deep
mysterious shadows crouch around, and the dim perspective, lined with
the sepuchral niches of the silent community of the dead, stretch on
in an apparently unending vista. The very air seems oppressive and
stifling, and laden with the dry dust of death. The vast extent and
population of this great necropolis overwhelm the imagination, and
bring to mind Petrarch’s melancholy line--

         “Piena di morti tutta la campagna.”[25]

Almost appalling in its awe and solemnity is the sudden transition
from the busy city of the living to the silent city of the dead; from
the golden glory of the Italian sunlight to the funereal gloom of
these sombre vaults. The sacred influence of the place subdues the
soul to tender emotions. The fading pictures on the walls and the
pious epitaphs of the departed breathe on every side an atmosphere of
faith and hope, and awaken a sense of spiritual kinship that overleaps
the intervening centuries. We speak with bated breath and in whispered
tones, and thought is busy with the past. It is impossible not to feel
strangely moved while gazing on the crumbling relics of mortality
committed ages ago, with pious care and many tears, to their last,
long rest.

         “It seems as if we had the sleepers known.”[26]

We see the mother, the while her heart is wrung with anguish, laying      46
on its stony bed--rude couch for such a tender thing--the little form
that she had cherished in her warm embrace. We behold the persecuted
flock following, it may be, the mangled remains of the faithful pastor
and valiant martyr for the truth, which at the risk of their lives
they have stealthily gathered at dead of night. With holy hymns,[27]
broken by their sobs, they commit his mutilated body to the grave,
where after life’s long toil he sleepeth well. We hear the Christian
chant, the funeral plaint, the pleading tones of prayer, and the words
of holy consolation and of lofty hope with which the dead in Christ
are laid to rest. A moment, and--the spell is broken, the past has
vanished, and stern reality becomes again a presence. Ruin and
desolation and decay are all around.

The exploration of these worse than Dædalian labyrinths is not
unattended with danger. That intrepid investigator, Bosio, was several
times well nigh lost in their mysterious depths. That disaster really
happened to M. Roberts, a young French artist, whose adventure has
been wrought into an exciting scene in Hans Andersen’s tale, “The
Improvisatore,” and forms an episode in the Abbé de Lille’s poem,
“_L’Imagination_.” Inspired by the enthusiasm of his profession, he
attempted to explore one of the Catacombs, with nothing but a torch
and a thread for a guide. As he wandered on through gallery and
chamber, he became so absorbed in his study that, unawares, the thread
slipped from his hand. On discovering his loss he tried, but in vain,
to recover the clew. Presently his torch went out, and he was left in
utter darkness, imprisoned in a living grave, surrounded by the relics
of mortality. The silence was oppressive. He shouted, but the hollow      47
echoes mocked his voice. Weary with fruitless efforts to escape his
dread imprisonment he threw himself in despair upon the earth, when,
lo, something familiar touched his hand. Could he believe it? it was
indeed the long lost clew by which alone he could obtain deliverance
from this awful labyrinth. Carefully following the precious thread he
reached at last the open air,

         And never Tiber, rippling through the meads,
         Made music half so sweet among its reeds;
         And never had the earth such rich perfume,
         As when from him it chased the odor of the tomb.[28]

Still more terrible in its wildness is an incident narrated by
MacFarlane.[29] In the year 1798, after the return to Rome of the
Republican army under Berthier, a party of French officers, atheistic
disciples of Voltaire and Rousseau, and hardened by the orgies of the
Revolution, visited the Catacombs. They caroused in the sepulchral
crypts, and sang their bacchanalian songs among the Christian dead.
They rifled the graves and committed sacrilege at the tombs of the
saints. One of the number, a reckless young cavalry officer, “who
feared not God nor devil, for he believed in neither,” resolved to
explore the remoter galleries. He was speedily lost, and was abandoned
by his companions. His excited imagination heightened the natural
horrors of the scene. The grim and ghastly skeletons seemed an army of
accusing spectres. Down the long corridors the wind mysteriously
whispered, rising in inarticulate moanings and woeful sighs, as of
souls in pain. The tones of the neighbouring convent bell, echoing
through the stony vaults, sounded loud and awful as the knell of          48
doom. Groping blindly in the dark, he touched nothing but rocky walls
or mouldering bones, that sent a thrill of horror through his frame.
Though but a thin roof separated him from the bright sunshine and free
air, he seemed condemned to living burial. His philosophical
skepticism failed him in this hour of peril. He could no longer scoff
at death as “_un sommeil éternel_.” The palimpsest of memory recalled
with intensest vividness the Christian teachings of his childhood. His
soul became filled and penetrated with a solemn awe. His physical
powers gave way beneath the intensity of his emotion. He was rescued
the next day, but was long ill. He rose from his bed an altered man.
His life was thenceforth serious and devout. When killed in battle in
Calabria seven years after, a copy of the Gospels was found next to
his heart.

Even as late as 1837 a party of students with their professor,
numbering in all some sixteen, or, as some say, nearly thirty, entered
the Catacombs on a holiday excursion, to investigate their
antiquities, but became entangled amid their intricacies. Diligent
search was made, but no trace of them was ever found. In some silent
crypt or darksome corridor they were slowly overtaken by the same
torturing fate as that of Ugolino and his sons in the Hunger Tower of
Pisa.[30] The passage by which they entered has been walled up, but
the mystery of their fate will never be dispelled till the secrets of
the grave shall be revealed.

     [1] Haud procul extremo culta ad pomœria vallo,
           Mersa latebrosis crypta patet foveis....
                                          --_Peristephanon_, iv.

     The origin of the word Catacombs is exceedingly obscure. Father
     Marchi derives it from κατὰ, down, and τύμβος, a tomb; or from
     κατὰ and κοιμάω, to sleep. Mommsen thinks it comes from κατὰ and
     _cumbo_, part of _decumbo_, to lie down. According to Schneider
     (_Lex. Græk._) it is derived from κατὰ and κύμβη, a boat or
     canoe, from the resemblance of a sarcophagus to that object. The
     more probable derivation seems to the present writer to be from
     κατὰ and κύμβος, a hollow, as if descriptive of a subterranean
     excavation. The name was first given in the sixth century to a
     limited area beneath the Church of St. Sebastian: “_Locus qui
     dicitur catacumbas._”--S. Greg., _Opp._, tom. ii, ep. 30. It was
     afterward generically applied to all subterranean places of
     sepulture. The earliest writers who mention those of Rome call
     them _cryptæ_, or crypts, or _cæmeteria_--whence our word
     cemetery, literally, sleeping places, from κοιμάω, to slumber.
     Similar excavations have been found in Syria, Asia Minor, Cyprus,
     Crete, the Ægean Isles, Greece, Sicily, Naples, Malta, and France.

     [2] These great roads for miles are lined with the sepulchral
     monuments of Rome’s mighty dead, majestic even in decay. But only
     the wealthy could be entombed in those stately mausolea, or be
     wrapped in those “marble cerements.” For the mass of the
     population _columbaria_ were provided, in whose narrow
     niches, like the compartments of a dove-cote--whence the
     name--the _terra cotta_ urns containing their ashes were
     placed, sometimes to the number of six thousand in a single
     _columbarium_. They also contain sometimes the urns of the

     [3] Ariosto, _Orlando Furioso_.

     [4] Aringhi, in the elegant Latin ode prefixed to his great work,
     exclaims, “_Sub Roma Romam quærito_”--Beneath Rome I seek
     the true Rome.

     [5] Even so accurate and philosophical a writer as the late
     Professor Silliman reports on their authority that the Catacombs
     extend twenty miles, to the port of Ostia, in one direction, and
     to Albano, twelve miles, in another. _Visit to Europe_, vol.
     i, p. 329. This is impossible, as will be shown, on account of
     the undulation of the ground, and the limited area of the
     volcanic _tufa_ in which alone they can be excavated. The
     number of distinct Catacombs has also been magnified to sixty;
     and Father Marchi estimated the aggregate length of passages to
     be nine hundred miles.

     [6] Fig. 1.

     [7] Fig. 30.

     [8] Fig. 29.

     [9] Primas namque fores summo tenus intrat hiatu
           Illustratque dies limina vestibuli.--_Peristephanon_, ii.

     [10] In the single crypt of St. Lucina, one hundred feet by one
     hundred and eighty, De Rossi counted over seven hundred
     _loculi_, and estimated that nearly twice as many were
     destroyed, giving a total of two thousand graves in this area.
     The same space, with our mode of interment, would not accommodate
     over half the number, even though placed as close together as
     possible, without any room for passages.

     [11] Compare Bryant’s _Thanatopsis_:
                           “All that tread
           The globe are but a handful to the tribes
           That slumber in its bosom.”

     [12] _Rom. Sott._, ii, 127.

     [13] D’Agincourt, _Histoire de l’art par les Monumens_, i, 20.

     [14] Literally, little sleeping chambers, from _cubo_, I lie
     down. The same name was also given to the cells for meditation
     and prayer attached to the Church of Nola. Paulin., ep. 12, _ad

     [15] Book II.

     [16] See Fig. 130 and context, where the entire subject is

     [17] See in the Cemetery of St. Helena, Fig. 29.

     [18] As in Fig. 12, and more strikingly in Fig. 76.

     [19] An organized body of diggers, by whom the Catacombs were
     excavated. See Book III, chap. iv.

     [20] See Fig. 29.

     [21] “Dum essem Romæ puer, et liberalibus studiis erudirer,
     solebam cum cæteris ejusdem ætatis et propositi, diebus Dominicis
     sepulchra apostolorum et martyrum circuire, crebròque cryptas
     ingredi, quæ in terrarum profunda defossæ, ex utraque parte
     ingredientium per parietes corpora sepultorum, ... ‘Horror ubique
     animos, simul ipsa silentia terrent.’”--Hieron. in _Ezech._,
     Cap. xl.

     [22] Unfortunately for Protestant visitors most of the Catacombs
     are open for inspection only on Sunday, when the work of
     exploration is suspended.

     [23] “And now through narrow, gloomy paths we go,
          ’Tween walls of earth and tombs.”--_Inferno._

     [24] “Com’io discerno per lo fioco lume.”--_Inferno._

     [25] “Full of the dead this far extending field.”

     [26] _Childe Harold_, iv, 104.

     [27] Hymnos et psalmos decantans.--Hieron., _Vit. Pauli_.

     [28] From “_L’Imagination_,” by Abbé de Lille, MacFarlane’s

     [29] _Catacombs of Rome._ London, 1852. P. 94, _et

     [30] _Inferno_, Canto xxxiii, vv. 21-75.

                            CHAPTER II.                                   49


It is highly probable that the first Roman Catacombs were excavated by
the Jews.[31] Many Hebrew captives graced the triumph of Pompey after
his Syrian conquests, B. C. 62. The Jewish population increased by
further voluntary accessions. They soon swarmed in that Trans-Tiberine
region which formed the ancient Ghetto of Rome. They made many
proselytes from paganism to the worship of the true God, and thus, to
use the language of Seneca, “The conquered gave laws to their

All the national customs and prejudices of the Jews were opposed to
the Roman practice of burning the dead, which Tacitus asserts they
never observed;[33] and they clung with tenacity to their hereditary
mode of sepulture. Wherever they have dwelt they have left traces of
subterranean burial. The hills of Judea are honeycombed with              50
sepulchral caves and galleries. Similar excavations have been found in
the Jewish settlements of Asia Minor, the Ægean Isles, Sicily, and
Southern Italy.[34] So also in Rome they sought to be separated in
death, as in life, from the Gentiles among whom they dwelt. They had
their Catacombs apart, in which not a single Christian or pagan
inscription has been found. Bosio describes one such Catacomb, which
he discovered on Monte Verde, which was much more ancient than the
Christian Catacomb of St. Pontianus in the same vicinity. It was of
very rude construction, and contained not a single Christian monument,
but numerous slabs bearing the seven-branched Jewish candlestick, and
one inscription on which the word ϹΥΝΑΓΩΓ--Synagogue--was legible.[35]
It was situated near that Trans-Tiberine quarter of the city inhabited
at the period of the Christian era by the numerous Jewish population
of Rome. It cannot now, however, be identified, having been
obliterated or concealed by the changes of the last two centuries.
Maitland gives the following Jewish inscription from a MS. collection
in Rome. The figure to the left may be a horn for replenishing the
lamp with oil. The letters at the right are probably intended for the
Hebrew word שָׁלוֹם _Shalom_, or Peace, so common in its classical equivalent
upon Christian tombs. The palm branch is a Pagan as well as Jewish and
Christian symbol of victory. The central figure is a rude
representation of the seven-branched candlestick which appears also in    51
bass-relief on the Arch of Titus at Rome.

  [Illustration: “Here lies Faustina. In Peace.”
               Fig. 18.--Slab from Jewish Catacomb.]

In the year 1859 another Jewish Catacomb was discovered in the Vigna
Randanini, on the Appian Way, about two miles from Rome. It has been
minutely described by Padre Garrucci.[36] In this the graves and
sarcophagi are sunk in the floor as well as in the walls. They are
closed with terra cotta or marble slabs, and are otherwise similar to
those of the Christian Catacombs. It contains several vaulted
chambers, one of which has some very remarkable paintings of the
seven-branched candlestick on the roof and walls. The same figure is
frequently scratched on the mortar with which the graves are closed.
The dove and olive branch and the palm are also frequently repeated.
Although nearly two hundred inscriptions have been discovered, not one
of either pagan or Christian character has been met with.

The names are sometimes strikingly Jewish in form, and where the
epitaphs refer to the station of the deceased it is always to officers    52
of the synagogue, as ΑΡΚΟΝΤΕϹ, rulers, ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΕΙϹ, scribes. The
following examples are from the Kircherian Museum:

     ΜΑ ΕΝ ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ΚΟΙΜΗϹΙϹ ΑΥΤΗϹ. Here lies Salome, daughter
     of Gadia, Father of the Synagogue of the Hebrews. She lived
     forty-one years. Her sleep is in peace. ΕΝΘΑΔΕ ΚΕΙΤΕ ΚΥΝΤΙΑΝΟϹ
     Gerousiarch (that is, Chief Elder) of the Synagogue of the
     ΑΘΑΝΑΤΟϹ. Here lies Nicodemus, ruler of the Severenses, and
     beloved of all; (aged) thirty years, forty-two days. Be of good
     cheer, O inoffensive young man! no one is exempt from death.

This inscription will recall another “ruler of the Synagogue” of the
same name. Many of the sleepers in this Jewish Cemetery were
evidently, from their names,[37] Greek or Latin proselytes. Sometimes,
indeed, this is expressly asserted, as in the following:

     sweetest sister Chrysis, a proselyte.

It may be assumed that this Catacomb was exclusively Jewish, and we
know, from the testimony of Juvenal[38] and others, that numbers of
the Jews inhabited the adjacent part of Rome, about the Porta Capena
and the valley of Egeria. It is not, however, certain whether it is
the original type, or a later imitation, of the Christian cemetery.
But the Jewish population must have had extra-mural places of
sepulture before the Christian era; and it is probable that the early
Jewish converts to Christianity may have merely continued a mode of       53
burial already in vogue, substituting the emblems of their newly
adopted faith for those which they had forsaken; or, rather--for we
find that they frequently retained certain Jewish symbols, as the
dove, olive branch, and palm--supplementing them with the emblems of
Christianity. De Rossi has expressed the opinion that the earliest
mode of Christian burial was in sarcophagi, as in the Jewish cemetery
above described.

The date of the planting of Christianity in Rome is uncertain.
Probably some of the “strangers of Rome” who witnessed the miracle of
the Pentecost, or, perhaps, the Gentile converts of the “Italian band”
of Cornelius, brought the new evangel to their native city.[39] But
certain it is that as early as A. D. 58 the faith of the Roman Church     54
was “spoken of throughout the whole world.” “Christianity,” says
Tertullian, “grew up under the shadow of the Jewish religion, to which
it was regarded as akin, and about the lawfulness of which there was
no question;”[40] and it doubtless adopted the burial usages of

But even without the example of the Jews the Roman Christians would
naturally revolt from the pagan custom of burning the dead, with its
accompanying idolatrous usages,[41] and would prefer burial, after the
manner of their Lord. They showed a tender care for the remains of the
dead, under a vivid impression of the communion of saints and the
resurrection of the body. They seemed to regard the sepulchre as
“God’s cabinet or shrine, where he pleases to lay up the precious
relics of his dear saints until the jubilee of glory.”[42] Even the
Jews designated the grave as _Beth-ha-haim_, the “house of the
living,” rather than the house of the dead. It is probable, therefore,
that the origin of the Christian Catacombs dates from the death of the
first Roman believer in Christ.

Many of the Catacombs were probably begun as private sepulchres for       55
single families; indeed, some such tombs have been discovered in the
vicinity of Rome, which never extended beyond a single chamber. They
were excavated in the gardens or vineyards of the wealthy converts to
Christianity, in imitation of that rock-hewn sepulchre consecrated by
the body of Christ. The following inscription, which may still be seen
in the most ancient part of the Catacombs of Sts. Nereus and Achilles,
seem to refer to such a family tomb. Another inscription, found in
the Catacomb of St. Nicomedes, restricts the use of the sepulchre to
the original owner, and those of his dependents who belong to his


         M      ·   ANTONI
         VS    ·   RESTVTV
         S ·  ECIT  ·  VPO
         GEV  · SIBI  · ET
         SVIS  ·   FIDENTI
         BVS · IN · DOMINO.

     M. Antonius Res[ti]tutus made [this] hypogeum for himself and his
     [relatives] who believe in the Lord.[43]]

The names of many of the burial crypts commemorate these original
owners. Among others those of Lucina, Priscilla, and Domitilla are
considered to belong to the First Century, and the two former to the
times of the Apostles. Some of these may have been originally
designed, or afterwards opened, for the reception of the poor
belonging to the Church; and thus the Catacombs would be indefinitely
extended till they attained their present dimensions. Tertullian
expressly declares that the provision made for the poor included          56
that for their burial--_egenis humandis_.[44]

There is reason to believe that, even from the very first, the
Christian Church at Rome contained not a few who were of noble blood
and of high rank. In one of the apostolic epistles Paul conveys the
salutation of Pudens, a Roman Senator, of Linus, reputed the first
Roman bishop, and of Claudia, daughter of a British king;[45] and we
know that even in the Golden House of Nero, the scene of that colossal
orgy whose record pollutes the pages of Suetonius and Tacitus, were
disciples of the crucified Nazarene. In remarkable confirmation of
this fact is the discovery in the recent explorations of the ruins of
the Imperial Palace of several Christian memorials, including one of
those lamps adorned with evangelical symbols, so common in the
Catacombs. Much of the evidence on this subject has been lost by the
zealous destruction of ecclesiastical records during the terrible
Diocletian persecution; but from inscriptions in the Catacombs, and
from the incidental allusions of early writers, we learn that persons     57
of the highest position, and even members of the Imperial family, were
associated with the Christians in life and in death. Some of the
noblest names of Rome occur in funeral epitaphs in some of the most
ancient galleries of the Catacombs. There is evidence that even during
the first century some who stood near the throne became converts to
Christianity, and even died as martyrs for the faith.[46]

But doubtless the preservation and advancement of true religion was
better secured amid the dark recesses of the Catacombs, during the
fiery persecutions that befel the Church, than it would have been in
the sunshine of imperial favour, in an age and court unparalleled for
their corruptions. The sad decline of Christianity after the accession
of Constantine makes it a matter of congratulation that in the earlier
ages it was kept pure by the wholesome breezes of adversity.

The new religion, notwithstanding all the efforts that were made for
its suppression, rapidly spread, even in the high places of the earth.
“We are but of yesterday,” writes Tertullian at the close of the
second century, “yet we fill every city, town, and island of the
empire. We abound in the very camps and castles, in the council
chamber and the palace, in the senate and the forum; only your            58
temples and theatres are left.”[47]

It is evident from an examination of the earliest Catacombs that they
were not the offspring of fear on the part of the Christians. There
was no attempt at secrecy in their construction. They were, like the
pagan tombs, situated on the high roads entering the city. Their
entrances were frequently protected and adorned by elegant structures
of masonry, such as that which is still visible at the Catacomb of St.
Domitilla on the Via Ardeatina;[48] and their internal decorations and
frescoes, which in the most ancient examples are of classic taste and
beauty, were manifestly not executed by stealth and in haste, but in
security and at leisure.

There was, in classic times, a sacred character attached to _all_
places set apart for the purposes of sepulture. They enjoyed the
especial protection of the law, and were invested with a sort of
religious sanctity.[49] This protection was asserted in many
successive edicts, and the heaviest penalties were inflicted on the
violators of tombs, as guilty of sacrilege.[50] Reverence for the
sepulchres of the dead was regarded by the ancient mind as a religious
virtue; and the neglect of the ancestral tomb even involved disability
for municipal office.[51]

Being situated along the public highway, these pagan tombs were liable    59
to various pollutions, to which numerous inscriptions refer. Hence the
frequent CAVE VIATOR--“Traveller, beware!”--so common in classic
epitaphs. The SCRIPTOR PARCE HOC OPVS--“Writer, spare this
work”--sometimes met with, is, as Kenrick well remarks,[52] not the
address of an author to a critic, but of a relative of the deceased,
entreating the wall-scribbler not to disfigure a tomb. Electioneering
notices were sometimes written upon these wayside monuments--a
practice which is deprecated in the following: CANDIDATVS FIAT
candidate be honoured and yourself happy, O writer, if you write not
I pray you pass by this monument.”

As these sepulchral areas, often of considerable extent, were taken
from the fields in the vicinity of a great city, where the land was
very valuable for the purpose of tillage, they were in continual
danger of invasion from the cupidity of the heirs or of adjacent
land-owners, but for this legal protection. On many of the
_cippi_, or funereal monuments, which line the public roads in
the vicinity of Rome, the extent of these areas is set forth. Some of
them are quite small, as is indicated in the following inscription:
NOLI · NE SACRILEGIVM COMMITTAS[52a]--“A consecrated plot of earth, ten
feet long and ten feet broad. Do not dig here, lest you commit

More generally the size of the area is expressed, as in the following:
IN FRONTE P[EDES] · IX IN AGRO P[EDES] · X; that is, “Frontage on the     60
road, nine feet; depth in the field, ten feet.” This area, small as it
is, was designed for several families. The limited space occupied by
the cinerary urns rendered this quite possible. Frequently, however,
the size was much larger. An area one hundred and twenty-five feet
square would be of very moderate extent. Horace mentions one one
thousand feet by three hundred,[53] and sometimes they greatly exceed
this, as one on the Via Labicana, five hundred by eighteen hundred
feet, or over twenty English acres. There were also frequently
_exhedræ_, or seats by the wayside, for passers-by, who were sometimes
exhorted to pause and read the inscription, or to pour a libation for
the dead, as in the following: SISTE VIATOR TV QVI VIA FLAMINIA
TRANSIS, RESTA AC RELEGE--“Stop, traveller, who passest by on the
Flaminian Way; pause and read, and read again!” MISCE BIBE DA
MIHI--“Mix, drink, and give to me.” VIATORES SALVETE ET
VALETE--“Travellers, hail and farewell.”

These burial plots were incapable of alienation or transfer from the
families for whom they were originally set apart; who are sometimes
enumerated in the inscription, or more generally expressed by the
addition, LIBERTIS LIBERTABVSQVE POSTERISQVE, that is, “He made this
for himself and his family,” or “for himself and his descendants;”
also “for his freedmen and freedwomen and their descendants.”
Sometimes this limitation is plainly asserted to be, VT NE VNQVAM DE
may not go out of the name of our family.” The cupidity of the
inheritor of the estate is especially guarded against by the
ever-recurring formula, H · M · H · N · S ·, that is, _Hoc monumentum
hæredem non sequitur_--“This monument descends not to the heir.”
Sometimes within a stately mausoleum reposed in solitary magnificence
the dust of a single individual, who in sullen exclusiveness declares
in his epitaph that he has no associate even in the grave, or that he
made his tomb for himself alone--IN HOC MONVMENTO SOCIVM HABEO NVLLVM,

The violation of the monument is earnestly deprecated in numerous
inscriptions in some such terms as these: ROGO PER DEOS SVPEROS
supernal and infernal gods, that you do not violate my bones.”
Sometimes this petition is accompanied by an imprecation of divine
vengeance if it should be neglected, as, QVI VIOLAVERIT DEOS
SENTIAT IRATOS--“May he feel the wrath of the gods[54] who
shall have violated [this tomb.]” Another invokes the fearful
MORIATVR[55]--“Whoever shall take away or injure this [tomb] let
him die the last of his race.”

From a distrust of posterity many erected their monuments during their
life-time, and wrote their own epitaphs, leaving only a space for the
age. This is sometimes expressed by the words, SIBI VIVVS FECIT, or,
SE VIVO, SE VIVIS, or even by such solecisms as ME VIVVS, or SE VIVVS.
The following records the strange fact of the erection of a funereal
monument by one living person to another: SEMIRAMIAE LICINIAE QVAM        62
Licinia, whom I love in place of my daughter: on account of her
merits, alive, I made this to her alive.”

These classic usages have been thus detailed because traces of their
influence may be observed in many practices adopted by the primitive
Christians, and because they furnish an explanation of those
remarkable immunities and privileges which the Catacombs so long
enjoyed. These latter were constructed in separate and limited areas,
in like manner as the pagan sepulchres. De Rossi has given a map of
the Catacomb of Callixtus, in which these areas are accurately
defined. They vary in size and shape, that of the crypt of St. Lucina
being one hundred feet _in fronte_ and one hundred and eighty
_in agro_, that of St. Cecilia two hundred and fifty feet _in
fronte_ and one hundred _in agro_, and others still larger. By
the very tenor of the law these areas enjoyed the same protection as
those of the pagan sepulchres, of which protection it required a
special edict to deprive them. Even when Christianity fell under the
ban of persecution that freedom of sepulture was not at first
interfered with. Having wreaked his cruel rage upon the living body,
the pagan magistrate at least did not deny right of burial to the
martyr’s mutilated remains. A beneficent Roman law declared that the
bodies even of those who died by the hand of the public executioner
might be given up to any who asked for them.[56] So that even the
sentence of outlawry against the Christians did not affect the bodies
of the dead. Indeed, we know from ecclesiastical history that
frequently the faithful received the remains of the martyrs and gave      63
them Christian burial. It was not till the third century, when the
pagan opposition to Christianity became intense and bitter, that the
persecutors waged war upon the dead. Although both Diocletian and
Maximian confirmed the decree just cited, it often happened that, in
order that the Christians might not have even the melancholy
consolation of gathering up the martyrs’ bones, and honouring the
remains of their fallen heroes, those sacred relics were denied the
rites of sepulture which were freely accorded to the body of the
vilest malefactor.

These areas, Christian as well as pagan, were under the guardianship
of the Roman _Pontifices_, who, although pagans, were actually
confirmed in their authority by the Christian Emperor Constans. In
consequence of this protection the Christians were enabled to conduct
their worship and celebrate their _agapæ_ in the oratories or
other buildings erected over the Catacombs, the ruins of which are
still to be seen at the Catacombs of St. Domitilla and Sts. Nereus and
Achilles, and which to the popular apprehension would seem to
correspond to the pagan structures for the celebration of funeral
banquets. Even when oppressed and persecuted above ground, they found
a sanctuary beneath its surface, and were permitted by the ignorance
or indifference of their foes to worship God among the holy dead. So
long as their sepulchral areas were uninvaded the Christians
scrupulously abstained from extending their excavations beyond their
respective limits, digging lower _piani_ instead, when insatiate
death demanded room for still more graves. But when the ruthless
persecutor pursued them even beneath the earth, they felt at liberty
to transcend those limits and burrow in any direction for safety or

The Christian inscriptions often strongly deprecate the violation of      64
the graves to which they are attached, in like manner as we have seen
in pagan epitaphs, and against this crime the Fathers intensely
inveigh. Sometimes the petition assumes a most solemn character, as
[_sic_] FIAT ET NE SEPVLCRVM MEVM VIOLETVR--“[I conjure] you by Christ
that no violence be offered me by any one, and that my sepulchre may
not be violated.” Still more awful in its adjuration is the following:
VIOLENT[57]--“I conjure you by the dreadful day of judgment that no
one violate this sepulchre.”

Sometimes a most terrible imprecation is expressed, as in the

                     MALE · PEREAT · INSEPVLTVS
                      IACEAT · NON · RESVRGAT
                    CVM · IVDA · PARTEM · HABEAT

         If any one shall violate this sepulchre,
         Let him perish miserably and remain unburied;
         Let him lie down and not rise again,
         Let him have his portion with Judas.[58]

                      ....[EMI]GRAVIT AD XPM
                     ....SEPVLCRVM VIOLARE
                    ....SIT ALIENVS A REGNO DEI.

     ... Has departed to Christ. [If any one dare] to violate
     this sepulchre, let him ... and be far from the kingdom of

It is probable that this dread of the violation of the grave arose, in    65
part at least, from the fear that the dispersion of the remains might
impede the resurrection of the body; and also from that natural
aversion to the disturbance of the slumbering dust, so passionately
expressed on the tombstone of England’s greatest dramatist.[60]

We sometimes find also the announcement upon Christian as well as upon
pagan tombs, that they have been prepared while the tenants were yet
alive, as in the following: LOCVS BASILIONIS SE BIBO FECIT--“The place
of Basilio, he made it when alive;” SABINI BISOMVM SE BIBVM FECIT SIBI
Sabinus, he made it for himself during his life-time, in the cemetery
of Balbina, in the new crypt.” As Sabinus could only occupy one half
of this, the other half was probably intended for his wife. Observe in
the following the beautiful euphemism for the grave. It is calmly
chosen as the last long home, as the “house appointed for all             66
living.” (Fig. 19.[61])

  [Illustration: Fig. 19.--Epitaph from Lapidarian Gallery.[61]]

But there was another and still more remarkable resemblance between
the funeral usages of the pagans and Christians than any yet
mentioned, and one which greatly contributed to the freedom of action
and security of the latter. There is abundant monumental and other
evidence of the existence in Rome, in the time of the later Republic
and of the Empire, of certain funeral confraternities--_collegia_, as
they were called--much like the modern burial clubs. A remarkable
inscription of the time of Hadrian, A. D. 103, found at Lavigna,
nineteen miles from Rome, on the Appian Way, gives an insight into
their constitution and objects. With much legal tautology it sets
forth the privilege of this _collegium_ of the worshippers of Diana
and the new divinity Antinous appointed by a decree of the Roman
Senate and people, to assemble, convene, and have an association for
the burial of the dead.[62] The members of this confraternity were to     67
pay for that purpose a hundred _sesterces_ at entrance, besides an
_amphora_ of good wine, and five _ases_ a month thereafter,[63] all of
which was forfeited by the non-payment of the monthly dues. Three
hundred _sesterces_ were expended on the funeral, fifty of which were
to be distributed at the cremation of the body. If a member died at a
distance from Rome three of the confraternity were sent to fetch the
body. Even if they failed to obtain it the funeral rites were duly
paid to an effigy of the deceased. There was also provision made for
the members dining together on anniversary and other occasions
according to rules duly prescribed by the _collegium_.

The names of very many of these _collegia_ have been preserved, each
of which consisted of the members of a similar profession or
handicraft. Thus we have the _Collegium Medicorum_, the association of
the physicians; _Aurificum_, of the gold-workers; _Tignariorum_, of
the carpenters; _Dendrophororum_, of the wood-fellers; _Pellionariorum_,
of the furriers; _Nautarum_, of the sailors; _Pabulariorum_, of the
forage merchants; _Aurigariorum_, of the charioteers; and
_Utriculariorum_, of the bargemen.[64]

They were frequently also connected by the bond of nationality or of
common religious observance, as _Collegium Germanorum_, the
association of the Germans; _Pastophororum_, of the priests of Isis;
_Serapidis et Isidis_, of Serapis and Isis; _Æsculapii et Hygeiæ_, of
Æsculapius and Hygeia.[65] Sometimes they were _Cultores Veneris_,
_Jovis_, _Herculis_, worshippers of Venus, Jupiter, Hercules, or, as
we have seen, of Diana and Antinous.

These associations were often favoured with especial privileges,          68
immunities, and rights, like those of incorporation, such as the
holding of territorial property. De Rossi has shown, by ample
citations, that the emperors, who were always opposed to associations
among the citizens, made a special exemption in favour of these
funeral clubs.[66]

By conformity to the constitution of these corporations the Christian
church had peculiar facilities for the burial of its dead, and even
for the celebration of religious worship. Indeed, it has been
suggested, and is highly probable, that it was under the cover of
these funeral associations that toleration was conceded, first to the
sepulchres, then to the churches. Tertullian describes the practice of
the Christian community in the second century as follows: “Every one
offers a small contribution on a certain day of the month, or when he
chooses, and as he is able, for no one is compelled; it is a voluntary
offering. This is our common fund for piety; for it is not expended in
feasting and drinking and in wanton excesses, but in feeding and
_burying the poor_, in supporting orphans, aged persons, and such as
are shipwrecked, or such as languish in mines, in exile, or in
prison.”[67] Thus the _Ecclesia Fratrum_, the “Congregation of the
Brethren,” who restored the funeral monument described on page
fifty-six,[68] suggests the pagan college of the _Fratres Arvales_;       69
and the _Cultor Verbi_, or worshipper of the Divine Word, in the same
inscription, would seem to the heathen magistrate analogous to the
_Cultores Jovis_ or _Cultores Dianæ_ of the pagan _collegia_. Indeed,
it is difficult to decide from the names of some of these associations
whether they were Christian or pagan. Thus we read of the _Collegium
convictorum qui una epulo vesci solent_--“The fraternity of
table-companions who are accustomed to feast together.” De Rossi
suggests that there may be here a covert reference to a Christian
community, and probably to the celebration of the Agape or of the
Eucharist.[69] Another is the _Collegium quod est in domo Sergiæ
Paulinæ_--“The association which is in the house of Sergia Paulina.”
This possibly may have been a Christian community, like “the church
which was in the house” of Priscilla and Aquila.[70]

That the primitive Christians availed themselves of the privileges
granted to the funeral associations, is confirmed by a discovery made
by De Rossi in the Cemetery of St. Domitilla in the year 1865, and
already referred to. At the entrance was found a chamber, with stone
seats like the _schola_, or place of meeting of the pagan tombs where
the religious confraternity celebrated the funeral banquet of the
deceased. Here the Christians celebrated instead the _Agape_, or Feast
of Charity, and the _Natalitia_, or anniversary of the martyrs who
were buried there, just as the pagan associations commemorated the
anniversaries of their deceased patrons.

The ancient privileges of these _collegia_ were confirmed by an edict
of Septimius Severus about the year A. D. 200. It is a curious
coincidence that precisely at this time Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome,
appointed Callixtus to be “guardian of the cemetery,” as well as          70
head of the clergy.[71] In order to secure to the funeral association
the protection of the law it was necessary that one of its members
should be appointed agent or “syndic,” by whom its business should be
transacted, and in whose name its property should be held.[72] Thus
Callixtus became the syndic of the public cemetery of the church,
which still bears his name. De Rossi conjectures that this was the
first cemetery set apart for the use of the whole Christian community.
Hence it was taken under the care of the ecclesiastical authorities,
and became, as we shall see hereafter, the burying-place of the Roman
bishops, and the especial property of the church.[73]

We will now trace briefly the history of those persecutions which
glutted the Catacombs with victims, and at times drove the church for
sanctuary to their deepest recesses. We have seen that Christianity
grew up under the protection accorded to Judaism as one of the
tolerated religions of Rome. But this toleration did not long
continue. In Rome as well as elsewhere the new creed was doomed to a
baptism of blood. The causes of this persecution are not far to seek.
The Christian doctrine spread rapidly, and early excited the jealousy
of the Roman authorities by its numerous converts from the national
faith, many of whom were of exalted rank. These carefully refrained
from the idolatrous adulation by which the servile mob were wont to       71
express their loyalty to the imperial monster who aspired to be a god.
Hence they were accused of disaffection, of treason.[74] They were the
enemies of Cæsar, and of the Roman people.[75] They were supposed to
exert a malign influence on the course of nature. If it did not rain
the Christians were to blame.[76] “If the Tiber overflows its banks,”
says Tertullian, “or the Nile does not; if there be drought or
earthquakes, famine or pestilence, the cry is raised, ‘_The Christians
to the lions!_’”[77] If the pecking of the sacred chickens or the
entrails of the sacrificial victims gave unfavourable omens, it was
attributed to the counter spell of “the atheists.” At Rome, as well as
at Ephesus and Philippi, the selfish fears of the shrine and image
makers, whose “craft was in danger,” and the hostility of the priests
and dependents on the idol-worship, inspired or intensified the
opposition to Christianity, as did also the jealousy of the Jews, who
regarded with especial hostility the believers in the lowly Nazarene,
whom their fathers with wicked hands had crucified and slain.[78]

The terrible conflagration which destroyed the greater part of the
city during the reign of Nero was made the excuse for the first
outburst of persecution against the Christian community. By public
rumour this deed was attributed to Nero himself. “To put an end to        72
to this report,” says Tacitus, “he laid the guilt, and inflicted the
most cruel punishment, upon these men, who, already branded with
infamy, were called by the vulgar, Christians.... Their sufferings at
their executions,” he adds, “were aggravated by insult and mockery;
for some were sewn up in the skins of wild beasts, and worried to
death by dogs; some were crucified, and some, wrapped in garments of
pitch, were burned as torches to illumine the night.”[79]

During this persecution St. Paul fell a victim, A. D. 64. He was
beheaded “without the gate,” on the Ostian Way, and weeping friends
took up his bleeding corpse and laid it, according to tradition, in
one of the most ancient crypts of an adjoining Catacomb, where
Eusebius asserts that his tomb could be seen in his day.[80]

From this time Christianity was exposed to outbursts of heathen rage,
and express decrees were published against it.[81] No longer sharing
the protection of Judaism, it fell under the ban of the empire. At
times the rage of persecution slumbered, and again it burst forth with
inextinguishable fury. But, like the typical bush that “flourished
unconsumed in fire,” the Christian faith but grew and spread the more.
Yet the sword ever impended over the church. Sometimes its stroke         73
was for a time deferred, when the little flock took courage and
rejoiced; but often it fell with crushing weight, smiting the
shepherds and scattering the sheep. One of these periods of rest
extended from the time of the Neronian persecution till near the end
of the century, when Domitian, “a second Nero,”[82] stretched forth
his hand again to vex the saints. During the short reign of the
“justice-loving Nerva” the Christians again enjoyed repose, so that
Lactantius even asserts that they were restored to all their former

To the first century De Rossi refers the construction of at least
three or four of the Catacombs. These are, (1) the Cemetery of
Priscilla, excavated, according to an ancient tradition, in the
property of the Roman Senator Pudens, mentioned by St. Paul, and in
which, it is said, were interred his daughters Pudentiana and
Praxides; (2) the Catacomb of Domitilla, the grandniece of the Emperor
Domitian, in which she herself was buried, together with her
chamberlains Nereus and Achilles, who were beheaded for their
steadfastness in the Christian faith; (3) the Crypt of Lucina,
afterwards part of the Catacomb of Callixtus, in which some of the
most ancient inscriptions have been found. De Rossi conjectures that
this lady is the same as the Pomponia Græcina before mentioned, the
wife of Plautius, the conqueror of Britain. (4) De Rossi is also of
the opinion that he has discovered another, and the oldest of all the
Catacombs, dating from the very times of the apostles themselves, in
that known as the Fons Petri, or the Cemetery of the Font of Peter, in
which tradition asserts that he himself baptized. The classical style
of the architecture, frescoes, and graceful stucco wreaths and
garlands, and the character of the inscriptions, all point to a very      74
ancient period, before art had degenerated, and before long-continued
persecution had banished Christianity into seclusion and poverty.

The law of Trajan against secret assemblies, synchronous with the
opening of the second century, gave a new occasion of persecuting the
Church. With such severity was this done that, according to Pliny, the
deserted temples became again frequented, and their neglected rites

The Emperor Hadrian is described by his contemporaries as diligently
practising the Roman rites, and despising all foreign religions.[84]
Although he restrained the tumultuous attacks of the populace upon the
Christians, he nevertheless favoured their legal prosecution.[85]

The following epitaph given by Maitland commemorates a martyrdom of
this reign. The last sentence seems to imply that it was erected in a
time of actual persecution; but no dated example of the monogram which
accompanies it appears before the time of Constantine. The inscription
was probably written long after the death of Marius, or the monogram      75
may have been added by a later hand:


  [leafed        DVM VITAM PRO |CHO| CVM SANGVINE CON       ☧
                 RVNT I. D. VI.

     In Christ. In the time of the Emperor Hadrian, Marius, a young
     military officer, who had lived long enough, when, with his
     blood, he gave up his life for Christ. At length he rested in
     peace. The well-deserving set up this with tears and in fear, on
     the 6th, Ides of December.]

In this reign also suffered Alexander, bishop of Rome, whose tomb has
been found on the Nomentan Way, together with Eventius and Theodulus,
a presbyter and deacon.

Under the humane and equitable Antoninus Pius,[86] Christianity seems
to have enjoyed a partial toleration, although the edict of Trajan was
still unrevoked. Yet several outbreaks of popular fury against the
Christians took place, and in the very first year of his reign
Telesphorus, the bishop of the church at Rome, suffered martyrdom.[87]

One of the strangest phenomena in history is the persecution of the
primitive church by the philosophical emperor Marcus Aurelius,[88]
whose “Meditations” seem almost like the writings of an apostle in
their praise of virtue, yearning for abstract perfection, and contempt
of pomp and pleasure. Nevertheless, he was one of the most systematic
and heartless of all the oppressors of the Christian faith--a faith so
much loftier than even his high philosophy, and yet having so much        76
akin. With the cool acerbity of a stoic, he resolved to exterminate
the obnoxious doctrines. An active inquisition for the Christians was
set on foot, and the odious system of domestic espionage, which even
Trajan had forbidden, was encouraged. Shameless informers, greedy for
gain, fed their rapacity on the confiscated spoils of the believers,
whom they plundered, says Melito, by day and by night. Though gentle
to other classes of offenders, and even to rebels, Aurelius exceeded
in barbarity the most ruthless of his predecessors in the refinements
of torture, by rack and scourge, by fire and stake, employed to
enforce the recantation of the Christians; and every year of his long
reign was polluted with innocent blood.

From Gaul to Asia Minor raged the storm of persecution. The
earthquakes, floods, and famine, the wars and pestilence, that wasted
the empire, were visited upon the hapless Christians, who were
immolated in hecatombs as the causes of these dire calamities. From
the crowded amphitheatre of Smyrna ascended, as in a chariot of fire,
the soul of the apostolic bishop Polycarp. The arrowy Rhone ran red
with martyrs’ blood. The names of the venerable Pothinus, of the
youthful Blandina and Ponticus, and of the valiant Symphorianus, will
be memories of thrilling power and pathos to the end of time. At Rome
the persecution selected some of its noblest victims. Justin, the
Christian philosopher, finding in the Gospels a loftier lore than in
the teachings of Zeno or Aristotle, of Pythagoras or Plato, became the
foremost of the goodly phalanx of apologists and defenders of the
faith, and sealed his testimony with his blood. With six of his
companions he was brought before the prefect for refusing obedience to
the imperial decree. “We are Christians,” they said, “and sacrifice       77
not to idols.” They were forthwith scourged and beheaded, and devout
men bore them to their burial, doubtless in these very Catacombs,
where their undiscovered remains may yet lie. In this reign also
suffered the seven sons of St. Felicitas--the tomb of one of whom De
Rossi believes he has found--and St. Cecilia and her companions, to be
hereafter mentioned.[89]

The legend of the Thundering Legion, supported as it is by the medals     78
and the column of Antoninus, commemorates, indeed, the deliverance of
the Roman army by a timely shower; but the Emperor ascribed that
deliverance not to the prayers of the Christians, but to his own
appeal to the heathen gods,[90] and there is no evidence that he ever
relaxed the severity of the persecution.

The ferocity of the brutal Commodus[91] was tempered by the influence
of his concubine, Marcia, and Christianity spread among the highest
ranks; but persecution did not entirely cease. Apollonius, a senator      79
of the empire, was put to death at Rome, and we read of numerous
martyrdoms elsewhere. A Christian inscription commemorates an officer
of Commodus, and Procurator of the Imperial household, who was
“received to God”--RECEPTVS AD DEVM--A. D. 217.[92]

On the death of this emperor the persecution raged with such violence
that, according to Clemens Alexandrinus, many martyrs were burned,
crucified, and beheaded every day.[93] _Non licet esse vos_--“It
is not lawful for you to exist”--was the stern edict of extermination
pronounced against the saints.

Christianity had little favour to expect from a military despot like
Septimius Severus, whose dying counsel to his successor expressed the
principle of his government--“Be generous to the soldiers and trample
on all besides.”

The revived accusations against the new faith called forth the bold
defence, or rather defiance, of Tertullian, one of the noblest
monuments of the primitive ages. In this reign the sanctity of the
Christian cemeteries was first violated, and that not at Rome but in
Africa, where the persecution was most virulent. “The mob assails us
with stones and flames with the frenzy of bacchanals,” says
Tertullian; “They do not even spare the Christian dead, but tear them
from the rest of the tomb, from the asylum of death, cut them in
pieces, and rend them asunder.”[94]

After the cessation of this persecution the Church enjoyed a period of    80
unwonted rest. Although under the ignoble Heliogabalus the sensual
Asiatic worship of Baal was introduced to Rome, and human sacrifice
was even offered to this Eastern Moloch,[95] yet the religion of peace
and purity shared the toleration accorded to the most obscene and
cruel rites. The just and amiable Alexander Severus inaugurated a new
era for Christianity,[96] to which he was favourably disposed,
probably through the influence of his mother, Mammæa, who had enjoyed
at Antioch the instruction of Origen.[97] He used frequently to quote
with approval the Golden Rule of Our Lord, and caused it to be
inscribed on his palace walls, and also ceded to the Christians a
piece of public ground for the erection of a church.[98] But Alexander
was only a religious eclectic, honouring what he thought best in the
current systems of belief. Of this reign is the epitaph of Urban,
bishop of Rome, which has been found in the so-called “Papal Crypt,”      81
bearing his name and the initial letter of his title--ΟΥΡΒΑΝΟϹ Ε....

The accession of the Thracian savage, Maximin, A. D. 235, was the
signal for a fresh outburst of persecution. To have been favoured by
Severus was sufficient to incur the hate of his murderer. His rage was
especially directed against the chief pastors of the flock of Christ.
Pontianus, the Roman bishop, was exiled to Sardinia, and there slain.
Antherus, his successor in this dangerous dignity, for his zeal in
preserving the records of the martyrs himself suffered martyrdom a few
weeks after his accession, and was laid in that narrow chamber
destined to receive so many of Rome’s early bishops, where a slab
bearing his name and title--ΑΝΤΕΡΩϹ · ΕΠΙ--has been found. In this
reign also suffered the celebrated Hippolytus, bishop of Pontus, and
author of the “Philosophoumena.”

Under Gordian and Philip a respite was again granted to the persecuted
church. The latter, indeed, is claimed by Eusebius as a Christian; but
his character and conduct are inconsistent with such a supposition.

A violent reaction took place on the accession of Decius, whose name
became an object of execration to mankind.[99] He resolved to entirely
crush and extirpate Christianity, whose bishops and churches began to
rival the pontiffs and temples of the gods of Rome. At his instigation
a persecution of unprecedented virulence raged like an epidemic
throughout the empire. The imperial edicts enforced conformity to the
pagan ritual under penalty of the most horrible tortures. This unwonted
severity produced the first great apostasy of the primitive church;       82
and many of the less stable converts procured exemption from martyrdom
by sacrificing to the gods, burning incense on their altars, or
purchasing certificates of indulgence from the heathen magistrate.[100]

“Pale and trembling, and more like sacrificial victims than those
about to sacrifice,” says an eye-witness, “some approached the heathen
shrines; but others, firm and blessed pillars of the Lord, witnessed a
good confession unto death.”[101] The bishops of the church, who, as
the leaders of Christ’s sacramental host, bore gallantly the battle’s
brunt, were naturally the earliest victims of the tyrant’s rage.
Accordingly, at the very outbreak of the Decian slaughter, the
venerable Fabian, head of the Roman church, perished by decapitation;
and the Catacombs were glutted with a host of unknown martyrs. In the
very chamber in the Cemetery of Callixtus to which his mutilated
corpse was borne, may still be seen the Bishop’s epitaph--ΦΑΒΙΑΝΟϹ ·
ΕΠΙ--with the monogram of his martyrdom, the conjoined letters ΜΤΡ,
added probably by a later hand. The church seemed paralyzed with fear,    83
and for sixteen months no successor was elected. But, undismayed by
the tragic fate of Fabian, Cornelius, allied with some of the noblest
families of Rome, became the leader of the forlorn hope of
Christianity against all the power of the empire. After a year’s
episcopate he was first banished and then beheaded under Gallus, a
worthy successor in persecution of Decius. Through the archæological
researches of De Rossi have been recovered, first his epitaph--CORNELIVS
· MARTYR · EP--and then his tomb, with a Damasine inscription, in one
of the most interesting crypts of the Catacombs. Lucius, his
successor, in six months shared his fate, and was buried in the
chamber consecrated by the dust of so many martyr-bishops, where his
brief epitaph--ΛΟΥΚΙϹ--is still legible.

Valerian,[102] who revived in his own person the ancient office of
Censor, was at first so favourable toward the Christians that his
house, says Dionysius of Alexandria, was filled with pious persons,
and was, indeed, a congregation[103] of the Lord. This favour was
doubtless the result of the Censor’s approval of Christian influence
on public morals.[104] In the latter part of his reign, however, the
Emperor passed under the dominion of the most abject superstition.
Through the influence of Macrianus, a pagan bigot learned in the dark
lore of Egypt, he became addicted to magic arts, and is said to have
sought the auguries of the empire in the entrails of human
victims.[105] The most relentless decrees were launched against the
Christian church. The bishops, priests, and deacons were forthwith to
be put to the sword; all others were to share the same fate, or to be
punished by exile and fetters.[106] The holding of assemblies, or even    84
entering the Christian cemeteries, was strictly prohibited A. D.
257.[107] By this unwonted invasion of the immemorial sanctity of the
sepulchre the Christians were forbidden even these last refuges from

Among the most illustrious victims of Valerian whose bodies lie in the
lowly Catacombs, but whose names live for evermore, were Stephen I.
and Sixtus II., bishops of the persecuted church, and a number of
distinguished ecclesiastics, as well as many laymen of noble rank.[108]

Stephen, as the head of the Christian community, was especially
obnoxious to heathen rage. According to the Acts of his martyrdom he
sought concealment in these sepulchral crypts,[109] where he was
secretly visited by the faithful, and where he administered the
sacraments. He was traced by the Roman soldiers to his subterranean
chapel, but, awed by the mysterious rites, they allowed him to
conclude the service in which he was engaged. He was then beheaded,
with several of his adherents,[110] and buried in the Catacomb.

Sixtus, the successor of Stephen, within a year received the martyr’s     85
crown. Like another Daniel setting at defiance the emperor’s decree,
he was leading the devotions of the persecuted flock in the Catacomb
of Prætextatus, probably because it was less known than the public
cemetery of Callixtus, when he was apprehended by the fierce soldiery,
who had tracked his footsteps thither. He was hurried away to summary
judgment, brought back to the place of his offence, and there
beheaded, sprinkling with his blood the walls of the chamber. With him
were also executed four of his deacons,[111] the monuments of two of
whom, Agapetus and Felicissimus, De Rossi discovered in the very
Catacomb in which they suffered. Sixtus himself was buried in the
“Bishops’ Tomb” in the Callixtan Cemetery, where the following
inscription, fragments of which have been found in the _débris_,
was afterward set up by Damasus:


     At the time when the sword pierced the tender heart of the Mother    86
     [church,] I, the ruler buried here, was teaching the laws of
     heaven. Suddenly came [the enemy,] who seized me sitting as I
     was. Then the people presented their necks to the soldiers sent
     against me. Soon the old man saw who sought to bear away the
     palm, and was the first to offer himself and his own head, that
     impatient rage might injure no one else. Christ who bestows the
     rewards of life, manifests the merit of the pastor: he himself
     defends the flock.[112]

Thus seven bishops of the church at Rome fell in succession by the
hand of the headsman, five of them in the space of eight years--heroic
athletes of Christ who, at the very seat of paganism, as in a mighty
theatre of God, bore the brunt of persecution, and, conquering even in
death, received the martyr’s crown and palm.

The accession of Gallienus[113] restored peace to the church. His
decree granting complete religious toleration, the restoration of
confiscated ecclesiastical property, and permission to “recover what
they called their cemeteries,”[114] won the gratitude of his Christian
subjects. His character, however, by no means justified the epithet of
“holy and pious emperor” bestowed by Dionysius of Alexandria.[115]
This was the first formal recognition of Christianity as a _religio
licita_, or legalized faith, and for forty years the church enjoyed
comparative repose; at least such repose as was possible while twenty     87
rival emperors--fantastic things “that likeness of a kingly crown had
on”--struggled for the supremacy, and harried the land with their
mutual devastations. During this period, Felix, the bishop of the
Roman church, who, according to the _Liber Pontificalis_, was
exceedingly diligent in honouring the martyrs of the Catacombs, became
himself a conscript of that noble army, and was beheaded, in
accordance with an imperial decree, as was also Agapetus, a Christian
of noble rank.

The mild and amiable Tacitus[116] ruled over a turbulent people only
six months. His brother Florian retained the purple only half that
time. Probus, “the just,” whose name, says his epitaph, expressed his
character,[117] fell by the hands of his own tumultuous legionaries.
The sensual and abominable Carinus displayed the extravagancies of
Heliogabalus, aggravated by the cruelty of Domitian. In his reign died
Eutychianus, whose epitaph and title--ΕΥΤΥΧΙΑΝΟϹ ΕΠΙϹ--have been
found in the “Papal Crypt” of Callixtus.[118]

Christianity was destined to undergo a final ordeal before it should      88
ascend the throne of the Cæsars. The church must pass once more
through the purifying flames of persecution before it was fit to be
entrusted with the reins of empire. The long peace and temporal
prosperity had fostered pride and luxury, and relaxed the morals of
the Christian community. Schisms and feuds destroyed the unity of the
faith, and the bishops had begun to aspire to temporal power, and to
assert an unwarranted authority. “Prelates inveighed against
prelates,” says Eusebius, “and people rose against people, assailing
each other with words as with darts and spears.”[119] The blasts of
adversity were necessary to winnow the spurious and false away, and to
leave the tried and true behind. From the fatal slumber of religious
apathy into which the church was falling it was to be rudely awakened.
Its former afflictions sank into insignificance compared with this
great tribulation, which was pre-eminently called _The_ Persecution by
the historian of the times.[120]

The close of the third century witnessed the strange spectacle of the
government of the Roman world by a group of men who had climbed to the
giddy height of power from the lowest stations in life. Diocletian,
originally a slave, or at least the son of a slave, reduced the
haughty aristocracy of Rome to a condition of oriental servility.
Maximian, a Pannonian peasant, betrayed the savageness of his nature
by his bloodthirsty cruelty. Galerius, an Illyrian herdsman, but
exhibited more conspicuously upon the throne of empire the native
barbarity of his character. Constantius was of nobler birth than any
of his colleagues, and he alone adorned his lofty station by dignity,
justice, and clemency. The world groaned under the oppression of its
cruel masters. So exhausting were their exactions that none remained      89
to tax, says Lactantius,[121] but the beggars.

The early years of the reign of Diocletian were characterized for the
most part by principles of religious toleration. Indeed, his wife and
daughter, the empresses Prisca and Valeria, favoured, if they did not
adopt, the Christian faith, and some of the first officers of the
imperial household belonged to the now powerful sect.[122] But even
during this period the Christians were not free from danger. Caius,
the Roman bishop, is said to have lived for eight years in the
Catacombs on account of the persecution, and at last underwent
martyrdom in the year A. D. 296.[123] Marcus and Marcelianus, two
Roman Christians of noble rank, who have given their name to one of
the Catacombs, suffered about this time. Others, especially in the
army, where the ancient faith had firmest hold, and where, indeed,
Eusebius says, the persecution began,[124] endured martyrdom as the
valiant soldiers of Christ. The storm, of which these events were the
precursors, at length burst with fury on the Christians in the year
303. A series of cruel edicts, written, says Eusebius, with a dagger’s
point,[125] were fulminated for the extirpation of the Christian
name.[126] They were framed with malignant ingenuity, so as to leave      90
no chance of escape save in open apostasy. All ecclesiastical property
was confiscated. The churches were razed to the ground, and the sacred
scriptures burned with fire.[127] All assemblies for worship were
prohibited on pain of death. The clergy of every order were zealously
sought out, and thrust into dungeons designed for the worst of
felons.[128] The whole Christian community was outlawed, degraded from
every secular office, deprived of the rights of citizenship, and
exposed to the punishment of the vilest slaves. With intensifying
violence edict followed edict, like successive strokes of thunder in a
raging storm. A universal and relentless proscription of the Christian
name took place. The truculent monster Galerius, of whom his Christian
subjects said, that he never supped without human blood,[129] proposed
that all who refused to sacrifice to the gods should be burned alive;
and the fiendish ingenuity of the persecutors was exhausted in
devising fresh tortures for their victims.

In Italy, and especially at Rome, the work of destruction was eagerly
carried on by Maximian, an implacable enemy of the Christians; and
after his death by the abominable voluptuary Maxentius, in whom the
twin passions of cruelty and lust struggled for the mastery. These        91
monsters of iniquity revelled in a carnival of blood, and glutted the
Catacombs with victims, some of the most illustrious of whom will
shortly be mentioned. On the retirement of Diocletian, satiated with
slaughter and weary with the cares of state, to his retreat at
Salonica, Galerius continued the persecution with increased zeal. It
was the expiring effort of paganism, the death throes of its mortal
agony. But the Christian religion, like the trodden grass that ranker
grows, flourished still in spite of the oppression it endured. Like
the rosemary and thyme, which the more they are bruised give out the
richer perfume, it breathed forth the odours of sanctity which are
fragrant in the world to-day. Though the frail and the fickle fell off
in the blast of adversity, the staunch and true remained; and from the
martyr’s blood, more prolific than the fabled dragon’s teeth, a new
host of Christian heroes rose, contending for the martyr’s starry and
unwithering crown.

But the period of deliverance was at hand. Smitten by the power of
that God whose titles and attributes he had usurped, the wretched
Galerius, amid the agonies of a loathsome disease, implored the
intercessions of the Christians whom he had so ruthlessly proscribed.
With sublimest magnanimity the church exhibited the nobility of a
Gospel revenge, and obeyed the injunction of its divine Master to pray
for those who persecuted and despitefully used it. From the dying
couch of the remorseful monarch came an abject apology for his cruel
deeds; and, in late atonement for his crime, a decree of amplest
recognition of Christianity, and restoration of the right to worship
God. Like the trump of jubilee, the edict of deliverance pealed
through the land. It penetrated the gloomy dungeon, the darksome mine,
the catacomb’s dim labyrinth; and from their sombre depths vast           92
processions of the “noble wrestlers of religion”[130] thronged to the
long forsaken churches with grateful songs of praise to God.

But this treacherous calm was soon to be again broken. The
superstitious tyrant Maximin endeavoured to revive the dying paganism,
and to renew the persecution. He paid Christianity the high compliment
of attempting a complete organization of the heathen priesthood on the
model of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and restored the ancient
worship with unwonted pomp. He prohibited the assemblies in the
cemeteries, and reiterated the edict of extermination against the
Christians.[131] But the loathsome death of this brutal voluptuary
soon delivered the church from the most implacable of its foes. From
the distant island of Britain--that ultimate far Thule of the
empire--had arrived the Cæsar who should enthrone the new faith on the
seat of its persecutors, and establish it as the religion of the
state,[132] an event more perilous to its purity and spiritual power
than the direst oppression it had ever endured. Constantine having
overcome the enemies of Christianity, who were also his own, became
its protector, more, it is easy to believe, either from conviction of
its truth or from policy than on account of the alleged miraculous
vision of the cross of Christ, the presage of a bloody victory.[133]
He issued at Milan, A. D. 313, that decree of full and unlimited          93
toleration[134] which became thenceforth the charter of the church’s

The sufferings of the more illustrious victims of persecution are         94
alone recorded in history, which is silent concerning the great army
of unknown martyrs, whose names are recorded only in the Book of Life.
The bishops of the church were ever the first to feel the tyrants’
rage. The episcopal chair was often but the stepping-stone to the
scaffold. Yet faithful shepherds were not wanting to lead the flock of
Christ, and to testify their devotion to their trust by the sacrifice
of their lives. We have seen how Caius suffered even before the final
outbreak of persecution. Marcellinus, his successor, incurred the
resentment of the tyrant Maxentius, was degraded to the office of
groom of the public stables, where the horses of the circus were kept,
and soon sank beneath the weight of his miseries and those of the
church.[136] Marcellus, sometimes confounded with Marcellinus, paid
the penalty of exile for his firmness in maintaining the
ecclesiastical discipline against those who apostatized from the faith
in those times of fiery trial. This event is recorded in the Damasine


     The truth-speaking ruler, because he preached that the lapsed        95
     should weep for their crimes, was bitterly hated by all those
     unhappy ones. Hence fury, hence hatred followed, discord,
     contentions, sedition, and slaughter; and the bonds of peace were
     ruptured. For the crime of another, who in a time of peace had
     denied Christ, he was expelled the shores of his country by the
     cruelty of the tyrant. These things Damasus having learned, was
     desirous to relate briefly, that the people might recognize the
     merit of Marcellus.

Neither Marcellus nor Marcellinus was buried in the Catacomb of
Callixtus--which, as Diocletian had confiscated all the public
cemeteries, was inaccessible to the Christians--but in the private
crypt of the Christian matron Priscilla, on the Salarian Way.
Eusebius, the successor of Marcellus, was also banished on account of
the controversy concerning the “lapsed.” New light has recently been
thrown on this subject by De Rossi’s discovery, in the tomb of the
bishop, of the following Damasine inscription in a fragmentary


     Heraclius forbade the lapsed to grieve for their sins. Eusebius
     taught those unhappy ones to weep for their crimes. The people
     were rent in parties, and with increasing fury began sedition,
     slaughter, fighting, discord, and strife. Straightway both were
     banished by the cruelty of the tyrant, although the ruler was
     preserving the bonds of peace inviolate. He bore his exile with
     joy, looking to the Lord as his Judge, and on the Trinacrian
     shore gave up the world and his life.

The Heraclius mentioned in the inscription is probably the heretical
leader referred to in the epitaph of Marcellus, previously given. No
reference to this event occurs in any of the ecclesiastical writers,
and this inscription, says Dr. Northcote, is the recovery of a lost       96
chapter in the history of the church.[138] The remains of Eusebius
were brought from Sicily, the place of his exile, by his successor,
Melchiades, and interred in the Catacomb of Callixtus, but not with
the other bishops, the approaches to whose tomb were blocked up with
earth, probably to prevent its violation by the enemies of the faith.
Melchiades, with whom the long succession of Rome’s martyr bishops
comes to a close, was the last of his order who was buried in the
Catacombs, and De Rossi conjectures that he has discovered in the
Cemetery of Callixtus his tomb, and the very sarcophagus in which he

One of the most illustrious of the lay martyrs of the Diocletian
persecution was the gallant young soldier Sebastian, who has given his
name to one of the most ancient basilicas of Rome and to the adjacent
Catacomb, and Adauctus, a treasurer of the imperial palace. In the
Damasine epitaph of the latter occur the fine lines:


     With unfaltering faith, despising the lord of the world, having
     confessed Christ, thou didst seek the celestial realms.

Several of the Christian cemeteries receive their designation from the    97
martyrs of this period, among others those of Saints Agnes, Peter, and
Marcellinus, of Pancratius, Generosa, Zeno, Soteris, and _Quattro
Incoronati_, notice of whom will be more appropriate in the accounts
of their respective sepulchres. History has also preserved the names
of many other valiant confessors, who proved faithful even unto death
amid the fiery trials and cruel mockings and scourgings to which they
were exposed. Among these may be mentioned Cosmo and Damian, two holy
brothers of Cilicia, who practised in Rome with great skill the
healing art, from pure love to God and to their fellow-men, refusing
to receive aught for their services;[141] Simplicius and Faustinus,
who were drowned in the Tiber by the tyrant’s orders, and their
martyred sister Beatrice, whose tombs and epitaphs De Rossi believes
he has recovered.[142] Most of the legends, however, of what may be
called the Romish mythology are disfigured by absurd and superstitious
additions; and the martyrs themselves have become the objects of
idolatrous veneration far alien from the spirit of that primitive
Christianity for which they died.[143]

The following inscriptions from the Catacombs are the only records of     98
the victims of persecution whose names they bear.

  [Illustration: Fig. 21.--Lannus, the martyr of Christ, rests here.
  He suffered under Diocletian. For his successors also.]

  [Illustration: ☧]  PRIMITIVS IN PACE QVI POST
                        ET VIXIT ANNOS P · M · XXXVIII CONIVG · SVO

     Primitius in peace, after many torments, a most valiant martyr.
     He lived thirty-eight years, more or less. [His wife] raised this
     to her dearest husband, the well-deserving.


     Here lies Gordianus, deputy of Gaul, who was executed for the
     faith, with all his family: they rest in peace. Theophila, a
     handmaid, set up this.[144]

The history of the Catacombs is inextricably interwoven with that of      99
Christianity. Their very structure reflects the character of the times
in which they were made. The absence of constraint or concealment, and
the superior construction and ornamentation of those belonging to the
earliest times, indicate the comparative security of the church before
it had awakened the jealousy or fear of the Roman emperors. Their
immense extension and crowded galleries testify to the rapid increase
of the Christian community. The altered character which they gradually
assumed, the obstructed passages, the masked entrances, devious
windings, and devices for concealment or escape, and the rudely
scratched inscriptions and uncouth paintings, betray the sense of fear
and the kindling rage of persecution which pursued the hunted
Christians to these subterraneous sanctuaries of the faith. Their
greater magnificence and more ornate structure, the costly mosaics,
the marble stairways, and richly carved sarcophagi of the later ages,
tell of the enthronement of Christianity on the seat of the Cæsars,
and of the homage paid to the relics and shrines of the saints and
martyrs. And their debased architecture, barbarous paintings, and
progressive ruin during the later years of their history indicate the
gradual eclipse of art, and their final abandonment. We must therefore
carefully determine at least the proximate date of any particular
feature if we would correctly interpret its significance.

The last and most terrible persecution of the church before its final    100
triumph left abundant evidence of its violence and lengthened duration
in the changes which contemporaneously took place in the Catacombs.
God prepared a place for his saints, and hid them in the clefts of the
rock as in the hollow of his hand. When the public observance of
Christianity was proscribed by law the believers withdrew from the
light of day, and in the inmost and darkest recesses of these
subterranean crypts, by the graves of their martyred dead, enjoyed the
consolation of religious worship, and broke the bread and drank the
wine in memory of their dying Lord.[145]

But after the decree of Valerian which forbade the entering or holding
any assemblies in the Christian cemeteries, even these retreats were
not safe, and the last sanctuaries of the faith were unscrupulously
invaded. Persecution relentlessly followed the Christians through the
labyrinthine windings of the Catacombs, and violated the sepulchres of
the sainted dead by sacrilegious tumult and bloodshed. Sometimes the
heathen soldiery, fearing to pursue their victims into these unknown
passages, blocked up the entrance to prevent their escape; and many
were thus buried alive and perished of hunger in these chambers of

An entire change in the construction of the Catacombs now took place.
They became obviously designed for purposes of safety and concealment.
The new galleries were less wide and lofty, and the _loculi_ more
crowded on account of the greater difficulty of removing the excavated   101
material. At this time, too, many of the lower _piani_ were made
for additional graves and greater secrecy. The main entrances were
blocked up and the stairways demolished. Sometimes entire galleries
were filled with earth, the removal of which is the chief obstacle to
modern exploration, or were built up with masonry to obstruct pursuit;
and means of escape were provided, in case of forcible invasion of
these retreats. A striking example of this occurs in the Catacomb of
Callixtus. The ancient stairway was partially destroyed, the entrance
completely obstructed, and some of the galleries walled up. Narrow
passages for escape were made connecting with an adjacent
_arenarium_, and a very narrow secret stairway constructed from
the roof of the latter to the surface of the ground, as shown in the
section above [Transcriber’s Note: Fig. 22, below], which stairway
could only be reached by a movable ladder connecting it with the

  [Illustration: Fig. 22.--Secret stairway into Arenarium.]

It is impossible that the mass of the Christian community, or even any   102
considerable proportion of it, could ever have taken refuge in these
subterraneous crypts. Their vast extent and the number of chambers
would indeed permit a great multitude to remain concealed for a time
in their depths; but the difficulty of procuring a regular supply of
food, the confined atmosphere, and the probable exhalation of noxious
gases from the graves--especially on the opening of a _bisomus_, or
double tomb, for its second inmate--seem insuperable obstacles. As
it was the religious leaders of the Christian community who were
especially obnoxious to those in power, they would be the most likely
to seek concealment in the Catacombs, not from inferiority of courage,
but, like the afterward martyred Cyprian, that they might the better
guide and govern the persecuted church. Hence the examples before
given of bishops and other ecclesiastics lying hidden, some for years,
in these depths, and visited by the faithful for instruction or for
the celebration of worship.[148] There is evidence, however, that
during the exacerbations of persecution private Christians sought
safety in these recesses, and, burrowing in their depths, evaded the
pursuit of their enemies. Tertullian speaks of “a lady, unaccustomed
to privation, trembling in a vault, apprehensive of the capture of her
maid, upon whom she depends for her daily food.” The heads of
Christian families, and those most obnoxious to the pagan authorities,
would be especially likely to leave the fellowship of the living in
order to live in security among the dead. Father Marchi conjectures
that supplies of grain were laid up for the maintenance of the hidden    103
fugitives, and De Rossi describes certain crypts in the Catacomb of
Callixtus which were probably employed for storing corn or wine in
time of persecution. Frequent wells occur, amply sufficient for the
supply of water; and the multitude of lamps which have been found
would dispel the darkness, while their sudden extinction would prove
the best concealment from attack by their enemies.[149] Hence the
Christians were stigmatized as a skulking, darkness-loving race,[150]
who fled the light of day to burrow like moles in the earth.

These worse than Dædalian labyrinths were admirably adapted for
eluding pursuit. Familiar with their intricacies, and following a
well-known clew, the Christian could plunge fearlessly into the
darkness, where his pursuer would soon be inextricably lost. Perchance
the sound of Christian worship, and the softened cadence of the
confessors’ hymn, stealing through the distant corridors, may have
fallen with strange awe on the souls of the rude soldiery stealthily
approaching their prey; and, perhaps, not unfrequently with a saving
and sanctifying power. But sometimes, tracked by the sleuth-hounds of
persecution, or betrayed by some wretched apostate consumed by a
Judas-greed of gold, the Christians were surprised at their devotions,
and their refuge became their sepulchre. Such was the tragic fate of
Stephen, slain even while ministering at the altar; such the event
described by Gregory of Tours, when a hecatomb of victims were
immolated at once by heathen hate; such the peril which wrung from a
stricken heart the cry, not of anger but of grief, _Tempora infausta,
quibus inter sacra et vota ne in cavernis quidem salvari                 104
possimus!_--“O sad times in which, among sacred rites and prayers,
even in caverns, we are not safe!” It requires no great effort of
imagination to conceive the dangers and escapes which must have been
frequent episodes in the heroic lives of the early soldiers of the

In the Catacombs more safely than elsewhere could the Christians
celebrate the ordinances of religion, often under cover of the rites
of sepulture, which might even yet be sacred in the eyes of their
enemies. And next to their funeral purposes this seems to have been
their chief use. For this many of their principal chambers and chapels
were excavated, supplied with seats, ventilated by _luminari_, and
adorned with biblical or symbolical paintings. With what emotions must
the primitive believers have held their solemn worship and heard the
words of life, surrounded by the dead in Christ! With what power would
come the promise of the resurrection of the body, amid the crumbling
relics of mortality! How fervent their prayers for their companions in
tribulation, when they themselves stood in jeopardy every hour! Their
holy ambition was to witness a good confession even unto death. They
burned to emulate the zeal of the martyrs of the faith, the plumeless
heroes of a nobler chivalry than that of arms, the Christian athletes
who won in the bloody conflicts of the arena, or amid the fiery
tortures of the stake, not a crown of laurel or of bay, but a crown of
life, starry and unwithering, that can never pass away. Their humble
graves are grander monuments than the trophied tombs of Rome’s proud
conquerors upon the Appian Way. Lightly may we tread beside their
ashes; reverently may we mention their names. Though the bodily
presence of those conscripts of the tomb--the forlorn hope of the        105
army of Christianity--no longer walked among men, their intrepid
spirit animated the heart of each member of that little community of
persecuted Christians, “of whom the world was not worthy; who wandered
in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, ...
being destitute, afflicted, tormented.”[151]

It is impossible to arrive at even an approximate estimate of the
number of victims of the early persecutions. That number has
sometimes, no doubt, been greatly exaggerated. It has also, in
defiance of the testimony of contemporary history, been unreasonably
minified.[152] Tacitus asserts that under Nero a great multitude[153]
were convicted and punished. Pliny says the temples were almost
deserted[154] through this contagious superstition. Juvenal, Martial,
and other classical authors, notice the extraordinary sufferings of
the Christians. Cyprian, in the middle of the third century, says, “It
is impossible to number the martyrs of Christ.”[155] Eusebius, an
eye-witness of the last persecution, states that innumerable
multitudes suffered during its prevalence. After describing their
excruciating tortures, he adds: “And all these things were doing not     106
for a few days, but for a series of whole years. At one time ten or
more, then twenty, again thirty or even sixty, and sometimes a hundred
men, with their wives and children, were slain in one day.”[156] He
also describes the destruction of a Christian town, with all its
inhabitants, by fire.[157] Lactantius, also a contemporary witness,
tells us that the Christians were often surrounded on all sides and
burnt together.[158]

It is very remarkable that so few martyrs’ epitaphs have been found in
the Catacombs, not more than five or six altogether, and some of these
are not of unquestioned genuineness. But this may be attributed to the
humility and modesty of the early Christians, who shrank from claiming
for the sufferers for the truth the august title of martyr, which they
restricted to the one faithful and true witness, Jesus Christ. “We,”
said the victims of persecution at Lyons, “are only mean and humble

There do occur, it is true, certain inscriptions of a memorial
character and of later date than the time of the persecution, some of
which commemorate a large number of martyrs, but they are of little or
no historic value. Such is the inscription to three thousand martyrs
in the Catacomb of Priscilla, already given,[159] and the following
from the Callixtan Catacomb: MARCELLA ET CHRISTI MARTYRES
CCCCL--“Marcella and four hundred and fifty martyrs in Christ.”
Ancient itineraries speak of eighty, or even eight hundred, martyrs
buried in one spot in the Catacombs; and Prudentius declares that he     107
saw the remains of some sixty in a single grave.[160] But surpassing
all the others in exaggeration is an inscription in the church of St.
Sebastian commemorating one hundred and seventy-four thousand holy
martyrs, and forty-six bishops, also martyrs, said to be interred in
the neighbouring Catacomb. Another ancient tradition asserts that
twelve thousand Christians, who were employed in building the Baths of
Diocletian, were buried in the Catacomb of St. Zeno.[161] Piazza
asserts that two hundred and eighty-five Christians were put to death
in two days, under the Emperor Claudius II., A. D. 268, and that more
than two thousand were executed for refusing to sacrifice to the image
of the sun. Indeed, some Roman archæologists discern in every palm
branch or cup, which are so frequently found in the Catacombs,
irrefragable evidence of the martyr’s tomb.[162]

Such atrocious cruelty and lavish destruction of life as these           108
traditions, even if exaggerated, imply, seem incredible; but the pages
of the contemporary historians, Eusebius and Lactantius, give too
minute and circumstantial accounts of the persecutions of which they
were eye-witnesses to allow us to adopt the complacent theory of
Gibbon, that the sufferings of the Christians were comparatively few
and insignificant. “We ourselves have seen,” says the bishop of
Cæsarea, “crowds of persons, some beheaded, others burned alive, in a
single day, so that the murderous weapons were blunted and broken to
pieces, and the executioners, wearied with slaughter, were obliged to
give over the work of blood.[163] ... They constantly vied with each
other,” he continues, “in inventing new tortures, as if there were
prizes offered to him who should contrive the greatest cruelties.”[164]
Men whose only crime was their religion were scourged with iron wires
or with _plumbatæ_, that is, chains laden with bronze balls, specimens
of which have been found in the martyrs’ graves, till the flesh hung
in shreds, and even the bones were broken; they were bound in chains
of red-hot iron, and roasted over fires so slow that they lingered for
hours, or even days, in their mortal agony; their flesh was scraped      109
from the very bone with ragged shells, or lacerated with burning
pincers, iron hooks, and instruments with horrid teeth or claws,
examples of which have been found in the Catacombs;[165] molten metal
and plates of red-hot brass were applied to the naked body till it
became one indistinguishable wound; and mingled salt and vinegar or
unslaked lime were rubbed upon the quivering flesh, torn and bleeding
from the rack or scourge--tortures more inhuman than savage Indian
ever wreaked upon his mortal foe. Men were condemned by the score and
hundred to labour in the mines, with the sinews of one leg severed,
with one eye scooped out and the socket seared with red-hot iron.
Chaste matrons and tender virgins were given over--worse fate a
thousand-fold than death--to dens of shame and the gladiators’ lust,
and subjected to nameless indignities, too horrible for words to
utter.[166] And all these intense sufferings were endured often with
joy and exultation, for the love of a divine Master, when a single
word, a grain of incense cast upon the heathen altar, would have
released the victims from their agonies. No lapse of time, and no        110
recoil from the idolatrous homage paid in after ages to the martyr’s
relics, should impair in our hearts the profound and rational
reverence with which we bend before his tomb.

We are left, however, for the most part, without authentic record of
the tragic scenes of Christian martyrdom. The primitive church,
indeed, treasured up these memories of moral heroism as her most
precious legacy to after times. Clement of Rome, it is said, appointed
notaries to search out the acts of the martyrs;[167] and, as we have
seen, Fabian suffered death for his zeal in preserving these
records.[168] But these precious documents for the most part perished
in the Diocletian persecution, although fragments were probably
incorporated with the later martyrologies. The earlier Acts are the
more authentic, and the more simple in character. Those of later date
become more and more florid in style, and are overladen with the
incredible and impossible, till their historic value is entirely
destroyed, except when they are corroborated by collateral testimony,
or by the monumental evidence of the Catacombs. Prudentius, attracted
to Rome by the fame of these repositories of the martyrs’ ashes, wrote
a treatise[169] on their sufferings, in which his fervid imagination
and rhetorical style found amplest indulgence. Later writers still
further embellished and exaggerated the original Acts, till the
wildest stories of ancient mythology, or mediæval legend, were
surpassed by the monkish martyrologists.

This “holy romance,” as Gibbon contemptuously calls it, becomes little   111
else than a record of the most astounding miracles, the most horrible
tortures, and of more than human endurance.[170] It minutely describes
the conflict between the Christian and his heathen persecutor: _hinc
martyr, illinc carnifex_--here the martyr, there the executioner.
The one wreaks his rage upon his victim, the other exhibits a stoical
endurance of suffering rivaling that of the American savage at the
funeral stake, or else an insensibility to pain that lessens the merit
of his acts. “It is cooked, turn and eat,”[171] says St. Lawrence,
broiling on a gridiron. He feels no pain from the vinegar and salt
rubbed on his bleeding wounds. “Salt me the more, that I may be
incorruptible,” says Tarachus to his torturer. He continues to speak
after his tongue is torn out by the roots. The lacerations of the
ungulæ assume to the excited imagination the form of the name of
Christ.[172] Divine odours breathe from the body, which shines like
gold amid the flames that refuse to kindle upon it. A voice from
heaven hails the invincible conqueror, and his soul in the form of a
dove ascends to the skies.[173] The undying instincts of nature are      112
flagrantly violated in some of the Acts. A mother rebukes her child
for begging a cup of water while suffering under the rods of the
lictors; and while it is beheaded before her eyes she, alone unmoved,
sings a versicle of thanksgiving.[174] Often the martyr endeavours to
exasperate with taunts and defiance the heathen magistrate, who
gnashes his teeth and rolls his eyes in impotent rage.[175] “Be dumb,
wretch! O serpent of darkest mind, a curse be upon thee!” exclaims St.
Boniface to his executioner. Vincentius menaces his judge with the
fiery fate of the bottomless pit.[176] These Acts of the Martyrs were
appointed to be read in the churches,[177] till they were prohibited
by the Council of Trullo, A. D. 706.

The enthusiasm for martyrdom prevailed, at times, almost like an
epidemic. It was one of the most remarkable features of the ages of
persecution. Notwithstanding the terrific tortures to which they were
exposed, the fiercer the tempest of heathen rage the higher and
brighter burned the zeal of the Christian heroes. Age after age
summoned the soldiers of Christ to the conflict whose highest guerdon    113
was death. They bound persecution as a wreath about their brows, and
exulted in the “glorious infamy” of suffering for their Lord. The
brand of shame became the badge of highest honour. Besides the joys of
heaven they won imperishable fame on earth; and the memory of a humble
slave was often haloed with a glory surpassing that of a Curtius or
Horatius. The meanest hind was ennobled by the accolade of martyrdom
to the loftiest peerage of the skies. His consecration of suffering
was elevated to a sacrament, and called the baptism of fire or of

Burning to obtain the prize, the impetuous candidates for death often
pressed with eager haste to seize the palm of victory and the martyr’s
crown. They trod with joy the fiery path to glory, and went as gladly
to the stake as to a marriage feast. “Their fetters,” says Eusebius,
“seemed like the golden ornaments of a bride.”[178] They desired
martyrdom more ardently than men afterward sought a bishopric.[179]
They exulted amid their keenest pangs that they were counted worthy to
suffer for their divine Master. “Let the ungulæ tear us,” exclaims
Tertullian,[180] “the crosses bear our weight, the flames envelope us,
the sword divide our throats, the wild beasts spring upon us; the very
posture of prayer is a preparation for every punishment.” “These
things,” says St. Basil, “so far from being a terror, are rather a
pleasure and a recreation to us.”[181] “The tyrants were armed,” says
St. Chrysostom, “and the martyrs naked; yet they that were naked got     114
the victory, and they that carried arms were vanquished.”[182] Strong
in the assurance of immortality, they bade defiance to the sword.

Though weak in body they seemed clothed with vicarious strength, and
confident that though “counted as sheep for the slaughter,” naught
could separate them from the love of Christ. Wrapped in their fiery
vesture and shroud of flame, they yet exulted in their glorious
victory. While the leaden hail fell on the mangled frame, and the eyes
filmed with the shadows of death, the spirit was enbraved by the
beatific vision of the opening heaven, and above the roar of the mob
fell sweetly on the inner sense the assurance of eternal life. “No
group, indeed, of Oceanides was there to console the Christian
Prometheus; yet to his upturned eye countless angels were
visible--their anthem swept solemnly to his ear--and the odours of an
opening paradise filled the air. Though the dull ear of sense heard
nothing, he could listen to the invisible Coryphæus as he invited him
to heaven and promised him an eternal crown.”[183] The names of the
“great army of martyrs,” though forgotten by men, are written in the
Book of Life. “The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

         There is a record, traced on high,
         That shall endure eternally;
         The angel standing by God’s throne
         Treasures there each word and groan;
         And not the martyr’s speech alone,
         But every wound is there depicted,                              115
           With every circumstance of pain--
         The crimson stream, the gash inflicted--
           And not a drop is shed in vain.[184]

This spirit of martyrdom was a new principle in society. It had no
classical counterpart.[185] Socrates and Seneca suffered with
fortitude, but not with faith. The loftiest pagan philosophy dwindled
into insignificance before the sublimity of Christian hope. This
looked beyond the shadows of time and the sordid cares of earth to the
grandeur of the Infinite and the Eternal. The heroic deaths of the
believers exhibited a spiritual power mightier than the primal
instincts of nature, the love of wife or child, or even of life
itself. Like a solemn voice falling on the dull ear of mankind, these
holy examples urged the inquiry, “What shall it profit a man if he
gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” And that voice awakened
an echo in full many a heart. The martyrs made more converts by their
deaths than in their lives. “Kill us, rack us, condemn us, grind us to
powder,” exclaims the intrepid Christian Apologist; “our numbers
increase in proportion as you mow us down.”[186] The earth was drunk
with the blood of the saints, but still they multiplied and grew,
gloriously illustrating the perennial truth--_Sanguis martyrum semen

Christianity, after long repression, became at length triumphant. The    116
church on the conversion of Constantine emerged from the concealment
of the Catacombs to the sunshine of imperial favour. The legend of the
Seven Sleepers of Ephesus strikingly illustrates the wondrous
transformation of society. These Christian brothers, taking shelter in
a cave during the Decian persecution, awoke, according to the legend,
after a slumber of over a century, to find Christianity everywhere
dominant, and a Christian emperor on the throne of the Cæsars.[188]
The doctrines of Christ, like the rays of the sun, quickly irradiated
the world.[189] With choirs and hymns, in cities and villages, in the
highways and markets, the praises of the Almighty were sung.[190] The
enemies of God were as though they had not been.[191] The Lord brought   117
up the vine of Christianity from a far land, and cast out the heathen,
and planted and watered it, till it twined round the sceptre of the
Cæsars, wreathed the columns of the Capitol, and filled the whole
land. The heathen fanes were deserted, the gods discrowned, and the
pagan flamen no longer offered sacrifice to the Capitoline Jove. Rome,
which had dragged so many conquered divinities in triumph at its
chariot wheels, at length yielded to a mightier than all the gods of
Olympus. The old faiths faded from the firmament of human thought as
the stars of midnight at the dawn of day. The banished deities forsook
their ancient seats. They walked no longer in the vale of Tempe or in
the grove of Daphne.[192] The naiads bathed not in Scamander’s stream
nor Simois, nor the nereids in the waters of the bright Ægean Sea. The
nymphs and dryads ceased to haunt the sylvan solitudes. The oreads
walked no more in light on Ida’s lofty top.

         O ye vain false gods of Hellas!
           Ye are vanished evermore!

Long before the recognition of Christianity as the religion of the
empire its influence had been felt permeating the entire community.
Amid the disintegration of society it was the sole conservative
element--the salt which preserved it from corruption. In the midst of
anarchy and confusion a community was being organized on a principle
previously unknown in the heathen world, ruling not by terror but by     118
love; by moral power, not by physical force; inspired by lofty faith
amid a world of unbelief, and cultivating moral purity amid the
reeking abominations of a sensual age.

Yet this mighty energy thus at work eluded the notice, or excited only
the disdain, of some of the keenest observers and greatest thinkers
the world has seen. Classical literature contains only a few short
notices of that religion which was transforming the age. A galaxy of
philosophers and historians, gazing mournfully at the seething mass of
moral putrefaction around them, and profoundly conscious of its
apparently cureless evil, treated as contemptible the most powerful
moral agent in the world--that regenerative principle which was to
reorganize society on a higher type than ever was known before.[193]
The kingdom of heaven cometh not with observation, and paganism seemed
entirely unconscious of its impending doom.

But this wonderful influence, which accomplished so much, seemed at
length strangely to lose its power, and did not fulfil the
regenerative work which it began. It failed to check the degeneracy of
the age or to avert the dissolution of the empire. The many crimes of
that colossal orgy cried to heaven for vengeance. The taint was too
inveterate to be eradicated; the evil was immedicable; Rome was
already effete and moribund. It was weighed in the balance and found
wanting. Therefore the inexorable penalty, which evermore follows
wrong, as a shadow its substance, was suffered to descend. An awful
Nemesis, like an avenging Fate, overtook the great and wicked city       119
in its pride and guilt; and the mystical Babylon of the West, reeking
with sensuality, idolatry, and blood, soon beheld the Goths at her
gates, and the Huns within her walls.[194]

     [31] A deal of fanciful theory has been indulged in as to the
     origin of the Catacombs. They have been attributed to a
     pre-historic race of Troglodytes, who loathed the light of day,
     and burrowed like moles in the earth. MacFarlane has an eloquent
     apostrophe to the old Etrurians, by whom he imagined they were
     excavated twelve hundred years before the Christian era. We have
     seen also how they were erroneously attributed to the pagan

     [32] _Victoribus victi leges dederunt._ On the Tiber, the
     Tigris, and the Nile, this saying was strikingly verified. Yet
     Judaism is an essentially conservative, not an aggressive,
     religion. It was unadapted for such wide-spread conquests as
     those of Christianity, or even of Mohammedism. The ancient mould
     of thought, having served its purpose, was broken. Judaism may be
     said to have died in giving birth to Christianity.

     [33] _Hist._, v, 5.

     [34] In 1853 a Jewish Catacomb was discovered at Venosa, in
     Southern Italy, containing one gallery seven feet high and four
     hundred feet long. In 1854 another was discovered at Oria, with
     many Hebrew symbols and inscriptions. There were many Jews in
     Apulia and Calabria.

     [35] In eo quippe haud ulla, ut in reliquis, Christianæ religionis
     indicia et signa apparebant--Bosio, _Rom. Sott._, 142.

     [36] _Cimitero degli Antichi Ebrei Scoperto recentemente in
     Vigna Randanini, illustrato da Raffaele Garrucci._ 8vo. Roma,

     [37] See Fig. 18.

     [38] Nunc sacri fontis nimus, et delubra locantur
          Judæis.--_Sat.,_ iii, 13.

     [39] It is incredible that the Apostle Peter had any share in
     planting the Roman Church. If he had, Paul would not, as he does,
     utterly ignore his labours. “_Only Luke_ is with me,” writes
     St. Paul, just before his death; yet he and Peter are feigned to
     have suffered on the same day. The story of St. Peter’s
     twenty-five years’ episcopate at Rome is too absurd to require
     disproof. The very minuteness of detail in the legends of St.
     Peter is their own refutation. In vain are we shown the chair in
     which tradition asserts that he sat, the font at which he
     baptized, the cell in which he was confined, the fountain which
     sprang up in its floor, the pillar to which he was bound, the
     chains which he wore, the impression made by his head in the wall
     and by his knees in the stony pavement, the scene of his
     crucifixion, the very hole in which the foot of the cross was
     placed, and the tomb in which his body is said to lie; they all
     fail to carry conviction to any mind in which superstition has
     not destroyed the critical faculty. The mighty fane which rises
     sublimely in the heart of Rome in honour of the Galilean
     fisherman, like the religious system of which it is the visible
     exponent, is founded on a shadowy tradition, opposed alike to the
     testimony of Scripture, the evidence of history, and the
     deductions of reason. The question whether Peter _ever_ was
     in Rome has recently been publicly discussed under the very
     shadow of the Vatican. Verily, _Tempora mutantur_.

     [40] Nos quoque ut Judaicæ religionis propinquos, sub umbraculum
     insignissimæ religionis certé licitæ.--_Ad Nat._, i, 11.

     [41] Execrantur rogos, et damnant ignium sepulturas.--Minuc.
     Felix, _Octav._, ii, 451. Tertullian declared it to be a
     symbol of the fires of hell. Possibly, also, the expense and
     publicity inseparable from the practice of cremation made it a
     matter of necessity for the early Christians to adopt the less
     costly and more private mode of subterranean interment. Merivale,
     indeed, asserts that the early Roman Christians burned their
     dead, (vi, 444,) and adduces in support of this strange theory
     only the pagan dedication D. M., found on some Christian tombs.
     As will be shown, (Book III, i,) these letters were part of a
     common epigraphic formula, and give no warrant for this startling

     [42] Bishop Hall.

     [43] It would appear from this inscription that some of the
     family of Restitutus were still pagans, and were buried apart
     from the rest. The early Christians regarded it as unlawful to
     commingle the heathen and believers in common burial. St. Cyprian
     makes it a capital charge against the heretical Bishop of
     Asturia, that he “buried his children in profane sepulchres and
     in the midst of strangers.” See also Ruth i, 17. Compare Cic.,
     _de Leg._, ii, 22, and _de Off._, lib. ii.

     [44] Apol. xxxix. The following inscription, recently discovered
     in the ruins of Cæsarea, a Roman town in Africa, attests the
     provision made by wealthy Christians for the burial of their
     poorer neighbours:


     A worshipper of the Word has given this area for sepulchres, and
     has built a vault at his own cost; he left this memorial to the
     Holy Church. Hail, brethren! with a pure and simple heart,
     Euelpius [salutes] you, born of the Holy Spirit.

     The congregation of the brethren replaced this inscription....

     [45] 2 Tim. iv, 21. Suet., _Vit. Ner._, c. 28, 29; Tac.,
     _Ann._, xv, 37. See also Dio., lxiii, 13.

     [46] E.g. Flavia Domitilla, the niece of Domitian, and her
     husband, Clemens. Their children had been adopted by the Emperor,
     and designated as his successors. So near came Christianity to
     grasping the sceptre of the Cæsars in the first century. Dio
     Cass., _Hist._, lxvii, 13. Suet. in _Domit._, xv. The niece of
     Domitilla, also of the same name, suffered exile for the faith,
     A. D. 97. She gave the land for the Catacomb which still bears
     her name.

     Marcia, Mammæa, the mother of Alex. Severus, the Emperor Philip,
     and Prisca and Valeria, the wife and daughter of the
     arch-persecutor Diocletian, either embraced or greatly favoured

     [47] _Apol._, c. 37.

     [48] [Transcriber’s note: Footnote missing in the original.]

     [49] Religiosum locum unusquisque sua voluntate facit, dum
     mortuum infert in locum suum. _Marcian. Digest._, i, 8, 6, § 4.

     [50] _Cod. Justin._, lib. ix, tit. 19, _de Sepulchro
     Violato_, leg. 1, 5; _Cod. Theod._, lib. ix, tit. 17.
     Proximum sacrilegio majores semper habuerunt. So the poet

         Res ea sacra, miser; noli mea tangere fata:
           Sacrilegae bustis abstinuere manus.--

     “Touch not my monument, thou wretch; it is a sacred thing: even
     sacrilegious hands refrain from the violation of graves.”

     [51] Xen., _Mem._, ii, 2, § 13.

     [52] _Roman Sepulchral Inscriptions_, p. 9, London, 1858.

     [53] Mille pedes in fronte, trecentos cippus in agrum
          Hic dabat; heredes monumentum ne sequeretur.
                                            Hor., _I Sat._, viii, 12.

     [54] Literally, “the angry gods.”

     [55] Reinesius.

     [56] Corpora animadversorum quibuslibet petentibus ad sepulturam
     danda sunt. _Digest._, xlviii, 24, 2.

     [57] Both of these are given by Dr. McCaul in his _Christian
     Epitaphs of the First Six Centuries_, an admirable little
     volume, my indebtedness to which will be elsewhere acknowledged.
     He also quotes the following from Henzen’s _Inscr. Lat. Select.
     you, good brothers, by the one God, that no one by force injure
     this inscription after my death.”

     [58] Aringhi, lib. iv, c. xxvii.

     [59] Sometimes an anathema was invoked upon the disturber of the
     grave, as in the following interesting example, found in the
     island of Salamis, and quoted by Dr. McCaul from Kirchoff,
     _Corpus Inscript. Græc._, No. 9303: Οἶκος αἰώνιος Ἀγάθωνος
     ἀναγνώστου καὶ Εὐφημίας ἐν δυσὶ θήκαις ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ ἡμῶν. Εἰ δέ
     τις τῶν ἰδίων ἢ ἕτερός τις τολμήσῃ σῶμα καταθέσθαι ἐνταῦθα παρὲξ
     τῶν δύω ἡμῶν, λόγον δῴη τῷ θεῷ καὶ ἀνάθεμα ἤτω μαραναθάν--“The
     everlasting dwelling of Agatho, a reader, and Euphemia, in two
     graves, one for each of us separately. If any one of our
     relatives, or any one else, shall presume to bury a body here
     beside us two, may he give an account of it to God, and may he be
     anathema maranatha.”

     [60] It is remarkable that Shakespeare’s epitaph should present
     almost as uncouth a specimen of epigraphy as any of the barbarous
     inscriptions of the Catacombs. See the following copy:

          Good Friend for Iesus SAKE forbeare
          To diGG T-E Dust EncloAsed HERe
          Blest be T-E Man T/Y spares T-es Stones
          And curst be He T/Y moves my Bones.

     [61] Maitland reads thus: IN CHRISTO. MARTYRIVS VIXIT ANNOS
     Martyrius lived ninety-one years, more or less. He chose a home
     during his life-time. In peace.”

     [62] Collegium salutare Dianæ et Antinoi, constitutum ex Senatus
     Populique Romani decreto, quibus coire, convenire, collegiumque
     habere liceat. Qui stipem menstruam conferre volent in funera, in
     id collegium coeant, neque sub specie ejus collegii nisi semel in
     mense coeant, conferendi causa unde defuncti sepeliantur.

     [63] The _sesterce_, or _sestertius_, was about 2d·5 farthings,
     the _as_ about 3d·4 farthings. The _amphora_ held about six

     [64] Muratori, tom. ii, classis vii, _Collegia Varia_.

     [65] _Ibid._

     [66] Trajan regarded with suspicion even fire brigades and
     charitable societies, (Pliny, X _Epis. 43 et 94_,) and forbade
     the assemblies of the Christians, but permitted the monthly
     contribution of the clubs--Permittitur tenuioribus stipem
     menstruam conferre. _Digest._, xlvii, 22, 1.

     [67] Modicam unusquisque stipem _menstrua die_, vel quum velit,
     et si modo velit, et si modo possit, apponit: nam nemo
     compellitur, sed sponte confert.... Nam inde non epulis ... sed
     egenis alendis _humandisque_ ... etc. Tert., _Apol._, c. 39.

     [68] See first footnote.

     [69] _Bullettino_, 1864, 62.

     [70] Rom. xvi, 5, 3.

     [71] _Philosophoumena_, ix, 11.

     [72] Actorem sive syndicum, per quem, quod communiter agi
     fierique oporteat, agatur, fiat.--_Digest._, iii, 4, 1, § 1.

     [73] E veramente che almeno fino dal secolo terzo i fideli
     abbiano possiduto cemeteri a nome commune, e che il loro possesso
     sia stato riconosciuto dagl’imperatori, è cosa impossibile a
     negare.--De Rossi, _Rom. Sott._, tom. i, p. 103.

     [74] The dreaded _crimen majestatis_.

     [75] Hostes Cæsarum, hostes populi Romani.

     [76] Non pluit Deus, duc ad Christianos.--Aug., _Civ. Dei_, ii, 3.

     [77] Si Tiberis ascendit in mœnia, si Nilus non ascendit in arva,
     si coelum stetit, si terra movit, si fames, si lues, statim,
     “Christianos ad leones.”--_Apol._, x. “But I pray you,” he adds,
     “were misfortunes unknown before Tiberius? The true God was not
     worshipped when Hannibal conquered at Cannæ, or the Gauls filled
     the city.”

     [78] Eusebius describes their activity in bringing wood and straw
     from the shops and baths for the burning of Polycarp. _Eccl.
     Hist._, iv, 15.

     [79] Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdedit reos et quæsitissimis
     poenis affecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos
     appellabat.... Et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut ferarum tergis
     contecti laniatu canum interierint, aut crucibus affixi, aut
     flammandi atque, ubi defecisset dies, in usum nocturni luminis
     urerentur.--_Ann._, xv, 44.

     [80] A telegraphic despatch from Rome of date January 16, 1873,
     announces that the Pope claims to have discovered the bodies of
     the apostles Philip and James. Highly improbable, and of no
     practical importance if true. Not the bones of the saints buried
     centuries ago, but the spirit which animated them and the
     principles for which they died, are the true sources of the
     church’s power.

     [81] Sulpic. Sever., _Hist._, ii, 41.

     [82] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, iii, 17. A. D. 93-96.

     [83] Prope jam desolata templa coepisse celebrari; et sacra
     solennia diu intermissa repeti.--_Epis. ad Traj._ Among the
     most distinguished sufferers during this persecution was Clement,
     third bishop of Rome, exiled to Pontus, and, it is said, cast
     into the sea, A. D. 103; also the venerable Ignatius, bishop of
     the church at Antioch, linked by tradition with the Saviour
     himself, as one of the children whom he took in his arms and
     blessed. Condemned by Trajan to exposure to wild beasts in the
     amphitheatre at Rome, a passion for martyrdom possessed his soul.
     “Suffer me to be the food of the wild beasts,” he exclaimed, “by
     whom I shall attain unto God. For I am the wheat of God; and I
     shall be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may become the
     pure bread of Christ.”--_Epis. ad Romanos_, §§ 4, 5.

     [84] Sacra Romana diligentissimè curavit, peregrina
     contempsit.--Spartian. in _Hadrian._ A. D. 117-138.

     [85] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, iv, 9. Jus. Mar., _Apol._, i, 68,

     [86] A. D. 138-161.

     [87] Irenæus, iii, 3, § 3.

     [88] A. D. 161-180.

     [89] The following inscription, referring to the Antonine period,
     is given by Maitland, (page 40,) as from the Catacomb of
     Callixtus. Although it seems to imply the actual prevalence of
     persecution, it is evidently, even if genuine, of later date than
     the time alleged. The presence of the sacred monogram, as well as
     the somewhat florid and pleonastic style, indicate an origin not
     anterior to the age of Constantine, when it became the fashion
     with outward pharisaism to adorn the sepulchres of the martyrs,
     although the truths for which they died were often treated with

     [Illustration: Fig. 20.--Reputed Martyr Symbol.]


     “In Christ. Alexander is not dead, but lives above the stars, and
     his body rests in this tomb. He ended his life under the Emperor
     Antonine, who, foreseeing that great benefit would result from
     his services, returned evil for good. For while on his knees and
     about to sacrifice to the true God, he was led away to execution.
     O sad times! in which, among sacred rites and prayers, even in
     caverns we are not safe. What can be more wretched than such a
     life? and what than such a death? when they cannot be buried by
     their friends and relations--at length they sparkle in heaven. He
     has scarcely lived who has lived in Christian times.”

     Maitland renders the concluding letters, IN. X. TEM, by “In
     Christianis temporibus.” The furnace seems to indicate that the
     martyr suffered death by fire, or, possibly, by immersion in
     boiling oil--a mode of punishment which St. John is said to have
     undergone, but without receiving any harm.

     Another still more apocryphal inscription is given by Maitland,
     (page 65.) It is probably of the fifth century. The Pudentiana
     referred to is said to have spent her patrimony in relieving the
     poor and burying the martyrs.


     “This is the Cemetery of Priscilla, in which are the bodies of
     three thousand martyrs, who suffered under the Emperor Antonine,
     whom St. Pudentiana caused to be buried in this her own place of
     worship.”--Aicher, _Hortus Inscriptionum_. More authentic relics
     of this reign are the large tiles with which part of the Catacomb
     of Callixtus is paved. They all bear the words, OPVS DOLIARE EX
     PRAEDIIS DOMINI N ET FIGL NOVIS, which, according to Marini, is
     the stamp of the imperial manufactory of Marcus Aurelius.

     [90] “Hanc dextram ad te Jupiter, tendo, quae nullius unquam
     sanguinam fudit,” is the form of prayer given by Claudian.
     Euseb., v, 5.

     [91] A. D. 180-193.

     [92] See chap. ii, book iii.

     [93] _Strom._, lib. ii, A. D. 193.

     [94] _Apol._, 37. Sicut sub Hilariano præside, cum de areis
     sepulturarum nostrarum adclamâssent, areæ non sint.--_Ad
     Scap._, c. iii. A. D. 203.

     No more pathetic episode is contained in the whole range of the
     Martyrology than that of the youthful mother, Perpetua, who
     suffered at Carthage under Severus. Few can read unmoved the acts
     of her martyrdom, which bear the stamp of authenticity in their
     perfectly natural and unexaggerated tone, and the absence of
     miracle. Young--she was only twenty-two--beautiful, of noble
     family, and dearly loved, her heathen father entreated her to
     pity his gray hairs, her mother’s tears, her helpless babe. But
     her faith proved triumphant over even the yearnings of natural
     affection; and, wan and faint from recent childbirth pangs, she
     was led, with Felicitas, her companion, into the crowded
     amphitheatre, and exposed to the cruel horns of infuriate beasts.
     Amid the agonies of death, more conscious of her wounded modesty
     than of her pain, with a gesture of dignity she drew her
     disheveled robe about her person. She seemed rapt in ecstasy till
     by a merciful stroke of the gladiator she was released from her
     suffering, and exchanged the dust and blood of the arena, and the
     shouts of the ribald mob, for the songs of the redeemed, and the
     beatific vision of the Lord she loved.

     [95] Cædit et humanas hostias.--Lamprid., _Heliogabalus_.

     [96] A. D. 222.

     [97] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, vi, 21.

     [98] The site, according to tradition, of St. Maria in Trastevere.

     [99] A. D. 250-253. Execrabile animal Decius, qui vexaret
     ecclesiam.--Lactan., _de Mort. Persec._, c. 3, 4. He would rather
     tolerate, he said, a rival for his throne, than a bishop in Rome.
     Cypr., _Ep._ 53.

     [100] Called respectively _Sacrificati_, _Thurificati_, and
     _Libellatici_, of whom the first were esteemed the most guilty.
     The indignant rhetoric of Cyprian expresses his holy horror at
     this vile apostasy: “They made haste to give their souls the
     mortal wound.... That altar where he was about to die--was it not
     his funeral pile? Should he not have fled, as from his coffin or
     his grave, from that devil’s altar, when he saw it smoke and fume
     with stinking smell?... Thou thyself wast the sacrificial victim.
     Thou didst sacrifice thy salvation, and burn thy faith and hope
     in these abominable fires”--Nonne ara illa, quo moriturus
     accessit, rogus illi fuit? Nonne diaboli altare quod foetore
     tætro fumare et redolere conspexerat, velut funus et bustum vitæ
     suæ horrere ac fugere debebat?... Ipse ad aram hostia, victima
     ipse venisti. Immolâsti illic salutem tuam, spem tuam, fidem
     tuam, funestis illis ignibus concremâsti.--_De Lapsis_, p. 124.

     [101] Dionysius of Alexandria, in _Euseb._, vi, 41.

     [102] A. D. 254-259.

     [103] Ἐκκλησία, Euseb., vii, 10.

     [104] Milman, _Hist. of Christianity_, Am. ed., Book II.,
     chap. vii.

     [105] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, vii, 10.

     [106] Ut episcopi et presbyteri et diacones incontinenter
     animadvertantur, ... capite quoque mulctentur.--_Cypr._, ep.
     72, _ad Successum_.

     [107] Οὐδαμῶς ἔξέσται ὑμῖν ἢ συνόδους ποιεῖσθαι ἢ εἰς τὰ καλούμενα
     κοιμητήρια εἰσιέναι--Dionys., in _Euseb._, vii, 11.
     Jussum est, ut nulla conciliabula faciant, neque coemeteria
     ingrediantur.--Pontius, _Passio Cypriani_.

     [108] In Africa, Cyprian, the intrepid bishop of Carthage, after
     a stormy episcopate, obtained the crown of martyrdom. On
     receiving the sentence condemning him to death, he exclaimed,
     “God be thanked!” and went as joyous to his fate as to a marriage
     feast.--Pontius, _Passio Cypr._

     [109] “Vitam solitariam agebat in cryptis.” Of St. Urban it is
     similarly said, “Solebat in sacrorum martyrum monumenta.”--_Acts
     of Cecilia._

     [110] Baronius: _Ann._, tom. iii, p. 76. Among his companions in
     death was Hippolytus, a Roman convert, of whom a beautiful legend
     is recorded. His pagan relatives, entrusted with the secret of
     his retreat, supplied his wants by means of their children, a boy
     and girl of ten and thirteen years. He one day detained the
     children in the hope that their parents would seek them, and thus
     have the opportunity of religious instruction from the good
     bishop. His plan succeeded, and eventually they with their
     children were baptized and suffered martyrdom together! Baron.,
     _Ann._, iii, 69. Even though unauthentic, this story is a type,
     doubtless, of many incidents which occurred in the strange social
     relations of the church in the Catacombs.

     [111] Xistum in cimiterio animadversum sciatis ... et cum eo
     diaconos quatuor.--Cypr., _Epis._, lxxx, _ad Successum_.

     [112] Another martyr whose Acts, although disfigured with some
     grotesque and exaggerated circumstances, contain elements of
     great beauty, was Lawrence, a deacon of the bishop Sixtus.
     Esteeming it no sacrilege, but rather the highest consecration of
     the property of the church, he distributed it in alms among the
     suffering Christians. Being commanded to surrender to the emperor
     the confiscated ecclesiastical treasure, he presented to the
     commissioner a number of aged and impotent poor, saying, “These
     are the treasures of the church.” After incredible tortures,
     which form the subject of many a picture of Roman Catholic art,
     he is said to have been roasted to death over a slow fire.
     Ambros., _Officin._, i, 41.

     [113] A. D. 259.

     [114] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, viii, 13.

     [115] _Ib._, viii, 23.

     [116] A. D. 275.

     [117] _Probus et vere probus situs est._ Obiit A. D. 283.

     [118] Gregory of Tours, writing in the sixth century, asserts
     that under Numerian, the brother and contemporary of Carinus,
     Chrysanthus and Daria suffered martyrdom in a Catacomb on the
     _Via Salaria_. A number of the faithful being observed to visit
     their tombs, the emperor ordered the entrance to be built up and
     covered with a heap of sand and stones, that they might be buried
     alive in common martyrdom. When their remains were discovered by
     Damasus, in the fourth century, he refrained from removing them,
     and simply made an opening from an adjacent gallery, that
     pilgrims to the early shrines of the faith might behold, without
     disturbing it, this “Christian Pompeii.” Gregory asserts that
     these interesting relics were still to be seen in his day--the
     skeletons of men, women, and children lying on the floor, and
     even the silver vessels (_urcei argentei_) which they used.

     [119] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, viii, 1.

     [120] _Ibid._

     [121] _De Mort. Persec._, c. xxiii.

     [122] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, viii, 1.

     [123] Caius ... fugiens persecutionem Diocletiani in cryptis
     habitando, martyrio coronatur.--_Lib. Pontif._; cf. Euseb.,
     _Hist. Eccles._, vii, 32.

     [124] Ἐκ τῶν ἐν στρατείαις ἀδελφῶν καταρχομένου τοῦ
     διωγμοῦ.--_Hist. Eccles._, viii, 1.

     [125] _Vita Const._, ii, 54.

     [126] The following inscription, found in Spain, and given by
     Gruter, seems designed as the funeral monument of dead and buried
     Christianity. But though apparently destroyed, like its divine
     Author, instinct with immortality it rose triumphant over all its


     “To Diocletian, Cæsar Augustus, having adopted Galerius in the
     East, the Christian superstition being every-where destroyed, and
     the worship of the gods extended.”

     [127] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, viii, 2. The effects of the
     persecution were felt even in Britain. (Gildas, _de Excid.
     Britan._, in Bingham, viii, 1.) Alban was the first British
     martyr at a somewhat earlier date.

     [128] “The dungeons destined for murderers,” says Eusebius, “were
     filled with bishops, presbyters, deacons, readers, and exorcists,
     so that there was no room left for those condemned for
     crime.”--_Hist. Eccles._

     [129] Nec unquam sine cruore humano coenabat.--Lactan., _de
     Mort. Persec._

     [130] Date of Edict, April 30, A. D. 311. Euseb., _Hist.
     Eccles._, ix, 1.

     [131] Eusebius gives the edict, taken from a brazen tablet at
     Tyre, in which the Emperor speaks of “the votaries of an
     execrable vanity, like a funeral pile long disregarded and
     smothered, again rising in mighty flames and rekindling the
     extinguished brands.” _Hist. Eccles._, ix, 9.

     [132] The courtly panegyrist of Constantine gratefully speaks of
     him as a “light and deliverer arising in the dense and
     impenetrable darkness of a gloomy night.” Euseb., _Hist.
     Eccles._, x, 8.

     [133] Eusebius compares the victory of the Milvian Bridge to that
     of Moses and the Israelites over Pharaoh and his hosts. _Hist.
     Eccles._ ix, 9.

     [134] Daremus et Christianis et omnibus liberam potestatem
     sequendi religionem quam quisque voluisset--“We give to the
     Christians, and to all, the free choice to follow whatever mode
     of worship they may wish.”--Decree of Milan, preserved in
     Lactantius, _de Mort. Persec._, and in Euseb., _Hist.
     Eccles._, x, 5.

     [135] In the violent deaths or loathsome diseases of many of
     their persecutors the Christians recognized the retributive
     judgments of the Almighty, which were considered so remarkable as
     to occasion the special treatise _de Mortibus Persecutorum_,
     attributed to the pen of Lactantius. Nero died ignominiously by
     his own hand. Domitian was assassinated. During the reign of
     Aurelius war, famine, and pestilence wasted the land. Decius
     perished miserably in a marsh, and his body became the prey of
     the prowling jackal and unclean buzzard. Valerian, captured by
     the Persians, after having served as a footstool to his haughty
     foe, is said to have been flayed alive and his skin stuffed with
     straw. Aurelian was slain by the hand of a trusted servant, and
     Carinus by the dagger of a husband whom he had irreparably
     wronged. Diocletian, having languished for years the prey of
     painful maladies, which even affected his reason, it is said
     committed suicide. Galerius, like those rivals in bloodshed and
     persecution, Herod and Philip II., became an object of loathing
     and abhorrence, being “eaten of worms” while yet alive. Maximian
     fell by the hand of the public executioner; and Maxentius, in the
     hour of defeat, was smothered in the ooze of the Tiber beneath
     the walls of his capital. Severus opened his own veins and bled
     to death. The first Maximin was murdered; the second, a fugitive
     and an exile, committed suicide by poison, and, according to
     Eusebius, was so consumed by internal torments that “his body
     became the tomb of his soul.” Licinius, the last of the
     persecutors, was slain by his ferocious soldiery, and his name,
     by a decree of the Senate, forever branded with infamy. Thus with
     indignities and tortures, often surpassing those they inflicted
     on their Christian subjects, perished the enemies of the church
     of God, as if pursued by a divine retribution no less inexorable
     than the avenging Nemesis of the pagan mythology. See Lactantius,
     _de Mort. Persec._, _passim_; Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, viii, 17;
     ix, 9, 10; Tertul., _Ad. Scap._, c. 3.

     [136] The church of St. Marcello, in the Corso, commemorates the
     scene of his indignities. There is reason to believe that each
     church or _titulus_ within the city had its own cemetery
     without the walls, over which the presbyter of the title had
     jurisdiction. Marcellinus, as bishop, had charge of the
     ecclesiastical Cemetery of Callixtus, as appears from a
     contemporary inscription.

     [137] Gruter, _Inscrip._, p. 1172, No. 3.

     [138] _Rom. Sott._, p. 172.

     [139] There is a pleasing tradition recorded of Sylvester, the
     successor of Melchiades, to the effect that, having fled, on
     account of the persecution, to the caverns of Mount Soracte, the
     Emperor Constantine sent for him to receive religious
     instruction. Seeing the soldiers approach, as he thought to lead
     him to martyrdom, Sylvester exclaimed, “Now is the accepted time,
     now is the day of salvation,” but was in a few days installed as
     bishop of Rome in the imperial palace of the Lateran. Soracte,
     once sacred to Apollo and the Muses, but now to Christ and the
     saints, is known, in commemoration of this event, as _Monte San

     [140] Gruter, p. 1171, No. 8.

     [141] Their names and piety are commemorated by two churches in
     Rome. Eusebius also records with approbation the story of the
     Christian matron Sophronia, wife of the Prefect of Rome, who
     committed suicide to escape the polluting embraces of the tyrant
     Maxentius. _Hist. Eccles._, viii, 14.

     [142] _Bullettino_, January, 1869.

     [143] The following satirical remarks of De Brosses, a Romanist
     writer, concerning the supply of relics from the Catacomb of St.
     Agnes, will indicate how unauthentic are these objects of
     veneration: “Vous pourriez voir ici la capitale des Catacombes de
     toute la chrétienté. Les martyrs, les confesseurs, et les
     vierges, y fourmillent de tous côtés. Quand on se fait besoin de
     quelques reliques en pays étranger, le Pape n’a qu’à descendre
     ici et crier, _Qui de vous autres veut aller être saint en
     Pologne?_ Alors s’il se trouve quelque mort de bonne volonté
     il se lève et s’en va.”

     [144] From the Catacomb of St. Agnes. The ancient Martyrology
     records the conversion of a Roman nobleman of this name in the
     time of Julian, together with that of his wife and fifty-three
     members of his household, and his subsequent martyrdom and burial
     in the Catacombs. It is probable that Theophila had learned in
     Gaul to write Latin, though only in those singular Greek
     characters which, as Julius Cæsar informs us, were used in that
     country, and that, after the death of the whole family, she
     employed some equally unlettered stone-mason to engrave this
     remarkable inscription.

     [145] De Rossi gives several dated inscriptions of the reign of
     Diocletian, (Nos. 16 to 28,) thus absolutely identifying the age
     of those portions of the Catacombs.

     [146] In Hawthorne’s “Marble Faun” there is a fantastic legend of
     “The Spectre of the Catacombs,” the ghost of an apostate betrayer
     of the Christians, which still haunts the scene of its hateful

     [147] See plan of this _arenarium_ and stairway in chap. v,
     fig. 26.

     [148] In A. D. 359 Liberius, bishop of Rome, lay hid for a year
     in the Catacomb of St. Agnes, till the death of the Arian
     Constantius; and in A. D. 418 Boniface I. in the Catacomb of St.
     Felicitas, during the usurpation of the antipope Eulalius.

     [149] The similar excavations of Quesnel, in France, were long
     inhabited by both human beings and cattle.

     [150] Latebrosa et lucifugax natio.--_Minuc. Felix._

     [151] Compare the following spirited lines of Bernis:

          “La terre avait gémi sous le fer des tyrans;
          Elle cachait encore des martyrs expirans,
          Qui dans les noirs détours des grottes reculées
          Dérobaient aux bourreaux leurs têtes mutilées.”
                          _Poëme de la Religion Vengée_, chap. viii.

     [152] See especially Dodwell’s learned but unsatisfactory Essay,
     _De Paucitate Martyrum_, and Gibbon’s laboured extenuation of the
     severity of the persecutors.

     [153] Ingens multitudo.--_Ann._, xv.

     [154] Jam desolata templa.--_Epis._, 97, lib. x.

     [155] Exuberante copia virtutis et fidei numerari non possunt
     martyres Christi.--_Lib. de Exhort. Martyr._, c. xi.

     [156] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, viii, 9.

     [157] _Ibid._, viii, 11.

     [158] Universum populum cum ipso pariter conventiculo
     concremavit. Lactan., _Instit. Divin._, v, 11: Gregatim

     [159] Page 78.

     [160] Sexaginta illic defossas mole sub una
             Reliquias memini me didicisse hominum.--_Peristeph._, xi.

     [161] The story of the martyrdom of ten thousand Christians on
     Mount Ararat, under Trajan, and of the massacre of the Thundering
     Legion, consisting of six thousand Christians, by Maximian, are
     fictions of later date. In the Church of St. Gerion at Cologne
     are many reputed relics, chiefly heads, of these last. The
     legendary tendency to exaggeration in numbers seems irresistible.
     In commemorating the slaughter of the Innocents the Greek Church
     canonized fourteen thousand martyrs. Another notion, derived from
     Rev. xiv, 3, swelled the number to a hundred and forty-four
     thousand. The absurd story of the eleven thousand martyrs of
     Cologne is probably founded on a mistaken rendering of the
     inscription VRSVLA · ET · XI · MM · VV, interpreted,
     Ursula and eleven thousand virgins, instead of eleven virgin
     martyrs.--_Maitland_, p. 163. A Romish legend, of course
     exaggerated, says seventy thousand Christians suffered martyrdom
     in the Coliseum.

     [162] In Rock’s _Hierurgia_, a Romanist work, is an account
     of a Catacomb at Nipi, near Rome, in which are said to be
     thirty-eight martyr tombs, the epitaph of one of whom plainly
     asserts his death by decapitation: MARTYRIO CORONATVS CAPITE
     TRVNCATVS IACET--“Crowned with martyrdom, having been
     beheaded ... lies here.”

     The beautiful terseness of the following would seem to indicate
     their genuineness: “Paulus was put to death in tortures, in order
     that he might live in eternal bliss.”

          “Clementia, tortured, dead, sleeps; will rise.”

     From the following, found on a cup attached to a tomb, it would
     seem that the martyr was first compelled to drink poison, which
     proving ineffectual, he was dispatched by the sword: “The deadly
     draught dared not present to Constans the crown, which the steel
     was permitted to offer.”

     [163] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, viii, 9.

     [164] _Ibid._, viii, 12.

     [165] Called _ungulæ_, from their resemblance to the claws of a
     beast of prey.

     [166] See examples of the above named tortures in Eusebius’s
     _Hist. Eccles._, v, 2; vi, 41; viii, 14; _The Martyrs of
     Palestine_, viii; and Lactantius, _passim_.

     On the 22d of April, 1823, says Cardinal Wiseman, a grave in the
     Catacombs was opened, and, beside the white and polished bones of
     a youth of eighteen, whose epitaph it bore, was found the
     skeleton of a boy of twelve or thirteen, charred and blackened
     chiefly about the upper part. This was probably the remains of a
     youthful martyr hastily interred in another’s grave, to come to
     light after the lapse of fifteen centuries.

     Prudentius describes the martyr Hippolytus as torn limb from limb:

          Cernere erat ruptis compagibus ordine nullo,
            Membra per incertos sparsa jacere situs.

     [167] _Lib. Pontif._, c. iv. These notaries were called by the
     Greeks ὀξυγράφοι or ταχυγράφοι, that is, short-hand writers.
     Eusebius says they reported the extemporaneous discourses of
     Origen. _Hist. Eccles._, vi, 36.

     [168] Hic fecit sex vel septem subdiaconos, qui septem notariis
     imminerent ut _gesta martyrum_ fideliter colligerent.--_Lib.

     [169] The Peristephanon--“Concerning the [martyrs’] crowns.”

     [170] In the thirteenth century many of the stories were
     collected in the _Legenda Aurea_ by Jacques de Voragine, an
     archbishop of Genoa. After the discovery of printing the press
     teemed with this legendary literature, Flowers of the Saints,
     Acts of the Martyrs, etc., embellished with numerous engravings,
     representing with horrible minuteness the Dantean tortures on
     which the monkish mind loved to expatiate.

     [171] Assatum est: versa et manduca.

     [172] --Latus ungula virgineum
           Pulsat utrimque, et ad ossa secat,
           Eulalia numerante notas.
           Scriberis ecce! mihi Domine;
           Quàm juvat hos apices legere.--_Peristeph._, _Hymn_ ix.

     [173] See martyrdom of Polycarp, Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, iv. 15.

     [174] At sola mater hisce lamentis caret,
           Soli sereno frons renidet gaudio.--Prudent., _Peristeph._

     [175] His persecutor saucius
           Pallet, rubescit, æstuat,
           Insana torquens lumina.
           Spumasque frendens egerit.--_Ibid._, _Hymn_ ii.

     [176] Bitumen et mixtum pice
           Imo implicabunt Tartaro.--_Ibid._

     [177] Hence called legends, a word which has in consequence come
     to signify the incredible or fictitious. Upon a mere verbal
     mistake was founded the account by the mediæval writers of a most
     formidable weapon called the _catomus_, which name gave rise to
     the verbs _catomare_ and _catomizare_, to express its use. It was
     at length discovered that _catomus_ was but the Latin form of the
     Greek adverbial phrase κατ’ ὤμων, signifying, “upon the
     shoulders.” (Maitland, p. 167.)

     [178] _Hist. Eccles._, v, 1.

     [179] Multique avidius tum martyria gloriosis mortibus quærebant
     quam nunc episcopatus pravis ambitionibus appetunt.--Sulpio.
     Sever., _Hist._, lib. ii.

     [180] _Apol._, c. 30.

     [181] Gregory Nazianzen. _Orat. de Laud. Basil._ See also the
     striking language of Ignatius. (Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, iii, 36.)

     [182] Chrys. _Hom._ 74, _de Martyr._

     [183] Kip, p. 88--from Maitland, p. 146. Sometimes the ardour for
     martyrdom rose into a passion, or indeed an epidemic. Eusebius
     says, (_Hist. Eccles._, viii, 6,) that in Nicomedia “Men and
     women with a certain divine and inexpressible alacrity rushed
     into the fire.”

     [184] Inscripta CHRISTO pagina immortalis est,
           Excepit adstans angelus coram Deo.
           Et quæ locutus martyr, et quæ pertulit:
           Nec verbum solùm disserentis condidit,
           Omnis notata est sanguinis dimensio,
           Quæ vis doloris, quive segmenti modus:
           Guttam cruoris ille nullam perdidit.--_Peristeph._

     [185] The pagans called the martyrs βιαθάνατοι, or

     [186] Tertul., _Apol._, c. 50.

     [187] As early as the middle of the second century Justin Martyr
     says, “There is not a nation, Greek or Barbarian, or of any other
     name, even of those that wander in tribes or live in tents, among
     whom prayers and thanksgiving are not offered to the Father and
     Creator of the universe in the name of the crucified Jesus.” The
     decree of Maximin states that almost all men had abandoned the
     worship of the gods and joined the Christian sect: Σχεδὸν ἅπαντας
     ἀνθρώπους, καταλειφθείσης τῆς τῶν τεῶν θρησκείας, τῷ ἔθνει τῶν
     Χριστιανῶν συμμεμιχότας.. Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, ix, 9.
     Lucianus of Antioch says that before the last persecution the
     greater part of the world, including whole cities, had yielded
     allegiance to the truth--Pars pæne mundi jam major huic veritati
     adstipulatur; urbes integrae; etc.--Trans. of Euseb. by Rufinus.

     [188] Even the sanguine imagination of Tertullian cannot conceive
     the possibility of this event. “Sed et Cæsares credidissent super
     Christo,” he exclaims, “si aut Cæsares non essent seculo necessario,
     aut si et Christiani potuissent esse Cæsares.”--_Apol._, c. 21.

     [189] Οἷά τις ἡλίου βολή.--Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, ii, 3.

     [190] _Ibid._, ix, 1; x, 9.

     [191] _Ibid._, x, 4. Literally, “They are no more because they
     never were.” In his eloquent oration on the renovation of the
     cathedral of Tyre Eusebius applies, with remarkable elegance and
     propriety, the promises of Scripture concerning the restoration
     of the exiled Jews from Babylon and the final establishment of
     the church of God (Psa. lxxx; xcviii; Isa. lii; liv) to the
     condition of Christianity in his day. The above citations are
     given almost in his very words.

     [192] A few years after the death of Constantine the Emperor
     Julian found at this celebrated shrine of Apollo, on the festival
     of the god, instead of the hecatombs of oxen and the crowds of
     worshippers which he expected, only a single goose, and a pale
     and solitary priest in the decayed and deserted temple.--Gibbon,
     ii, 448, Am. ed.

     [193] See a thoughtful essay on this topic in Froude’s _Short
     Studies on Great Subjects, First Series_.

     [194] The church itself experienced many corruptions before the
     date of Constantine. Among the recent converts from paganism a
     crop of heresies sprang up. “When the sacred choir of the
     Apostles,” says Hegesippus, (_apud_ Euseb., iii, 32,) “had passed
     away, then the combinations of impious error arose by the fraud
     and delusion of false teachers.” The schisms of Marcian and
     Novatian, Valentine and Montanus, early rent the Christian
     community. The exclusive ecclesiasticism of Cyprian, the
     episcopal assumptions of Victor, and the secular ambition and
     rapacity of Paul of Samosata, were portents of the spirit which
     afterward bore such bitter fruit. That pride and luxury had begun
     to invade the simplicity of primitive times, which, when the
     church basked in the sunshine of imperial favour, so completely
     withered its spiritual power.

                            CHAPTER III.                                 120


From the period of the Edict of Milan, A. D. 313, a new era opens in
the history of the Catacombs. Christianity, emerging from those gloomy
recesses where she had so long hidden in darkness, walked boldly in
the light of day. She laid aside her lowly garb, put on the trappings
of imperial state, and at length, unhappily, exchanged her primitive
simplicity for worldly power and splendour. But therein was her
danger. The shadow of that power shed a upas influence over the
church. The unhallowed union between the bride of heaven and a sinful
world gave birth to corruption and religious error. Pampered when
subservient to the policy of the Cæsars, she soon became its willing
instrument, and stained her snowy robes by complicity with imperial
vice. Christianity became at length “a truth grown false,” and men, to
use the fine figure of D’Aubigné, forsaking the precious perfume of
faith, bowed down before the empty vessel that had contained it.

The influence of Constantine seems to have been fraught with more of
evil than of good to the new religion that he espoused. He appears to
have adopted the Christian name from expediency rather than from
conviction, and, stained with the kindred blood of wife and son and
nephew, ill deserves the title of Saint, bestowed in fulsome adulation
by a venal church. Even the priests of the false gods, aghast with
horror at his crimes, exclaimed, “There is no expiation for deeds
like these.” He used both pagans and Christians, both orthodox and       121
heretics, as instruments for his political purposes. His object seems
to have been rather to raise and strengthen a hierarchy of
ecclesiastical supporters than to assist the cause of truth; and he
imposed on the organization of the Greek and Latin churches that
monarchical and secular character which they have ever since

The transfer of the seat of empire from the Tiber to the Bosphorus
left Christianity to develop itself at Rome less trammelled by
imperial influence; and, perhaps, in a less corrupt form than in the
East. After the edict of toleration, the places of worship which had
been closed or destroyed during the persecution were opened, or
rebuilt with a magnificence rivalling that of the ancient temples. But
the Catacombs still continued invested with a deep and pathetic
interest, as the cradle of the faith, the refuge of the church during
the storm of calamity, and the sepulchre of the saints and martyrs.      122
Hence numerous basilicas or oratories were erected over or near the
entrances of the ancient cemeteries in honour of the holy dead.

On the full recognition of Christianity the necessity for subterranean
sepulture ceased; hence it fell gradually into disuse, and was
superseded by burial in or near the now numerous basilicas. Even the
Roman bishops were no longer interred in the so-called Papal Crypt,
but in churches above ground; and this example was soon generally
followed. “The inscriptions with consular dates,” says Dr. Northcote,
“probably furnish us with a sufficiently accurate guide to the
relative proportions of the two modes of burial. From A. D. 338 to
A. D. 360 two out of three burials appear to have taken place in the
subterranean portion of the cemeteries, while from A. D. 364 to
A. D. 369 the proportions are equal. During the next two years hardly
any notices of burials _above_ ground appear, but after that
subterranean crypts fell rapidly into disuse.”[196]

It is a remarkable circumstance, here indicated, that in the years A.
D. 370 and 371 a sudden and general return to subterranean sepulture
took place. This change has been very satisfactorily explained by the
contemporary history of the Catacombs. Great injury had already been
inflicted on these ancient sepulchres by the practice which had become
prevalent of erecting basilicas, more or less sumptuous, over the
tombs of the illustrious martyrs of the age of persecution.[197] As
the ecclesiastical authorities shrank from disturbing their remains
it became the custom to excavate the ground down to the level of their   123
graves. As these were often in the lower levels of the Catacombs,
hundreds of graves were sometimes destroyed in these excavations and
constructions.[198] Damasus, bishop of Rome from A. D. 358 to A. D.
384, who was indefatigable in his efforts to protect and, where
possible, to restore the Catacombs, endeavoured to prevent this
wholesale destruction of these sacred crypts. He explored many of the
galleries, which, to preserve inviolate the martyrs’ graves, had been
blocked up with earth and stones during the period of persecution. He
cleared out[199] and enlarged the passages leading to the more
distinguished tombs, and constructed ample flights of stairs for the
accommodation of the numerous pilgrims to these sacred shrines. He
lined many of the chambers with marble slabs, constructed shafts for
the admission of light and air, and supported the crumbling walls and
galleries, where necessary, with piers and arches of solid masonry. He
also composed numerous metrical inscriptions in honour of the martyrs,
which were engraved on marble in a singularly elegant character. There
are few of the Catacombs in which traces of his restorations or
adornments are not to be found.

The piety or superstition of the wealthy converts to Christianity led
them to enlarge the subterranean chapels and martyr-tombs, and to
decorate them with costly marbles, frescoes, mosaics, stucco ornaments,  124
and vaulted roofs. The contemporary tombs and monuments were also on a
scale of magnificence before unknown; and the inscriptions assumed a
florid and inflated character far different from the simplicity of the
primitive ages. The architecture and paintings also indicate, with the
increase of wealth and luxury, the decline and fatal eclipse of art.

To the period of Damasus belongs the description, by Prudentius, of
the shrine of Hippolytus, part of which has been already quoted.[200]
“That little chapel,” he continues, “which contains the cast-off
garments of his soul, is bright with solid silver. Wealthy hands have
put up glistening tablets, smooth and bright as a concave mirror; and,
not content with overlaying the entrance with Parian marble, they have
lavished large sums of money on the ornamentation of the work.” It was
during the period of the labours of Damasus that the revived interest
in the Catacombs was so strikingly manifested by the sudden return to
the subterranean mode of burial, and that many of the tombs and
chapels received their most elaborate adornment.[201]

The perversion of a natural instinct, beautiful and praiseworthy in
itself, became the root of much evil in after times. Our hearts are
irresistibly drawn toward the place where lie the remains of the         125
dear departed in the last long sleep of death. Although we know that
only the slumbering dust is there, we love to meditate above their
graves, and seem there to hold closer communion with their spirits
than elsewhere. Especially would the early Christians be drawn to the
tombs of their fathers in the faith, many of whom were also their
fathers in the flesh, whose saintly patience or glorious martyrdom had
hallowed their memory for evermore. They would naturally be led to
adorn and beautify their sepulchres, and in pious devotion to meditate
and pray beside their honoured remains. This innocent, and even
laudable, practice gradually, and perhaps inevitably, led to abuses.
The admiration of the martyr’s faith and patience and heroic spirit
gradually intensified into superstitious veneration for his body,
blood, bones, ashes, clothes, staff, or any personal relic. Judaism
regarded the touching of aught connected with the dead as involving a
ceremonial pollution; but Christian ideas invested even the crumbling
dust of the martyrs with especial sanctity.

The first clear evidence that we have of this feeling is in the case
of Ignatius, who suffered under Trajan, A. D. 107. Perhaps from a fear
that superstitious reverence might be paid to his remains, he prayed
that the wild beasts might become his sepulchre, so that nothing of
him might be left.[202] His desire was only partly fulfilled, for “the
larger and harder bones remained, which were carried to Antioch and
kept as an inestimable treasure left to the Church by the grace which
was in the martyr.”[203] Eusebius speaks of the charred remains of
Polycarp as “more precious than the richest jewels, and more tried       126
than gold.”[204] The martyrs blood was esteemed a talisman of especial
power. A sponge saturated therewith was sometimes worn as a sacred
relic, and it may be as a supernatural amulet, by their friends or
relatives. Prudentius describes the spectators of the martyrdom of St.
Vincent as dipping their clothes in his blood, that they might keep it
as a sort of palladium for successive generations:

         Crowds haste the linen vest to stain
         With gore distilled from martyr’s vein,
         And thus a holy safeguard place
         At home, to shield the future race.[205]

In the account of the death of Hippolytus, he describes the gathering
of his mangled limbs with a minuteness too revolting for the poetry
even of martyrology.[206] With a refinement of cruelty, the
persecutors of Gaul cast the remains of the martyrs of Vienne to the
dogs, and guarded their lifeless bodies for days, in order to deprive
the Christians of the melancholy satisfaction of paying the last sad
rites of burial to any fragments that remained.[207]

The primitive Christians justly discriminated between the reverence
due to the martyrs and the adoration to be rendered only to the
Supreme Being. “We worship Christ as the Son of God,” says the church
of Smyrna, “but the martyrs we deservedly love as the disciples and
imitators of Our Lord.”[208] “We do not build temples to our martyrs     127
as gods,” says Augustine, “but only memorials of them as dead men
whose spirits live with God; nor do we erect altars or sacrifice to
our martyrs, but to the only God, both theirs and ours.”[209] But the
enthusiastic feelings of the people at length failed to make this
proper distinction, and many even of the theological writers of the
day, not foreseeing the disastrous consequences to which the practice
would lead, were carried away with the popular current.

One form which this veneration took was that of festivals in honour of
the martyrs. “By a noble metaphor,” says Milman,[210] “the day of
their death was considered that of their birth to immortality.”[211]
The church of Smyrna celebrated the anniversary of their martyred
bishop’s passion “with joy and gladness as his natal day.”[212]
Tertullian asserts that the practice has the authority of apostolic
tradition.[213] These festivals were at first kept with religious
solemnity, accompanied by the celebration of the eucharist, often in
the rock-hewn chambers of the Catacombs, where a thin tile separated
the dead in Christ from the devout worshippers who commemorated the
passion of their common Lord. During the ages of persecution this was
a rite of deep and touching significance. Frequently his partaking of
that feast was the recipient’s own consecration to the martyr’s death.
But after the peace of the church it often degenerated into a scene of
excess and vulgar revelry, more like the pagan banquets for the dead
than a Christian solemnity. Indeed, they were avowedly employed in       128
ignoble appeal to the baser appetites, as counter-attractions to the
pagan feasts, to induce the poor to attend the festivals of the
church.[214] This degradation of an originally praiseworthy practice,
and the intensifying and abject superstition to which it led, provoked
the taunts of the heathen and the censure of the more devout and
thoughtful Christians. The philosophic Julian recoiled from the
adoration of relics as from pollution. Another pagan writer contrasts
the veneration of obscure martyrs’ names, hateful to the gods and to
men,[215] with the refined and poetic _cultus_ of Minerva and
Jupiter.[216] Vigilantius, the Spanish presbyter, strongly condemns
the “ashes worshippers and idolaters;” while, on the other hand,
Jerome magnifies the sanctity of these relics, “around which,” he
says, “the souls of the martyrs are constantly hovering to hear the
prayers of the supplicant.” After in vain trying to restrain their
abuses and excesses, the ecclesiastical authorities were at length
compelled to suppress these festivals.

The reverence paid to the relics of the martyrs had two remarkable and
contrary effects. Having led in the first place to the adornment of
their sepulchres, it ultimately caused their destruction and
spoliation. In consequence of this feeling it became an object of
ambition to share the resting-place of those who had been so holy in
life and so glorious in death. Hence new graves were often excavated
in the back of the _arcosolia_, cutting through the beautiful            129
frescoes with which they were adorned, and mutilating or destroying
the paintings.[217] The _cubicula_ were also defaced, their
symmetry injured, and their construction endangered by similar
imprudent excavations.

Numerous inscriptions inform us that many persons secured this
privilege during their lives, as the following examples: IN
(_sic_)--“In the new crypt behind the saints: Valeria and Sabina
bought it for themselves while living.” ΕΝΘΑΔΕ ΠΑΥΛΕΙΝΑ ΚΕΙΤΑΙ ΜΑΚΑΡΩ
ΕΝ ΧΩΡΩ--“Here lies Paulina in the place of the blessed.” Another
inscription of the period of Damasus tells of one who was buried
“within the thresholds of the saints, a thing which many desire and
few obtain.”[218] Sometimes the name of the saint or martyr is
mentioned, as in one which records the purchase of a grave, “at the
tomb of Hippolytus, above the _arcosolium_,”[219] and another at that
of Cornelius.[220] So also the tomb of Cecilia was separated from that
of one of the primitive bishops by scarcely an inch of rock. Great
injury was thus done to the Catacombs by the indiscreet devotion of
those who observed this practice. Many pilgrims to the graves of the
martyrs, deriving, they thought, a spiritual benefit from proximity to
their sacred dust, took up their abode in little cells beside their
graves while alive, and shared their sepulchres in death. In answer to
the inquiry of his friend Paulinus of Nola, whether it was a profit to
the soul that the body should be buried near the shrine of some          130
saint,[221] Augustine wrote a special treatise[222] in justification
of the practice; although _how_ the martyrs help men, he confesses, is
a question beyond his understanding. We have already seen the very
strong opinion entertained on this subject by Jerome, the contemporary
of Augustine. More in accordance with reason and scripture is the
sentiment contained in the epitaph of the archdeacon Sabinus, lately
found at San Lorenzo:


     It nothing helps, but rather hinders, to stick close to the tombs
     of the saints; a good life is the best approach to their merits.
     Not with the body but with the soul must we draw nigh to them;
     when that is well saved it may prove the salvation of the body

Even Damasus, who, if any ought, might claim sepulture with the
sainted dead, shrank from disturbing their remains, and was buried in
a tomb _above_ the Catacomb of Callixtus. Of the subterranean
crypt he says:


     Here I, Damasus, confess I wished to lay my limbs, but I feared
     to vex the holy ashes of the saints.

The desire for communion with the holy dead continued throughout
successive generations. Multitudes of pilgrims still visited the
shrines of the martyrs, and, after the wont of travellers, left traces
of their presence in the numerous _graffiti_ which are written on
the walls. Some of these are names of classical form, as Leo, Felix,
Maximus, Theophilus; others, written in less accessible places, are of   131
later date and of foreign character, Spanish, British, or German, as
Ildebrand, Ethelred, Lupo, Bonizo, Joannes. The names are frequently
accompanied with the letters _Pb._, or _Presb._, the indication of
the ecclesiastical grade of the writer.

Many of the loftiest dignitaries in church and state, popes and
prelates, princes and nobles, kings and queens, and even some
illustrious wearers of the imperial purple, continued to be brought,
often from afar, throughout the period of the Middle Ages, to lie in
death as near as possible to the hallowed dust of the early martyrs
and confessors of the faith. Among them were some stained with blood,
who hoped to expiate their crimes by their religious austerities, and
to enter paradise through the intercession of the saints near whose
remains their bones were laid. Several petty kings of the Anglo-Saxon
Heptarchy, some expelled by their subjects or rivals, others flying
from the post of duty, muttered their prayers and counted their beads
in the crypts of the Catacombs, and were buried in their vicinity. The
following are a few of the more illustrious, taken from the list of
the Abbé Gaume:[224] Popes Leo I., Gregory I., II., and III., Leo XI.;
the Emperor Honorius and Mary his wife, Valentinian and Otho II.;
Cedwalla, king of the West-Saxons; Conrad, king of the Mercians; Offa
and Ina, Saxon kings, with Eldiburga, wife of the latter; the Empress
Agnes, Queen Charlotte of Cyprus, and the Countess Matilda, who so
enriched the papal see by her donations. These were buried, not in the
Catacombs, but in the basilicas erected over them, which were            132
considered to share their sanctity. Thus, as St. Chrysostom remarks,
referring to the tradition concerning the sepulchres of St. Peter and
St. Paul, kings laid aside their crowns at the tombs of the fisherman
and the tentmaker.[225]

During the latter part of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth
century the management of the Catacombs seems to have been no longer
in the hands of the ecclesiastical authorities, but under the control
of the fossors,[226] with whom the bargain for interment was made by
the friends of the deceased. Numerous inscriptions occur in which this
bargain is recorded, together with the names of the buyers and
sellers, and sometimes those of the witnesses to the contract, and
even the price that was paid, as in the following examples: COSTAT
(_sic_)--“It is unquestionable that we, Januarius and Britia,
bought a place in front of [the tomb of] Lady Emerita[227] from the
fossors Burdo, Micinus, and Muscus, for the consideration of one
solidus and a half of gold”--(about $7.) EMPTVM LOCVM A BARTIMISTVM
PRESENTIA SEVERI FOSS. ET LAVRENT--“The place bought by Bartimistus,
that is, a bisomus; and the price paid to the fossor Hilarus, 1400
folles, (about $5 65,) in the presence of the fossors Severus and
Laurence.” The fossors also probably prepared and engraved the funeral
slabs, as seems to be implied in the following: LOCV MARMARORI           133
(_sic_) QVODRISOMVM--“A quadruple tomb [bought] of the

In the following illustration from the Catacomb of Callixtus the
fossor is seen standing in a _cubiculum_ lined with graves, and
surrounded by the implements of his labour. On his shoulder is the
mattock with which he dug the friable tufa, and in his hand the lamp
with the spike by which it was fastened to the rock while he worked.
At his feet lie the compasses for marking out the _loculi_, and
over his head we read the simple epitaph, “Diogenes the fossor, buried   134
in peace on the eighth before the calends of October.”

  [Illustration: Fig. 23.--Diogenes the Fossor.]

The accompanying engraving from Aringhi shows the fossor actively
engaged in excavating the vaulted gallery by the light of the lamp
suspended near him. The marks made by the mattocks, in the manner here
shown, may be seen in the walls of the passages as plainly as though
the fossor had but just ceased his labours.

  [Illustration: Fig. 24.--The Fossor at Work.]

After a brief return to subterranean burial in the time of Damasus the
practice fell rapidly into disuse, and after A. D. 410 scarcely a
single certain example can be found. In that fatal year the blast of
the Gothic trumpet, startling the ear of midnight[229] in the streets
of Rome, proclaimed its capture by the hosts of the stern Alaric. Amid
the social and civil commotions that accompanied the breaking up of
the empire, there was neither time nor means to adorn the sepulchres
of the saints, and the Catacombs fell into inevitable neglect and
decay. Of this year not a single sepulchral inscription remains, a
striking indication of the anarchy and confusion prevailing, when even
the customary honours were not paid to the dead.

Like a mighty deluge sweeping away and overwhelming the art and          135
civilization of the South, came the invasion of the barbarous hordes
of the North; yet like a deluge fertilizing and enriching the soil,
and leaving germs of future fruitfulness behind. Having conquered the
world with its arms and corrupted it with its vices, the mighty fabric
of the Roman empire lost internal strength and cohesion, and began to
crumble to pieces. The secret causes of its dissolution had long been
stealthily at work, and its fall at last was utter and complete.
Thrice in the space of three years (A. D. 408, 409, 410) Rome was
besieged by the hosts of Alaric, and, in vain purchasing respite by a
costly ransom, she was at last given up as a prey to the bold, eager,
and greedy savagery of the North. The pillage of the world,
accumulated during a thousand years of conquest, left, however, little
pretext for violating the resting-places of the dead. As the rude
soldiery gloated with hungry eyes on the lavish gold and silver, the
precious jewels and sumptuous vestments on every side, they recked
little for mere works of art, and many a porphyry vase and priceless
statue was wantonly shivered by barbarian battle-axe. Nevertheless,
the conqueror respected the basilicas of the apostles and the sacred
vessels of their shrines, declaring that he made not war upon the

But succeeding conquerors were less scrupulous or more rapacious. Five
times in the course of the fifth century, and as often in the sixth,
the Eternal City, “that was almighty named,” was besieged by her
implacable foes. The churches were plundered of the massy plate and
other treasures, and even the dim crypts of the Catacombs echoed the     136
clanging tread of the armed soldiery as with sacrilegious hands they
stripped the shrines of the saints of their costly adorning, and
rifled the graves of the dead in search for hidden treasure.[231] Each
successive invasion to which Rome was exposed renewed these scenes of
desecration and robbery. The Huns, the Goths, the Lombards, and,
later, the Normans and Saracens, were rivals in spoliation and

During the intervals of peace the Roman pontiffs endeavoured to
restore the Catacombs and re-adorn the martyr shrines, which were
still the objects of pious veneration. They were also used during the
barbarian invasions, as during the pagan persecutions, as places of
refuge. Boniface I., having been for some time concealed in the
Catacomb of Felicitas, afterwards elaborately ornamented it. Symmachus
and Vigilius were also especially diligent in their care for the
Catacombs. The latter restored many of the Damasine epitaphs which had
been destroyed.[232] We read also of popes of the sixth and two          137
following centuries restoring the cemeteries and making provision for
the celebration of the martyrs’ festivals at their subterranean
shrines. The sculpture and frescoes of the period of course exhibited
the depraved taste and debased execution of the times.

A new element of destruction came now into play. This was the
wholesale translation of the bodies of the saints from the Catacombs
to the churches of the city, in order to save them from profanation by
Astolphus and his sacrilegious Lombards. These pious robbers ransacked
and systematically despoiled the ancient cemeteries, and carried off
the relics of the martyrs. Pope Stephen III. thereupon published a
letter from St. Peter himself menacing with eternal damnation the
violators of these hallowed tombs. These spiritual terrors, however,
were found insufficient to protect the sacred relics. The work of
translation was resumed, and Pope Paul I. records the removal in A. D.
761 of the bodies of over a hundred “martyrs, confessors, and virgins
of Christ, with hymns and spiritual songs, into the city of Rome.” He
complains also of the neglect into which the Catacombs had fallen.
Their deeper recesses were given up to owls and bats, and nearer the
entrance the prowling fox or jackal found a covert. There, too, the
Campagnian shepherds frequently folded their flocks, and “converted
the sacred places into stables and dunghills.” They became, also, the
lurking places of thieves and debtors, outlaws and bandits, who took
refuge in their tangled labyrinths.

We have observed the practice in the fourth century of building
churches over the martyrs’ tombs. The natural reverence for their
remains soon passed into a superstitious veneration and belief in
their miraculous efficacy. Even such acute minds as those of Origen,
Chrysostom, and Ambrose seem infected with this superstition.[233] It    138
soon became considered essential to the consecration of a church that
it should be hallowed by some holy relics. These were placed not only
on the altar, but in the sides of portals, to be kissed by the devout
on entering.[234] The furnishing of these relics became a gainful
trade. St. Augustine complains of certain vagabond monks who went
about selling relics of the martyrs, if indeed martyrs they were.[235]
In consequence of this practice a Theodosian law of the year A. D. 386
forbids the removal of any body that was buried, or the tearing
asunder or sale of the remains of a martyr.[236] In consequence of the
number of spurious relics, the fourth Council of Carthage, in A. D.
401, prohibited the use of any whose genuineness could not be
authenticated.[237] Martin of Tours narrates how he discovered, by
summoning the ghost of a so-called martyr, that the revered relics
were only those of a common thief.[238] The Empress Constantina wrote
to Gregory the Great, at the end of the sixth century, for the head      139
of St. Paul, in order to consecrate a new church. He replied that he
could not divide the bodies of the saints, and declared that the
danger of invading their tombs was sometimes even fatal.[239] But this
pious reverence gave place to a more mercenary spirit, and the trade
in relics became a traffic of infamy and disgrace. Not only were the
bodies of the so-called martyrs torn asunder and their limbs sold to
diverse and distant places, but with sacrilegious fraud the relics of
favourite saints were multiplied till as many different cities claimed
to have their only true and genuine heads, arms, or bodies, as
contended for the honour of being the birth-place of Homer.[240]

These relics were endowed in popular apprehension with most miraculous
powers. They emitted a delightful fragrance that ravished the senses.
A fleshless skull declared the name and martyrdom of its owner. The
bones of St. Lawrence moved in their grave to make room for those of
another saint. The liquefaction of a martyr’s blood may still be
witnessed by the faithful on the anniversary of St. Januarius at
Naples.[241] If we may credit numerous traditions, these wonder-working
human remains healed the sick,[242] raised the dead, and, more           140
difficult still, converted heretics to the true faith. Nay, the mere
contact with the _brandea_ or handkerchief from the martyr’s
tomb, the filings of his chains, or the oil from the lamp before his
shrine, communicated spiritual as well as physical benefit. These
sacred relics possessed a talismanic power to protect from evil. They
were borne into battle to avert the hurtling death and to blunt the
edge of the sword. They were affixed to towers as a safeguard against
the thunderbolt.[243] They were inlaid in the crowns and regalia of
kings,[244] and worn in rings and amulets as prophylactics against
poison or disease, and they lent an awful sanctity to the oath taken
upon the altar.[245]

The slender historical evidence on which idolatrous homage is paid to    141
these relics is seen in the case of the so-called “Saint Theodosia of    142
Amiens.” Her epitaph, found in a Catacomb near the Salarian Way, reads
as follows:

           NAT · AMBIANA.

     Aurelius Optatus to his most innocent wife Aurelia Theudosia, a
     most gracious and incomparable woman, by nation an Ambian.

The Congregation of Relics decided that Theudosia was both a saint and
martyr, and a native of Amiens. Her remains were solemnly conveyed to
that city, and on the 12th of October, 1833, they were received with
the utmost magnificence by no less than twenty-eight mitred prelates
and fifteen hundred other ecclesiastics, placed in a gorgeous shrine,
and honoured as in ancient times they honoured a tutelar goddess.
Cardinal Wiseman preached on the occasion, and compared the removal of
her remains to her native place to that of the patriarch Joseph’s
bones from Egypt to Canaan; and Bishop Salinis commended the homage of
her relics “because the martyrs are, after Jesus Christ, also _Christs_  143
to open heaven to mankind.”[246]

By this practice of the translation of relics Rome broke the chain of
positive evidence, and destroyed the tender and pathetic associations
connected with the remains of the sainted dead. The martyr’s tomb, in
its original position and undisturbed, is an object of intensest
interest; but removed to some distant church or abbey and redecorated
with florid adornment or theatrical finery, his alleged relics provoke
only skepticism or contempt. Indeed, so little attempt at probability
is there in the names given to these relics that a Romanist writer,
the Abbé Barbier de Montault, confesses that the greater part of the
bodies found in the Catacombs wanting proper names have received,
when they were exposed to public veneration, names at haphazard, which   144
have only a vague or general signification, as Felix, Fortunatus,

We return from this digression to the mediæval history of the
Catacombs. The efforts of Stephen III., Adrian I., and Leo III., in
the eighth and ninth centuries, to restore their ancient honour and
magnificence, were unavailing. The tombs of the saints were
continually being abandoned and destroyed. The translation of the
sacred relics was renewed with increased energy. Pope Paschal I. was
the most zealous agent in the prosecution of this work. An inscription
in the church of St. Prassede, which he built for their reception,
records the translation thither of 2,300 bodies in a single day, July
20, A. D. 817. Successive popes continued to remove cartloads of
relics from the Catacombs in order to enhance the dignity or sanctity
of the churches which they built or restored, and as an evidence of
their own pious zeal. At this period, probably, the multitude of
relics were borne to the Pantheon, since known as St. Maria ad

         Shrine of all saints and temple of all gods
         From Jove to Jesus.[248]

These perpetual spoliations of the Christian cemeteries led to the       145
rapid destruction of many of their galleries and chambers, and to
their final abandonment like a worked-out mine--a mine, too, which had
been the source of greater riches to the church than treasures of
silver or gold. In the removal of the relics of the martyrs the
principal motive for the protection or adornment of the Catacombs was
taken away, and during the gathering darkness of the Middle Ages they
speedily passed out of the knowledge of mankind. In a few of those in
the immediate vicinity of some church or monastery a subterranean
chapel was still kept open, and an occasional mass was celebrated on
the presumed anniversary of the martyr whose name was associated,
often erroneously, therewith; or some zealous and adventurous pilgrim
might even penetrate their obscure recesses. But a blight had fallen
on the once beautiful Campagna. Desolation, pestilence, and death
brooded over the deserted plain. Through the natural dilapidations of
time, and the spoliations of Saracens, Normans, and Greeks, who
successively invaded Italy and wasted the country with fire and sword,
the basilicas and oratories of the Byzantine period crumbled to decay
or were destroyed, and the monasteries were deserted; their cowled and
sandaled occupants, long the sole custodians of the Catacombs, taking
refuge within the city walls. The rains of a thousand autumns and the
frosts of as many winters caused the crumbling of the _luminari_,
the falling in of the roofs, and ruin of the galleries. The knowledge
of the past was lost in the gathering gloom of the dark ages, so that
in an enumeration of the Roman Catacombs in the fourteenth century
only three are mentioned, and these were connected with some church.     146
In the fifteenth century but one, that of Sebastian, was known.

Yet there is evidence that some of the galleries were accessible, and
were used for dark and sinister purposes, in keeping with their gloomy
and desolate character. During the lawless period from the eleventh to
the fifteenth century, when faction and civil war and anarchy laid
waste the country, and even the classic mausolea above ground were
converted into armed fortresses, these gloomy vaults became the
rendezvous of insurgents and conspirators, who feared no betrayal of
their bloody secrets by the silent sleepers in their narrow cells. In
their dark recesses were concocted those “treasons, stratagems, and
spoils” that desolated the land. Frequently armed bands of the
retainers of hostile houses--the Montagues and Capulets of the
day--met in these subterranean battle-grounds, and the war-cry of
Guelph and Ghibelline, of Colonna and Orsini, rang through the hollow
corridors, disturbing the quiet of the graves. Bloodshed and cruelty
often desecrated the spot sacred to religion and the ashes of the
sainted dead. Petrarch thus describes these unhallowed uses of the

         They are become like robbers’ caves,
         So that only the good are denied entrance;
         And among altars and saintly statues
         Every cruel enterprise is planned.[249]

During the period of the “Babylonish Captivity,” when the Papal See
was removed from the banks of the Tiber to those of the Rhone--from      147
the protection of the fortress of St. Angelo to the castled heights of
Avignon--the decay of every thing pertaining to the church in Italy
was precipitated. The city of Rome, which depended for its prosperity
entirely upon its ecclesiastical pomps and pageants, became
impoverished and almost deserted. The Campagna changed to a
wilderness, and the entrances to the Catacombs were choked with
rubbish or overgrown with tangled thickets and gigantic weeds. Many of
these entrances were also walled up by the civic authorities to
prevent their becoming the resort of robbers, and for the safety of
the inhabitants.

During the short and tumultuous career of that strange reformer,
Colonna di Rienzi, (1347-1354,) some of the hidden crypts are
mentioned as the scene of the plots and counterplots of that troublous
time; and, like the sewers and Catacombs of Paris during the
Revolution, and the cloacæ of Rome in time of proscription and civil
war, they became places of refuge and concealment. On the eve of his
massacre Rienzi was urged to seek safety in those ancient sanctuaries
of the persecuted church, but he replied, as Nero is said to have done
thirteen centuries before, that he would not bury himself alive.[250]

With the exception of these rare allusions there is little mention of
the Catacombs in the chronicles of the Middle Ages, and they became in
course of time virtually unknown. They were not, however, entirely
unvisited. The cemetery of Sebastian was never quite forgotten, but
was always open to pilgrims; and even in the darkest period there seem   148
to have been some who, inspired by devotion or curiosity, penetrated
the most accessible crypts, and left inscribed upon the walls the date
of their visit. Thus, in one place we find a record of a bishop of
Pisa and his companions who visited the Catacombs early in the
fourteenth century. Another _graffito_, with the names of three
persons and the date A. D. 1321, reads thus: “Gather together, O
Christians, in these caverns, to read the holy books, to sing hymns in
honour of the saints and martyrs who, having died in the Lord, lie
buried here; to sing psalms for those who are now dying in the faith.
There is light in this darkness. There is music in these tombs.”[251]

On one of the graves were found a small silver-gilt coronet, with the
date A. D. 1340, and a palm leaf worked in silver. In another crypt
are written six names--German, in Latinized form--with a cross after
each, and beneath, the date A. D. 1397.[252] They were probably a
company of German priests on a pilgrimage to the Eternal City and its
sacred shrines. In two or three _cubicula_ in the Catacomb of
Callixtus are _graffiti_ recording the visits of certain
Franciscan friars in the fifteenth century. Brother Lawrence of
Sicily, over date January 17, 1451, records that with twenty others he
had come to visit the holy place.[253] In 1467 some Scottish
pilgrims,[254] and two years after an abbot of St. Sebastian, with a
large party,[255] left records of their visits to this Catacomb. The
names of Pomponio Leto and other literati of the Roman Academy have
also been found in several of the crypts. These men, however,
although the avowed lovers of antiquity,[256] were enthusiastic only     149
in the pursuit of heathen learning, and justly merited the reproach of
being more pagan than Christian. With the exception of such infrequent
and transient visits, it would appear that this priceless treasury of
Christian archæology and legacy of the primitive church to the present
age was completely forgotten till it was revealed to the eyes of a
wondering world by the explorations of the sixteenth and following

     [195] _Zosimus._ His profession of Christianity provoked the
     scorn of the apostate Julian.--_Ibid._

     Scott compares him to a prodigal who strips an aged parent of the
     ornaments of her youth in order to decorate a flaunting paramour.
     But New Rome shared the decline of the mother city, as a graft
     taken from an old tree partakes of the decay of the parent stem.
     As the ancient liberties died out, the gorgeous but degrading
     despotisms of the East usurped their place. The emperors assumed
     the style and titles of gods. The most unmanly adulation was at
     length lavished on the slave or herdsman elevated by capricious
     fortune to the throne of the world. At the time of the princess
     Anna Comnena this degradation seems to have reached its nadir.
     “Your Eternity” was the blasphemous epithet of the ephemeral
     puppet flaunting for a moment in the livery of infamy. “If I may
     speak and live,” whispered with bated breath the titled
     slave--Prospathaire, or Acolyte--who stood nearest the throne,
     shading his eyes with his hands, as if overpowered by the
     effulgence of the imperial countenance. The rude Latin Crusaders
     made short work of these lofty titles and this solemn etiquette.

     [196] _Roma Sotterranea_, pp. 95, 96. During the lifetime of
     Constantine subterraneous sepultures seem to have been generally

     [197] These were called _martyria_ or _memoriæ_. See Euseb.,
     _Vit. Const._, iii, 48.

     [198] The effects of this practice are apparent at _S. Agnese
     fuori le Mura_, erected over the tomb of the virgin martyr,
     and at San Lorenzo, where the galleries of the Catacomb of
     Cyriaca have been exposed and in part destroyed.

     [199] In extending the Catacombs for the purpose of burial it was
     sometimes found easier to cut new galleries at a higher level,
     using the bed of earth in the old as the floor of the new.
     Sometimes the new galleries cut right through the _loculi_
     of the old.

     [200] Chap. i, p. 11. To the same period belongs the description
     of the Catacombs by Jerome, quoted on page 36. Jerome at one time
     acted as secretary to Damasus.

     [201] St. Ambrose, about this time, censures the constructing of
     costly sepulchres, as if they were to be the receptacle of the
     soul instead of the body.--Frustra struunt homines pretiosa
     sepulchra, quasi ea animæ, nec solius corporis, receptacula
     essent.--_De Bono Mortis._

     Basil urges men to prepare their funeral by works of piety while
     they live. “For what need have you,” he asks, “of a sumptuous
     monument, or a costly entombing?”--_Hom. in Divites._

     [202] Ignat., _Ep. ad Rom._, § iv. Euseb., _Hist.
     Eccles._, iii, 36.

     [203] Acts of Martyrdom, § xii.

     [204] _Hist. Eccles._, iv, 15.

     [205] Plerique vestem linteam
           Stillante tingunt sanguine,
           Tutamen ut sacrum suis
           Domi reservent posteris.--_Peristeph._, v.

     [206] Hic humeros, truncasque manus et brachia, et ulnas,
             Et genua, et crurum fragmina nuda legit.--_Ibid._, iv.

     [207] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, v, 1.

     [208] _Ibid._, iv, 15.

     [209] Nos martyribus nostris non templa sicut diis, sed memorias
     sicut hominibus mortuis, quorum apud Deum vivant spiritus,
     fabricamus; nec ibi erigimus altaria, in quibus sacrificemus
     martyribus, sed uni Deo et martyrum et nostro.--_De. Civ.
     Dei_, xxii, 10.

     [210] _Hist. of Christianity_, book iv, c. 2.

     [211] Hence called _Natalitia_, Γενέθλια.

     [212] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, iv, 15.

     [213] _De Coron. Mil._, c. ii.

     [214] Diesque festos, post eos, quos relinquebant, alienos in
     honorem sanctorum martyrum vel non simili sacrilegio, quamvis
     simili luxu celebrantur.--Augustin., _Epis._ xxix. See also
     Boldetti, _Osservazioni sopra i cimiteri dei SS. Martiri_, p. 46.

     [215] Diisque hominibusque odiosa nomina.--Aug., _Epis._, xvi.

     [216] _Ibid._

     [217] See Figs. 12 and 76.

     [218] “Intra limina sanctorum, quod multi cupiunt et rari

     [219] “At Ippolytu super arcosohu,” (_sic_.)

     [220] “Ad Santum Cornelium.” See also the epitaph on p. 132.

     [221] “Apud sancti alicujus memoriam.”

     [222] _De Curâ pro Mortuis Gerendâ_, written about A. D. 421.

     [223] _Bullettino_, 1864, 33.

     [224] _Les Trois Romes_, tom. iv, p. 39. Aringhi gives a
     similar list in his chapter, De imperatoribus ac regibus, qui
     apud Vaticanum sepulturæ traditi sunt.--_Roma Subterranea_,
     lib. ii, c. 9.

     [225] Chrys., _Quod Christus sit Deus_. See legend, p. 186.

     [226] From _fodere_, _fossum_, to dig.

     [227] Saint Emerita suffered martyrdom during the Valerian

     [228] Jerome strongly censures the making merchandise of the
     resting-places of the dead--Quì sepulchra venditant, et non
     coguntur ut accepiant pretium, sed a nolentibus etiam
     extorquent.--_Quæst. Heb. in Gen._ xxiii.

     [229] “Nocte Moab capta est, nocte cecidit murus ejus!” exclaims
     Jerome.--_Ad Principiam._

     [230] Gibbon, iii, 283. _Am. Ed._

     [231] The following lines by Pope Vigilius, A. D. 537, describe
     this event:

          Dum peritura Getæ posuissent castra sub urbem,
            Moverunt sanctis bella nefanda prius,
          Totaque sacrilego verterunt corde sepulcra,
            Martyribus quondam rite sacrata piis.

     “Whilst the Goths had placed their camp, soon to perish, before
     the city, they first waged unhallowed war against the saints, and
     with sacrilegious mind destroyed whole sepulchres once solemnly
     consecrated to the pious martyrs.”

     During the fifth and sixth centuries cemeteries were opened
     within the walls in consequence of the peril of venturing beyond
     the gates.

           HOSTIBVS EXPVLSIS OMNE NOVAVIT OPVS.--_Inscr. in Lateran._

     “Pope Vigilius, afterwards lamenting the demolished monuments,
     renewed the entire work after the expulsion of the enemy.”

     [233] These Fathers quoted such passages as 2 Kings xiii, 21;
     Eccles. xlviii, 13, 14; xlix, 10-15; Acts v, 15, and xix, 11, in
     proof of the efficacy of relics.

     [234] Hence in the celebration of the mass the priest kisses the
     altar and invokes pardon “by the relics of the saints that are
     there.”--See Missal. Optatus tells of a lady who used to kiss the
     relics of he knew not what martyr, if martyr it were, before
     communion.--Ante spiritualem cibum et potum, os nescio cujus
     martyris, si tamen martyris, libare dicebatur.--_Oper._, lib. i.

     [235] Membra martyrum, si tamen martyrum, venditant.--Aug., _de
     Oper. Monach._

     [236] Humatum corpus nemo ad alium locum transferat; nemo
     martyrem distrahat, nemo mercetur.--Cod. Theod., _De Sepulchris
     Violatis_, leg. 7.

     [237] Omnino nulla memoria martyrum probabiliter acceptetur nisi
     aut ibi corpus, aut aliquæ certe reliquæ sint.--_Conc. Carth._,
     v, _Can._ 14.

     [238] Sulpitii Severi, _Vita Martini_, cap. viii. Julian recoiled
     from relic worship as from the stench of dead men’s bones. He
     compared the churches to whited sepulchres full of rottenness and
     of all uncleanness.

     [239] Greg. Max., _Epis._ iv.

     [240] At the time of the Reformation the reputed fragments of the
     true cross, it is said, would have freighted a large ship. The
     relics of the saints were hawked about the country from house to
     house by pedlers who farmed their sale, paying a percentage to
     the church or abbey to which they belonged. D’Aubigné’s _Hist.
     Ref._, i., c. 3.

     [241] On one occasion the blood refused to liquefy, on account,
     said the priests, of the malign influence of the French. The
     French general sent word that unless the miracle took place
     within an hour his cannon should blow the church about their
     ears. The blood liquefied immediately.

     [242] The affidavit of its subject attests the miraculous cure,
     probably of hysteria or hypochondria, recently wrought by a relic
     from the Catacombs at the _Hôtel Dieu_ in Montreal, Canada.

     [243] A nail of the true cross, says Gregory of Tours, thrown
     into the Adriatic by Queen Radegunda, made it thenceforth one of
     the safest seas to navigate instead of one of the stormiest.--_De
     Gloria Martyrum._ Of another, Constantine made a bit for his

     [244] The Iron Crown of Lombardy the Roman Congregation of Relics
     has declared to be a sacred talisman, being made of a nail of the
     Crucifixion, although the first authentic mention of it occurs in
     the midnight of the dark ages, A. D. 888. From the time of
     Charles V. no sovereign ventured to wear this sacred crown till
     Napoleon, seeking to consecrate his usurped authority, with his
     own hand placed it on his head at Milan, A. D. 1805, with the
     vaunting words, “God hath given it me; let him take heed who
     touches it.”--_Dieu me l’a donnée; gare à qui la touche._ It was
     carried off from the cathedral of Monza by the Austrians in 1859.

     [245] On marble tablets in the Church of St. Prassede, in Rome,
     is an enumeration of its precious treasures, among which are a
     tooth of St. Peter and one of St. Paul, part of the chemise of
     the Virgin Mary--_de camisia beatæ Mariæ Virginis_, part of
     Christ’s girdle--_de cingulo D. N. Jesu Christi_, part of Moses’
     rod, some of the earth on which Christ prayed, also of the reed
     and sponge, three spines of the crown of thorns, part of the
     towel with which he washed his disciples’ feet, part of the
     swaddling clothes--_pannis_--in which he was wrapped at his
     nativity, and part of the seamless robe--_de veste inconsutili_.
     The whole of this robe was formerly exhibited at Trêves, where
     the deluded votaries of this Christian idolatry invoked its
     intercession in the formula, “Holy Coat, pray for us!” In the
     year 1854, in the official “Gazette of Vienna,” it was announced
     that the tooth of St. Peter, given by Pius IX. to the Emperor of
     Austria, would be for four days exposed to the sight and homage
     of the faithful. Before the Reformation these relics were still
     more puerile and absurd, and calculated to provoke a smile or
     sneer as the humourist or the cynic predominated in the observer.
     At the Church of All Saints at Wittemberg, says D’Aubigné, were
     shown a fragment of Noah’s ark, some soot from the furnace of the
     Three Hebrew Children, and nineteen thousand other relics. At
     Schaffhausen was exhibited the breath of St. Joseph that
     Nicodemus had received in his glove. At Wurtemberg might be seen
     a feather plucked from the wing of the archangel Michael. (_Hist.
     Ref._, i, c. 3.) Heywood, in his interlude of “The Four P’s,” one
     of whom was a Pardoner, among his “relykes,” enumerates “Of
     All-hallowes (that is, All-Saints) the blessed jaw-bone,” the
     great toe of the Trinity, and others in which is a still stranger
     mixture of absurdity and blasphemy. (See “Inquiry into the Origin
     of the Reformation,” by the present writer, in _Evangel. Repos._,
     London, Eng., Feb., 1865.) Augustine says the dung-heap on which
     Job sat was still visited in his day! In St. Peter’s at Rome is
     exhibited a coin said to be one of the thirty pieces of _gold_
     (?) for which Judas betrayed his Master. They were made,
     according to the legend, by Terah, Abraham’s father, who was a
     famous artificer under King Nimrod. They were the price of the
     field of Ephron, and also the coins with which Joseph was bought,
     and with which his brethren purchased corn in Egypt. Despite the
     anachronism, Moses is said to have given them as a dowry to the
     Queen of Sheba, who presented them to Solomon. Nebuchadnezzar, it
     is alleged, carried them away, and the Magi brought them back as
     an offering to Christ. Finally Mary cast them into the treasury
     of the Temple, whence the priests gave them to Judas for his
     perfidy. (See _Bingham_, xiv, 4, § 18.)

     The stone upon which the sovereigns of England are crowned is,
     according to a venerable tradition, that which formed Jacob’s
     pillow at Bethel.

     In the cathedral of Genoa is deposited the wonderful cup known in
     history as the Holy Grail, which in times of yore was the object
     of so many knightly quests, and more recently the subject of so
     many stately epics. It was a vessel composed of a single emerald
     originally, (so runs the legend,) the marvellous cup wherewith
     Joseph divined--the cup put into the mouth of Benjamin’s sack. It
     was also the mystical cup of wisdom of Solomon, and, at length,
     that out of which Christ partook of the Last Supper. Hence its
     name, San Greal, that is, _sanguis realis_, the real blood.
     Joseph of Arimathea brought it to Britain, but it mysteriously
     disappeared in consequence of the laxness of the times. How it
     came to Genoa does not clearly appear. From the time of Wolfram
     von Eschenbach, a minnesinger of the thirteenth century, down to
     Tennyson and Lowell, this has been a favourite subject of poetry.
     See an article on the legend, by the writer, in _Harper’s
     Weekly_, Feb. 5, 1870.

     [246] As recently as the year 1870 the alleged relics of a newly
     discovered St. Aureliana, a virgin martyr of the third century,
     who is supposed to have been a member of the family of the Roman
     emperor Aurelian, were transferred, with many religious
     ceremonies, from the Catacombs to Cincinnati, in the United
     States. In the Roman Catholic cathedral at Buffalo, N. Y., is a
     slab from the Catacombs with the inscription, DP · PEREGRINVS XII
     KAL · MARTIAS Q · VIXIT · M · --“Peregrinus, buried the twelfth
     day before the calends of March, who lived ... months.” He was,
     therefore, an infant; yet he is claimed to be a martyr, and a wax
     figure of an adult man with gaping wounds exhibits the alleged
     mode of his death. At its feet is placed what is said to be a
     phial of the martyr’s blood. In the same church are also what is
     described as “a large piece of the true cross on which trickled
     the sacred blood of Christ,” and “particles of the bones of
     Saints Peter and Paul and of many other holy martyrs.”

     Maitland quotes an account from Mabillon of the reverence paid to
     a certain St. Viar, founded on the discovery of a stone bearing
     the letters S · VIAR. This was, however, found to be a fragment of
     the inscription _PRAEFECTV_S · VIAR_VM_--“Curator of the Ways.”
     There is absolutely no warrant whatever for such assumptions as
     these. There is not in the whole range of Christian epigraphy a
     single contemporary inscription of unquestioned genuineness which
     can lead to the identification of the remains, name, and date of
     a primitive martyr.

     [247] Le plupart des corps saints trouvés dans les Catacombes
     manquant de noms propre, ont reçu lorsqu’on les a exposés à la
     vénération publique, des noms de circonstance, qui n’ont qu’une
     signification vague; comme Felix, Fortunatus, Victor.--_Année
     Liturgique à Rome_, p. 151.

     [248] _Childe Harold._ Boniface IV. is said to have previously
     transferred twenty-eight cartloads of relics from the Catacombs
     to this place. He thus, as we read in barbaric verse on his
     epitaph in the crypt of St. Peter’s, purified the shrine of all
     the demons, and dedicated it to all the saints:

                                        “--Templa ...
          Delubra cunctorum fuerant quæ demonorum (_sic_)
          Hic expurgavit sanctis cunctisque dicavit.”

     [249] Quasi spelunca di ladron son fatti,
           Tal ch’à buon solamente uscio si chiude;
           E tra le altari, e tra statue ignude,
           Ogni impressa crudel par che si tratti.
                                              _Canzone xi._

     [250] This ancient use of the Catacombs has not been forgotten in
     modern times. That intrepid pontiff, Pius VII., rather than yield
     to the demands of the first Napoleon, threatened to retire to
     those gloomy recesses which had sheltered so many of the
     primitive bishops.

     [251] MacFarlane, p. 36.

     [252] _Ibid._, 49, 50.

     [253] “Fuit hic ad visitandum sanctum locum istum.”

     [254] “Quidem Scoti hic fuerunt.”

     [255] “Cum magnâ cometivâ.”

     [256] “Unanimes antiquitatis amatores.”

                            CHAPTER IV.                                  150


It would seem that the rediscovery of the Catacombs was providentially
reserved to a period especially adapted for their profitable study. In
the fullness of time, when the great Reformation was emancipating the
minds of men from the trammels of superstition, and long-venerated
beliefs and usages were being compared with the still older primitive
faith and practice, this marvellous testimony of the purity, simplicity,
and piety of the early church was unveiled. These Christian evidences,
which have no parallel save in the sacred scriptures themselves, after
having been sealed up during the dark ages of ignorance and
superstition, were brought to light in a period of intellectual
quickening and revived classical learning, which stimulated the minds
of men to the study of the past and to the rescue from oblivion of the
priceless remains of antiquity. The newly-invented printing-press and
the engraver’s burin preserved the record of much that has since
perished; and Roman archæologists, seeking in the monuments of
antiquity for corroboration of papal doctrine and practice, brought to
light the disproof of their existence in the early ages of the church.
A rejection of this testimony would invalidate _all_ monumental
evidence, whether sacred or secular, concerning the past.

The rediscovery of this subterranean city took place in the year 1578.   151
Some labourers digging _pozzolana_ in a vineyard on the Salarian
Way came suddenly upon an ancient cemetery,[257] with its paintings,
inscriptions, sarcophagi, and graves. The event produced a profound
sensation in Rome. The city was amazed, says Baronius, who himself
examined and described the newly-discovered Catacomb, at finding
beneath her suburbs long-concealed Christian colonies.[258] These
ancient shrines became again favourite places of devotion. Here, among
others, St. Charles Borromeo and St. Philip Neri spent whole nights in

The earliest systematic explorers of the Catacombs were Alfonso
Ciacconio, a Spanish priest, and Philip de Winghe and Jean
l’Heureux,[259] two Flemish laymen. The voluminous MSS. and drawings
of the two former, however, were never published, and they lie buried
in those vast cemeteries of literature, the libraries of Rome, Naples,
Brussels, and Paris. The valuable MS. of l’Heureux, the result of
twenty years’ labour, although ready for publication, and even
licensed for printing, in 1605, remained unprinted for two centuries
and a half, when it was given to the public by Padre Garrucci under
the appropriate title of _Hagioglypta_.[260] Such a lengthened
period between licensing and publication is probably unparalleled in
literary history.

To Antonio Bosio, a native of Malta and an advocate by profession,       152
belongs the honour of first unveiling to the astonished gaze of Europe
the wonders of this vast city of the dead. He has well been called the
Columbus of this subterranean world. Inspired and sustained by a lofty
enthusiasm, he spent six and thirty years groping among those gloomy
corridors, deciphering the half-effaced inscriptions, and making
drawings of the remains of early Christian art. So habituated did he
become to this troglodytic existence that the Cimmerian gloom of the
Catacombs was more grateful to his eyes than the light of day, which
dazzled and almost blinded him. His labours were prodigious, and often
both severe and perilous. He had frequently to force a passage with
his own hands through the accumulated rubbish of centuries, and was
constantly in danger, in the zeal of exploration, of being lost in the
windings of the galleries, from which danger he had some narrow
escapes. In his great work he describes himself as rushing along with
breathless haste, the desire with which he burned adding wings to his
weary feet. Again he is creeping serpent-wise through the low and
crumbling passages, consoling himself for the difficulty and
discomfort by the thought that this lowly attitude befitted the humble
and reverent spirit in which a place consecrated by such memories
ought to be approached. But he was rewarded for all his toil by the
discovery of “pictures bright with the colours of yesterday, and
characters still sharp and angular from the primeval graving tool.”

The elder D’Israeli has cited Bosio as an illustrious example of the
enthusiasm of genius. “Taking with him a hermit’s meal for the week,”
he remarks, “this new Pliny often descended into the bowels of the
earth by lamp-light, clearing away the sand and ruins till some tomb     153
broke forth or some inscription became legible, tracing the mouldering
sculpture and catching the fading picture. Thrown back into the
primitive ages of Christianity amidst the local impressions, the
historian of the Christian Catacombs collected the memorials of an age
and of a race which were hidden beneath the earth.”[261]

The literary industry of this pioneer explorer was immense. He
carefully examined all the Latin, Greek, and Oriental Fathers; all the
ecclesiastical records, canons, and decrees of councils; the lives of
the saints, the acts of the martyrs--everything, in fact, which could
illustrate the history of the Catacombs and of the early church. The
result of these labours is seen in the bulky MS. volumes, of many
thousand pages, written with his own hand, which are still extant in
the Oratorian Library at Rome. He was not permitted to see the
publication of his great work, in which was disclosed to the world the
wonderful _terra incognita_ lying so long hidden beneath the busy
life of the Eternal City, but died while writing the last chapter. It
was too valuable a contribution to Christian archæology, however, to
remain unpublished, and it was given to the world, under the
appropriate title of “Subterranean Rome,”[262] in the year 1632, or
five years after its author’s death.

This book contains an admirable topographical account of each cemetery
which he had explored, taking in order the great consular roads
leading from the city. Bosio’s attempted identification of the
cemeteries and principal tombs and shrines described in the ancient      154
ecclesiastical records is not always sufficiently accurate. He is
rather uncritical and confused in his arrangement, although honest
and, in matters of personal observation, exact. His work is of great
value as giving an account of many crypts and monuments, and copies of
many paintings which have perished through the decay or vandalism of
the last two hundred years, or whose position has been forgotten.
Among these is the Jewish Cemetery before mentioned, of which no
evidence is extant save Bosio’s description. His name, written in his
own peculiarly bold style, is met with in many of the newly opened
galleries of the Catacombs, showing that he had previously explored
those parts since filled with earth.

Many objects of priceless value have been lost since Bosio’s day by
the desultory and unsystematic excavations of private and independent
explorers. These were conducted, not upon a system of enlightened
archæological research, but upon mere caprice; and were guided too
often by a superstitious zeal for the identification and translation
of the relics of the saints, or by the more sordid motive of
trafficking in their remains, or of pillaging the gold and silver with
which some of the more illustrious shrines were still adorned. In this
quest many paintings, sculptures, and inscriptions were destroyed or
defaced of which no record has been preserved. After the year 1688 the
excavations were pursued under pontifical supervision, though often
neglected through indifference or embarrassed by want of funds.

In 1651 a Latin translation of Bosio’s great work[263] was published     155
by Padre Aringhi, a learned Oratorian priest, who added numerous
important discoveries of his own. This book has been largely consulted
in the preparation of these pages, collated, of course, with more
recent and more accurate explorers.

The Catacombs were now frequently visited by travellers, who have left
a record of their impressions in their published works. Among these
were two distinguished Englishmen, John Evelyn and Bishop Burnet. The
sturdy Protestantism of the latter, rejecting the unwarranted
inferences drawn by the Roman archæologists from this testimony of the
primitive ages, was betrayed into an unjust skepticism as to the
character of that testimony. He does not scruple to affirm that “those
burying places that are graced with the pompous title of Catacombs are
no other than the _puticoli_ mentioned by Festus Pompeius, where
the meanest sort of the Roman slaves were laid,” and that they did not
come into the possession of the Christians till the fourth or fifth
century.[264] A more careful or more candid examination of those early
evidences of Christianity would have shown him the error of this
statement, in which he has been followed by Misson, a French
Protestant, and by some other writers.

In 1681 Bertoli published an interesting work on the sepulchral lamps
of the Catacombs[265] with numerous illustrations; but a more valuable
contribution to the literature of this subject was a collection of
Christian epitaphs[266] by Raphael Fabretti, for many years custodian    156
of these sacred crypts, who prevented the wholesale destruction of the
inscriptions by their careless removal. The learned Benedictine,
Mabillon, personally examined the evidences of the Catacombs, and
wrote a treatise concerning the reverence of the unknown saints.[267]
This led to the publication, under the patronage of Clement XI., of a
theological and apologetic, rather than scientific, treatise on the
cemeteries of the holy martyrs and early Christians of Rome,[268] by
Marc Antonio Boldetti, the successor, for thirty years, of Fabretti,
as _custode_ of the Catacombs. But in his case, as in that of several
other Roman archæologists, theological zeal was allied with
antiquarian enthusiasm, and sometimes impaired or destroyed the value
of his researches.

Gruter’s vast collection of ancient inscriptions,[269] published early
in the century, and more especially that of Muratori,[270] were
valuable contributions to Christian epigraphy. The learned Jesuit,
Marangoni, prepared the material of a systematic work on the
topographical principle of Bosio, when the labour of nearly a score of
years was destroyed by fire. “It seems,” says De Rossi, recording the
event, “that the literary history of the Catacombs is but an Iliad of
disaster and irreparable losses.”

The next name of distinction that we meet in connection with this
subject is that of Bottari, equally versed in profane and sacred
antiquities. His great work on the sculpture and paintings of the        157
Catacombs[271] was issued from the Vatican press, under the patronage
of Clement XII., during the years 1737-1754. Other archæologists,
among whom we may enumerate Buonarrotti, Mamachi,[272] Marini, Lupi,
Zaccaria,[273] Danzetta,[274] Olivieri, Borgia, and others,
illustrated the subject in various works during the eighteenth
century. The establishment of the Christian Museum in the Vatican by
Benedict XIV. greatly facilitated the study of these antiquities. The
taste for archæological research, however, even among ecclesiastics,
was principally confined to the remains of pagan antiquity; and amid
the many museums of Rome only one was devoted to the Christian
monuments of the primitive ages, of which such vast treasures lay
buried in the earth.

During the present century important contributions have been made to
the literature of the Catacombs by D’Agincourt,[275] Röstell,[276]
Raoul-Rochette,[277] the Abbés Gaume[278] and Gerbet,[279] Bishop        158
Munter,[280] Cardinal Mai,[281] and especially Padres Marchi[282] and

Cardinal Wiseman, in his beautiful tale of Fabiola,[283] attempts to
rehabilitate the primitive ages in the garb of modern Romanism. He
brings together from widely different periods the legends and
traditions, often based on very scanty evidence, which are most
favourable to the claims of ultramontanism, and thus completely
destroys the historic value of the work, rendering it in essence, as
it is in form, a mere romance.

The most magnificent contribution to the literature of the Catacombs,
at least in point of artistic excellence and costliness, is the superb
work of M. Perret,[284] in six huge folio volumes, with some five
hundred coloured drawings, two thirds of which were never before
copied, and as many _fac-simile_ inscriptions. It was prepared
under the direction of the French Academy of Inscriptions, and by a
vote of the Legislative Assembly of the French Republic of 1851 a
grant of one hundred and eighty thousand francs was given to defray
the cost. No expense was spared in its production. An able corps of      159
artists and architects were employed for several years in the
undertaking. The galleries and _cubicula_ are represented in elaborate
drawings, plans, and sections, and many of the frescoes are copied
full size. In these latter, however, the artists have injudiciously
endeavoured to reproduce the original force, colour, and expression,
instead of giving _fac-similes_ of the faded, and often
half-obliterated, paintings. Many of the pictures have, therefore, a
pre-Raphaelite beauty, which destroys their value as accurate
representations of the art of the Catacombs. It is to be regretted
that the letter-press which accompanies these plates is not more
worthy of the general magnificence of this splendid work. “It is
strung together,” says the writer already quoted,[285] “without
discrimination or critical research, and conveys a very inaccurate
notion of the results which scientific inquiry, as opposed to mere
ecclesiastical tradition, has now reached.” We have rarely ventured to
make a statement on its authority unless corroborated by more
authentic testimony, but many of its accurate drawings of subterranean
architecture enhance the value of these pages.

All previous explorers, however, are left far behind by the invaluable
labours of the Cavaliere De Rossi, the present _custode_ of the
Catacombs, and head of the Roman archæological commission. His
profound knowledge of Christian antiquities, his unchallenged candour
and honesty of statement, his patience and ingenuity in exploration,
his scientific method, accurate observation, and careful deductions,     160
place him far beyond any of his predecessors in this fascinating but
difficult field of inquiry. While, however, his statements of facts
may always be relied upon, his theoretical conclusions must sometimes
be received with caution, in consequence of that seemingly inevitable
tendency in Roman Catholic writers to discover ancient evidences in
favour of their modern belief and practice where they can be found by
no one else.

The Catacombs are now placed under the jurisdiction of the Roman
Cardinal Vicar, assisted by a commission of sacred archæology
appointed by the present pontiff. As far as the comparatively limited
means at their command will allow, they zealously prosecute the
excavation and exploration of this subterranean Rome with a systematic
method which has already been attended with remarkable success, and
which promises the most happy results in the future. From its
crumbling ruins, paintings, decorations, and inscriptions of different
ages, De Rossi reconstructs its history, often with the greatest
minuteness and fidelity. His _Roma Sotterranea_[286] contains a
general history of the Catacombs on the principle adopted in this
volume, and a particular analysis of that of Callixtus, embodying his
most important discoveries. The learned author is also publishing a
complete collection of all the Christian inscriptions of the first
seven centuries found in the vicinity of Rome. The first volume[287]
contains all those with consular dates, which are invaluable as fixing   161
the chronology of the Catacombs and as evidences of doctrine, showing
its gradual corruption in later times. De Rossi also edits a bimonthly
journal--the _Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana_--in which the
new discoveries are announced.

Dr. Maitland has the honour of being the first English writer on this
subject, with the exception of the incidental allusions of travellers
like Evelyn and Burnet. His admirable volume on the “Church in the
Catacombs” is one of great interest, but having been written thirty
years ago is quite out of date; and the recent discoveries of De Rossi
and others have shown some of its conclusions, especially on the
origin of the Catacombs, to be erroneous. His chapters on religious
art and symbolism are of permanent value, and the theological bearing
of these Christian evidences has been discussed with great candour and

In 1852 Mr. MacFarlane published a small volume giving a popular
account of the Catacombs, making no reference, however, to their
doctrinal teachings. “I have,” he says, “carefully avoided
controversy.” The Rev. J. W. Burgon’s “Letters from Rome” contain some
valuable chapters on this subject. The Rev. J. Spencer Northcote,
D.D., a Roman Catholic clergyman, published in 1857 a compendious
“Account of the Burial-places of the Early Christians in Rome,”
compiled chiefly from Padre Marchi, whose strongly Romanist views he
fully adopted. In conjunction with the Rev. W. R. Brownlow, M.A., he
published in 1869 the results of De Rossi’s labours in a condensed       162
form, with reduced copies of many of his plates. With the same reserve
as in the case of his former volume, this is a valuable contribution
to the literature of this subject.[288] More recently the Rev. W. B.
Marriott, B.D., has written a work entitled “The Testimony of the
Catacombs,” consisting of three monographs illustrating the
development of the _cultus_ of Mary, the gradual encroachments of
the papal see, as indicated in Christian art, and a critical analysis
of the celebrated Autun inscription.

In America, the Right Rev. Wm. Ingraham Kip, D.D., published in 1853 a
little book of a popular character, giving an account of the
Catacombs, chiefly from Maitland, MacFarlane, and Aringhi. The
authorities on which it is based, however, have since been superseded,
and some of the views which they held disproved by recent discovery.

The only remaining work to be mentioned as illustrating this subject
is an admirable volume on Christian epigraphy[289] by the Rev. John
McCaul, LL.D. The learned author’s expansions, interpretations, and
emendations of the frequently elliptical, obscure, and ungrammatical
inscriptions of the Catacombs and other early Christian cemeteries,
and the reconstruction from a few mutilated fragments of important       163
historic evidence, seem to the uninitiated more a sort of divination
than a process of reasoning.[290]

     [257] The Catacomb of St. Priscilla.

     [258] Ipsamet urbs obstupuit, cum abditas in suis suburbiis se
     novit habere civitatis Christianorum colonias.--_Ann. Eccl._,
     ann. 130. It is singular that in the very year of their
     rediscovery Onophrius Pavinius, an Augustinian friar, published
     an account of the Christian cemeteries entirely from the ancient
     documents of the church. Only three of them were then accessible,
     those of Sebastian, Lawrence, and Valentine.

     [259] Grecised into Joannes Macarius.

     [260] Paris, 1856.

     [261] _Essay on the Literary Character._ Eng. ed., p. 144.

     [262] _Roma Sotteranea, opera postuma di Antonio Bosio composta
     disposta ed accresciuta da Giovanni di Severano, Sacerdote della
     Congregazione dell’Oratorio._ Roma, 1632.

     MacFarlane and Kip are in error as to the period of Bosio’s
     labours, antedating them about thirty years.

     [263] _Roma Subterranea novissima post Ant. Bosium et Joan.
     Severanum._ Romæ, 1651. Two vols. fol. It is said that there
     are only two copies of this work in America. Aringhi’s version,
     being in Latin, is better known out of Italy than the Italian
     treatises of Bosio, Boldetti, or Bottari.

     [264] “Letters from Italy in 1685 and 1686.” Rotterdam. Pp. 209.

     [265] _Li antichi lucerni sepolcrali figurante raccolte dale cave
     sotterranea e grotte di Roma._ Roma, 1681.

     [266] _Inscriptionum antiquarum quæ in ædibus paternis
     asservantur etc._ Romæ, 1702.

     [267] _De Cultu Sanctorum Ignotorum._

     [268] _Osservazioni sopra i cemeteri dei SS. Martiri ed antichi
     cristiani di Roma._ Roma, 1720.

     [269] _Inscriptiones Antiquæ._ Amstelodami, 1707.

     [270] _Novus Thesaurus Veterum Inscriptionum._ Mediolani, 1739.

     [271] _Sculture e Pitture Sacre estratte dai Cimeteri di Roma._

     [272] His _Originum et Antiquitatum Christianorum_, Roma,
     1749-51, treats especially on the sarcophagi of the Catacombs.

     [273] This celebrated Jesuit projected a work “On the Use of
     Ancient Christian Inscriptions in Theology.” See Migne, _Cursus
     Completus Theolog._, vol. v, pp. 309, etc.

     [274] Danzetta continued Zaccaria’s plan. His work, which he
     called _Theologia Lapidaria_, left unfinished, was undertaken by
     Geatano Marini, who spent many years collecting materials to
     embrace the first ten centuries. He was interrupted by the French
     Revolution, and his thirty-one volumes of MS. in the Vatican are
     an unfinished monument of his learning and industry.

     [275] In _L’Histoire de L’Art par les Monumens_. Six vols. fol.
     Paris. D’Agincourt came to Rome intending to spend six months in
     the study of this subject, but its fascination so grew upon him
     that it occupied the remaining fifty years of his life.

     [276] In Bunsen’s _Beschreibung der Stadt Rom_. Stuttgard, 1830.

     [277] _Mémoire sur les antiquités Chrétiennes des Catacombes._
     (_Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscr., XIII._) See also _Tableau des

     [278] In _Les Trois Romes_.

     [279] _Esquisse de Rome Chrétienne._

     [280] _Sinnbilder und Kunstvorstellungen der Alten Christen._

     [281] _Veterum Scriptorum Nova Collectio._ Roma, 1831.

     [282] _Monumenti delle Arti Cristiane Primitive nella Metropoli
     del Cristianesimo._ Roma, 1844. The political troubles of the
     year 1848 prevented its completion. The theological zeal of this
     writer, however, has in many cases biassed his judgment. “In
     every page of his work,” says a critic in the Edinburgh Review,
     (January, 1859, Am. ed. ccxxi, p. 48,) “an exuberant desire to
     find evidence in support of the later Romish doctrine among these
     records of the primitive church predominates over every other

     [283] London, 1857.

     [284] _Les Catacombes de Rome, par Louis Perret._ Six vols.,
     fol. Paris, 1852-57. This book costs in the United States $600.
     Only three copies are known to be in America. One of these is a
     gift from the late emperor of the French to the parliamentary
     library of Canada.

     [285] Edinburgh Review, January, 1859, p. 48. De Rossi speaks
     with tenderness of this superb edition--_la grandiza
     edizione_--which, in spite of its defects--_mal grado i suoi
     difetti_--is a valuable contribution to the literature of the

     [286] _Roma Sotterranea Cristiana._ Roma, 1864-67. Four vols.
     fol., two of text and two of plates, which are of great fidelity.
     The text is from the Vatican press. The plates bear the imprint

     [287] _Inscriptiones Christianæ Urbis Romæ Septimo Sæculo
     Antiquiores._ Romæ. One vol. fol., 1857-61. It is dedicated to
     the present pope, “Another Damasus, who has brought to light the
     monuments of the martyrs ... overwhelmed with ruin.”--“Pio IX.,
     Pont. Max. alteri Damaso, qui monumenta martyrum,... ruinis
     obstructa in lucem revocat.” Both of these works, which embody
     the result of the most recent explorations, have been laid under
     tribute in the preparation of these pages. Several of the
     illustrations are from the same sources.

     [288] _Roma Sotterranea._ London, 1869. 8vo., pp. 414. It sells
     in New York for about $16 00.

     [289] “Christian Epitaphs of the First Six Centuries,” by the
     Rev. John McCaul, LL.D., President of University College,
     Toronto. Toronto and London, 1869. Dr. McCaul was previously well
     known to the archæological world by his learned volume on
     Brittanno-Romano Inscriptions, a work which has elicited the
     commendations of the highest critical authorities in Europe. The
     writer of these pages has been greatly assisted by his veteran
     scholarship and critical revision of the text.

     [290] Among the smaller treatises on the Catacombs, and separate
     articles in the encyclopædias and journals of higher literature,
     may be mentioned the following, most of which have been consulted
     in the preparation of these pages: Remusat, _Musée Chrétien de
     Rome_; _Revue des Deux Mondes_, Juin 15, 1863; _Revue
     Chrétienne_, Mai, 1864; Jehan, _Dict. des Origin. du Christ._,
     pp. 212, 89; Martigny, _Dict. des Antiq. Chrét._, p. 106; Bouix,
     _Théologie des Catacombes_, Arras, 1864; Piper, _Mythologie und
     Symbolik der Christlichen Kunst_, Weimar, pp. 184, 51, and _Die
     Graben Schriften der Altenten Christen_ in _Evang. Kallendar_
     1855, p. 27, 1827, p. 37; _Edin. Rev._, January, 1859, and July,
     1864; _Contemp. Rev._, September, 1866, and May, 1872;
     _Monumental Theology_, by Prof. Bennett, in _Meth. Quar. Rev._,
     January and April, 1871; M’Clintock and Strong, _Cyclopædia_, _in
     verbo_. In the _History of Sacred Art in Italy_, by C. L. Hemans,
     son of the poetess, are two interesting chapters on the
     Catacombs, and valuable notes of ancient art, _passim_. Seymour’s
     _Mornings with the Jesuits_ has some interesting paragraphs on
     this subject, as has also Prof. Silliman’s _Visit to Europe_. The
     Rev. Wm. Arthur, M.A., has an able Exeter Hall lecture on the
     Catacombs. In Murray’s _Hand-Book of Rome_, ed. of 1867, is some
     interesting information on this topic. In _Harper’s Mag._, April,
     1865, is a popular article by Prof. Greene, U. S. Consul at Rome.
     In Schaff’s _Ch. Hist._, 1, § 93; _Killen’s Anc. Ch._, pp.
     348-351; Stanley’s _Eastern Churches_, and Milman, _passim_, are
     interesting references to the subject. In Westcrop’s _Hand-Book
     of Archæology_, London, 1867, and in the _Dict. Épig.
     Chrétienne_, Paris, 1852, are valuable contributions on the
     epigraphy of the Catacombs. Didron’s _Iconographie Chrétienne_,
     Paris, 1841; Lord Lindsay’s _Hist. of Art_, London, 1847; Lübke’s
     _History of Art_, London, 1869; Mrs. Jameson’s _Sacred Art_,
     Tyrwhitt’s _Christian Art and Symbolism_, and Hare’s _Walks About
     Rome_, have also been laid under contribution.

                             CHAPTER V.                                  164


Before leaving this division of our subject we will take a rapid
survey of the more remarkable of that vast system of Christian
cemeteries that engirdles the city of Rome. It will be more convenient
to notice them in topographical order, beginning with those on the
Appian Way, and sweeping around the city to the north-west, over the
great roads on the borders of which the Catacombs are chiefly
situated. The ground near these roads is honeycombed with sepulchral
excavations, to which there are said to be six hundred entrances
scattered over the Campagna. Bosio found them in almost every vineyard
near the Salarian Way. In some of these the peasants keep their wine,
although their fears prevent them from venturing far from the mouth;
and sometimes villas fall in through the subsidence of the soil.

The various groups of crypts have been known by different names at
different periods, or even at the same period; and it is sometimes
difficult or impossible to disentangle the conflicting accounts, and
to identify the cemeteries to which the ancient names were
applied. The original records--the martyrologies and the _Liber
Pontificalis_[291]--are sometimes utterly unreliable, and the
very existence of the saints and martyrs whose lives are recorded is     165
often exceedingly apocryphal; and even if their traditions are in the
main correct, it is in many cases doubtful if they are buried in the
Catacombs which bear their names. Frequently, however, these
traditions are confirmed by inscriptions and other monumental
evidence, which establish beyond doubt the identity of the Catacomb,
as in the case of that of Callixtus and others which we shall notice.

  [Illustration: Fig. 25.--Tombs on Appian Way.]

Southeastward from the ancient Porta Capena of the city of Rome
stretches the celebrated Appian Way, the most remarkable of those vast
arteries of commerce along which flowed to the most distant provinces
the vital currents from the great heart of the empire. This “Queen of
Roads,”[292] as it was proudly called, was lined on either side by the
stately tombs in which reposed the ashes of the mighty dead.[293] “The   166
history of Christian Rome,” says Padre Marchi,[294] “gives to this
same road titles of glory incomparably more solid, just, and
indisputable. We are forced to acknowledge it as the queen of
Christian roads by reason of the greater number and extent of its
cemeteries, and still more by the greater number and celebrity of its
martyrs.” Under the present pontiff this historic highway has been
excavated and opened for travel as far as Albano; and one may now
traverse that avenue of tombs on the very causeway on which Horace and
Virgil, Augustus and Mæcenas, Cicero and Seneca, must often have
entered Rome. But it is invested with a profounder interest as the way
by which the great Apostle of the Gentiles approached the city, “an
ambassador in bonds,” to preach the gospel in Rome also, and to finish
his testimony by a glorious martyrdom. By this very road also,
according to an ancient tradition, his body was stealthily conveyed by
night and deposited in an adjacent Catacomb; and here wended many a
mourning procession bearing to those lowly crypts the remains of Rome’s  167
early bishops, martyrs, and confessors.

The ancient Porta Capena, with the dripping aqueduct above it,[295]
have disappeared, and the fountain of Egeria, trampled by cattle, is
no longer the haunt of nymph or naiad. Passing through the modern
Sebastian gate and crossing the classic Almo, the traveller reaches at
a short distance the little church of _Domine quo vadis_, with which
is connected one of the most beautiful legends of the martyrology.[296]

About a mile and three quarters from the city he comes to Vigna
Animendola, on the doorway leading to which is a marble tablet with
the words COEMETERIVM S. CALLIXTI. Beneath this vineyard lies the
celebrated Catacomb of Callixtus, of which we propose to enter into a
somewhat detailed description, as it will give greater definiteness      168
to the general conceptions already received, and will serve as
typical example of the origin and history of the Catacombs in general.

In the year 1849 De Rossi found in a cellar in this vineyard a broken
marble slab with the mutilated inscription ELIVS · MARTYR, and at the
beginning the upper part of the letters RN. He immediately conjectured
that this was a fragment of the tombstone of Cornelius, a Roman bishop
of the third century, whose sepulchre would probably be found not far
off. At his persuasion the pope purchased the vineyard, and the
archæological commission began the work of excavation. They were
rewarded by some of the most remarkable discoveries which have yet
been made.

The cemetery is situated between the Via Appia and the Via Ardeatina,
which are connected by narrow cross-roads. De Rossi has prepared a map
of the principal part of it, divided into fifteen rectilinear and
generally rectangular areas. The dimensions of these areas are not
fractional but round numbers, as 100, 125, 150, and 250 feet, which
cannot be the result of accident, and, with other evidences, indicate
that they were, like similar pagan sepulchral areas, originally so
many separate places of burial. When brought under the ecclesiastical
control of Callixtus, about A. D. 200, they probably received one
common name, became structurally united, and were used as a public
cemetery of the church.

The first of these areas which we reach on entering the vineyard is
that known as the crypt of St. Lucina. It has a frontage of one
hundred feet on the Via Appia, and an extension _in agro_ of two
hundred and thirty feet. The limits of this area are exactly defined
by the presence of a small pagan _hypogæum_ on each side, which
the Christians dared not undermine. In the centre, near the road, is     169
a massive monument, shown in the section of this crypt, Fig. 14, which
De Rossi conjectures to have been a Christian mausoleum,[297] quoting
Tertullian[298] as a witness that they had _monumenta et mausolea_ at
a very early period.[299] This is more probable from the fact that the
property belonged to the noble Roman family of the Cæcilii, with which
Cicero was connected, many of whose tombs were found in the
neighbourhood. This probably explains its vicinity to the stately
mausoleum of Cæcilia Metella. The names of many Cæcilii and other
noble Roman families are also found on epitaphs in this crypt. This
was unquestionably one of the most ancient areas of the Catacombs.

In this area, in 1852, the remaining portion of the epitaph of
Cornelius was found at the foot of the tomb to which it evidently
belonged, in a gallery of unusual width.

This tomb is flanked by pilasters covered with fine white stucco, and
a mutilated inscription in the well-known manner of Damasus
commemorates its adornment by that pontiff. Numerous _graffiti_
indicate that this was a favourite shrine. Faded frescoes of
Cornelius, Cyprian, and two other bishops, wearing the stole, tonsure,
and nimbus, are attributed by De Rossi to the ninth century. Beside
the tomb is a short column of masonry, covered with stucco, which
probably sustained an altar or the vase of oil in which tapers were
anciently burned before the shrines of the martyrs;[300] indeed, the
fragments of such a vase have been found among the rubbish of the        170
tomb. Among the relics sent by Gregory the Great to Queen Theodelinda,
according to the list still extant in the cathedral of Monza, said to
be in the handwriting of that pope, is one _ex oleo S. Cornelii_,
which must have come from this spot.

When the area of Lucina became crowded with tombs another of the same
size was opened about a hundred yards off. It contains the celebrated
“Papal Crypt,” the tomb of St. Cecilia, and other monuments of the
greatest interest. We will give a somewhat detailed account of the
construction and successive changes of this area, following the
skilful analysis of De Rossi, who has given accurate plans, sections,
and measurements of the whole. It extended, as is shown by the dotted
lines in the accompanying plan, two hundred and fifty feet along the
narrow cross-road marked M N, and one hundred feet _in agro_.
This would, in the first place, be secured as a burial-ground by the
Christian owner with the proper legal forms, which, we have seen,
protected the places of sepulture from invasion or disturbance till
the times of the later persecution. Openings were then made from the
surface at A and B, and stairways constructed reaching to a depth of
thirty-nine feet. These stairways were partly lined with brick-work,
but were chiefly cut in the solid tufa. The walls were coated with
fine stucco, white and firm--an evidence of antiquity--and ornamented
with bands of a bright red pigment. The original steps were covered
with marble, but they were afterwards restored with masonry. The upper
part, indicated by dotted lines, is destroyed to the depth of ten
feet, and there is evidence of the complete obstruction of the
passage, doubtless during time of persecution. The stairway B has been
used as a wine store, and is obstructed by a wall and a smaller          171
transverse stairway.

  [Illustration: Fig. 26.--Part of Cemetery of Callixtus.]

An _ambulacrum_ or gallery was first excavated around the sides of the
area, and several cross passages, as D, E, F, G, H, I, constructed.
The walls are thickly lined with graves, and in places the floor has
been lowered to give room for still more _loculi_. At D, C, the
fossors finding the wall to crumble, had to strengthen it with
masonry, and to desist from lowering the floor of the gallery. Hence     172
the latter is not level, but has, in places, steps which have been
worn to an inclined plane. The increasing demand for graves led to the
formation of the _cubicula_ A1 to A6, as well as others in the
interior of the area. Many of these are decorated with frescoes, and
A3 is known as the _Capella dei Sacramenti_, or Chapel of the
Sacrament, on account of its so-called liturgical paintings. A4 has a
coloured marble floor of symmetrical design, and A6 has a large
_sepolcro a mensa_ lined with marble and flanked with marble
pilasters. The iron bars which supported the table tomb may still be
seen. There are many Greek as well as Latin inscriptions in these
galleries, and some of the tiles which close the _loculi_ bear the
stamp of the emperors M. Aurelius and Commodus, which fixes the date
of this area. Some of the passages are entirely paved with such tiles.
Numerous niches for lamps also occur. At F a well was excavated which
still contains water. It is furnished with foot-holes, that a man
might descend in order to clean it out. This is common in other wells
in the Catacombs.

The ever-pressing necessity for graves compelled the fossors at length
to attempt the construction of galleries on a lower level. Accordingly
we find a stairway, H, H2, of thirty-four steps leading down from the
gallery H. The rock, however, through which this stairway descends is
no longer the firm _tufa granolare_ of the upper level, but a very
friable stratum of _pozzolana_, which made it necessary to protect the
walls with brick-work. Finding this stratum of great depth, they
excavated a horizontal passage, and a still further narrow
experimental cleft, as it were, in search of firmer rock, but soon
abandoned the attempt, failing to find any suitable for sepulture. The
few graves they made had to be built of brick-work; and in one of         173
these was found a little terra cotta sarcophagus, containing the body
of an infant. This shows the utter unfitness of the _pozzolana_ beds
in which the _arenaria_ are excavated for the construction of the
Catacombs. We have seen that about A. D. 200 Callixtus became the
guardian of this cemetery, which seems to have then become the
burial-place of the bishops of Rome instead of the crypts of the
Vatican as previously. According to the _Liber Pontificalis_, out of
eighteen bishops from Zephyrinus to Sylvester, that is, from A. D. 197
to A. D. 314, no less than thirteen were buried in this cemetery. This
Callixtus was originally a slave, afterwards elevated to the highest
ecclesiastical dignities, including the episcopate itself--a proof of
the superiority of the church to all social distinctions. According to
Hippolytus, the undoubted author of the recently discovered
_Philosophoumena_, he reached that dignity by dishonourable means, by
fraud and guile. He was at one time banished by the emperor to the
mines of Sardinia for embezzling moneys intrusted to his care, and on
his return lapsed into heresy bordering on pantheism, or at least was
charged with that offence. But although the character of Callixtus
shows the nascent corruptions of the church of Rome even early in the
third century, it should not prejudice us against the cemetery called
by his name. He himself is interred elsewhere,[301] and the holy
confessors and martyrs who slumbered here have consecrated the place
forever with their hallowed dust.

Toward the middle of the third century, as we have seen, even the        174
cemeteries themselves were not secure from invasion by the persecuting
tyrants. When the protection of the law was withdrawn, the public
stairways A and B, Fig. 26, were blocked up and partially destroyed,
new passages, B2 and B3, were opened into the adjacent _arenarium_ for
the entrance and escape of the Christians, and a very narrow and steep
secret stairway, X4, was constructed from the roof of the latter to
the open air, requiring a ladder, which might be removed to cut off
pursuit, or the assistance of friends for entrance or departure.[302]
We have here an affecting instance of the perils to which the
persecuted Christians were exposed when hunted through these gloomy
crypts by their cruel pagan foes. The difference between the straight
and narrow galleries of the Catacombs and the wide and unsymmetrical
windings of the _arenarium_ will be remarked. Connexions were also
formed with adjacent areas at S, C1, C2, and B1, sometimes breaking
directly through the _loculi_ and _cubicula_. The utmost economy of
space was now observed, every available foot of wall being occupied;
the inscriptions become more rude, indicating poverty and oppression;
and the stucco or marble ornaments give place to rude carvings of the
tufa itself into cornices, columns, and capitals. Some of the
_cubicula_ are made of larger size, as if for worship, sometimes six
or eight-sided, and occasionally with apsidal recesses.

During the terrible period of the Diocletian persecution, when the
cemeteries were confiscated by the heathen government, the Christians,
in order to prevent the profanation of the more sacred sepulchres, and
especially that of the bishops, filled up the principal galleries with
earth at immense expense and labour. Much of this still encumbers the    175
passages and forms the chief obstacle to their exploration. On the
cessation of the persecution some of these galleries leading to the
principal crypts were cleared out by means of cylindrical shafts made
for the purpose; and sometimes new galleries were excavated in the
tufa above the old ones, the floor of which was formed of the
consolidated earth in the former gallery. Where this earth has been
removed the height of the two galleries is, in places, twenty feet,
filled with graves to the top, the upper part being much narrower than
the lower. The obstructions in the stairways A and B were also removed
and the stairs renewed.

We have seen that Damasus was indefatigable in his restoration of the
Catacombs. It might, therefore, be expected that this important area
would give evidence of his labours. Such evidence is found in a broad
stairway of fine masonry, not shown in Fig. 26, made to accommodate
the crowds of pilgrims who thronged to those sacred shrines, the
“Papal Crypt” and tomb of St. Cecilia. This stairway was discovered by
De Rossi in 1854, entirely blocked up with an immense mass of earth
and rubbish, as were also the chambers to which it led. The removal of
this was a work of great expense and labour. The vestibule, L, which
we first enter, is constructed entirely of masonry, and is lighted by
a large _luminare_. Its plastered walls are covered with _graffiti_,
an indication that we are approaching a spot held in especial sanctity
by the ancient church.[303]

These casual records of the generations of pilgrims who have visited
the tombs of the primitive bishops, martyrs, and confessors, have
proved in many cases of great importance, and are, in the words of De    176
Rossi, “the faithful echoes of history, and infallible guides through
these subterranean labyrinths.” But they are sometimes also, as we
shall see hereafter, indications of the corruption of doctrine, and of
the nascent belief in human mediation between man and God.

It is somewhat of a disappointment to find, on entering this
celebrated sanctuary, (L1 in the plan,) that instead of being a
veritable relic of the third or fourth century, most of the masonry is
only a few years old. When an entrance was effected into it in 1854,
which could only be done through the _luminare_, it was found in a
ruinous condition, filled with earth, broken brick-work, and rubbish of
every sort. When this was removed the vault gave way, and had to be
almost entirely rebuilt and lined with masonry. The chamber itself is
comparatively small, being only about eleven by fourteen feet. It has
a barrel roof, and is lighted by a large _luminare_. The pavement was
of marble, and covered graves made beneath it. On each side are eight
large _loculi_, the lower row of which has spaces to contain
sarcophagi. The walls were formerly lined with marble, and had
semi-detached marble pillars, the bases of which still remain. At the
end opposite the entrance is a large _sepolcro a mensa_, in front of
which is a dais elevated two steps. In this dais are four sockets to
receive the bases of as many short pillars which supported a marble
table standing out from the wall, as unlike as possible to a modern
Roman altar. The whole was surrounded by a low parapet of marble
lattice work, fragments of which have been disinterred from the
_débris_ that encumbered the spot.

In this little chamber no less than eleven Roman bishops of the third    177
century are recorded to have been buried, and others in its immediate
vicinity, when persecution or other reasons prevented their being laid
in its sacred inclosure. As we have already seen,[304] De Rossi has
recovered in the rubbish of this chamber what he conceives to be the
original epitaphs of five of these bishops, and presumptive evidence
of the presence of others. St. Sixtus, indeed, is frequently mentioned
in the _graffiti_ as he to whom especial reverence was here paid,
and De Rossi found in this crypt fragments of his epitaph which we
have previously given.[305] The following Damasine inscription was
discovered by De Rossi among the _débris_ of this chamber in one
hundred and twenty fragments, and with great skill and learning
reconstructed and restored to the wall.


     “Here, if you would know, lie heaped together a whole crowd of
        holy ones.
     These honoured sepulchres inclose the bodies of the saints,
     Their noble souls the palace of Heaven has taken to itself.
     Here lie the companions of Xystus, who bear away the trophies
       from the enemy;
     Here a number of elders, who guard the altars of Christ;
     Here is buried the priest, who long lived in peace;
     Here the holy confessors whom Greece sent us;
     Here lie youths and boys, old men and their chaste offspring,       178
     Who chose, as the better part, to keep their virgin chastity.
     Here I, Damasus, confess I wished to lay my limbs,
     But I feared to disturb the holy ashes of the saints.”[306]

An ancient itinerary states that eighty, or, according to one account,
eight hundred, martyrs are buried in this part of the Catacomb; and in
the corner of this very crypt is a pit of remarkable depth, probably
the _polyandria_, in which were “heaped together a whole crowd” of the
victims of persecution.

Besides these restorations of Damasus, there is evidence of successive
decorations of this celebrated shrine down to the period of Leo III.,
at the end of the eighth century. So great have been the changes thus
caused that De Rossi confesses that it is impossible to say what was
the original character of the chamber.

Adjoining the “Papal Crypt” is that of St. Cecilia, (O, Fig. 26,) to
which we pass from the former through a narrow doorway in the rock.
This is one of the largest _cubicula_ in the Catacombs, being nearly
twenty feet square, and is flooded with light by a large _luminare_.
The chamber, which gives evidence of having been greatly enlarged from
its original dimensions, was once lined with marble and mosaic, as
were also the sides of the doorway and the arch above. It has also
been frequently adorned with paintings, a sure indication of its
especial sanctity. Among these are a large head of Our Lord, of the
Byzantine type, with a Greek nimbus, in a semicircular niche, and a
full-length figure of St. Urban in pontifical robes, with his name       179
inscribed. Both of these, De Rossi thinks, belong to the tenth or
eleventh century. Another picture, probably of the seventh century, of
a richly attired Roman lady with jeweled bracelets and necklace, is
conjectured to represent St. Cecilia. A large recess in the wall next
to the “Papal Crypt” is thought to have held her sarcophagus. De Rossi
and his English editors seem to accept substantially the Romish legend
of this celebrated martyr. Protestant readers, however, will take the
liberty of rejecting the miraculous part of the story as an invention
of the fifth century, when the legend first appears.

St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr, according to her rather apocryphal
Acts, was a maiden of noble rank--_ingenua, nobilis, clarissima_.
She sang so sweetly that the angels descended to listen to her voice;
and to her is ascribed the invention of the organ, which is therefore
her attribute in art. She was betrothed to Valerian, a pagan of
patrician rank, yet had vowed to be the spouse of Christ alone. She
confessed her vow to Valerian on her marriage-day, and assured him
that she was ever guarded by an angel of God, who would avenge its
violation. He promised to respect her vow if he might behold her
celestial visitant. She told him that his eyes must be first illumed
by faith and purged with spiritual euphrasy by baptism, and sent him
to St. Urban, then hiding in the Catacomb of Callixtus, who instructed
and baptized him. On his return he found Cecilia praying, with an
angel by her side who crowned her with immortal flowers--the lilies of
purity and the roses of martyrdom. His brother Tiburtius came in, and,
struck with the heavenly fragrance, for it was not the time of
flowers, he also was converted and baptized. Refusing to sacrifice to    180
to the pagan gods, the brothers both received the crown of

Cecilia herself was reserved for a more glorious testimony. By order
of the Roman prefect she was shut up in the _caldarium_, or chamber of
the bath, in her own palace, which was heated to the point of
suffocation. After a whole day and a night she was found unharmed. No
sweat stood upon her brow, no lassitude oppressed her limbs. A lictor
was sent to strike off her head. Three times the axe fell upon her
tender neck, but, as the law forbade the infliction of more than three
strokes, she was left alive though bathed in blood. For three days she
lingered, testifying of the grace of God and turning many to the
faith; and then, giving her goods to the poor and her house for a
church forever, she sweetly fell asleep. Her body was placed in a
cypress coffin--very unusual in the Catacombs, it is doubtful if a
single example was ever discovered--and buried in the cemetery of
Callixtus, “near the chapel of the popes.”

But miracles ceased not with her death. In the translation of the
martyrs from the Catacombs by Pascal I., in 817, the remains of
Cecilia were overlooked. The saint appeared to the pope in a vision
and revealed the place of her burial.[308] He sought the spot, and
found her body as fresh and perfect as when laid in the tomb five
centuries before! He placed it in a marble sarcophagus under the high
altar of the church of St. Cecilia, which he rebuilt upon the site of
her palace.

In the year 1599, or nearly eight centuries later, Cardinal Sfondrati,   181
while restoring the church, discovered this ancient sarcophagus. It
was opened in the presence of trustworthy witnesses, and there, say
the ecclesiastical records of the time, vested in golden tissue, with
linen clothes steeped with blood at the feet, besides remnants of
silken drapery, lay the incorrupt and virgin form of St. Cecilia in
the very attitude in which she died.[309]

It is difficult to know what proportion of truth this legend contains;
but, like many other of the Romish traditions, the large admixture of
fiction invalidates the claims of the whole. Its sweet and tender
mysticism, however, lifts it out of the region of fact into that of
poetry, and almost disarms hostile criticism.[310] The excessive
praise of virginity indicates a comparatively late origin. On the
festival of St. Cecilia, the 22d of November, her tomb is adorned with
flowers and illumined with lamps, and mass is celebrated in her
subterranean chapel by a richly appareled priest--strange contrast to
the primitive worship with which alone she was acquainted. In a
sarcophagus discovered near her tomb were found the remains, it is       182
assumed, of her husband Valerian and his brother Tiburtius, who had
manifestly been beheaded; and also those of the prefect Maximus, who
was converted by their martyrdom and was himself beaten to death by
_plumbatæ_. The skull of the latter was found broken, as if by such a
weapon, and its abundant hair matted with blood!

Other definite areas of this Catacomb have been recognized and their
outlines defined. Indeed, Father Marchi asserts that this is “the
colossal region of _Roma Sotterranea_, all the rest being only small
or middling provinces.”[311] About a hundred yards from the “Papal
Crypt” is the tomb of another celebrated martyr and bishop, St.
Eusebius; the _graffiti_ on the walls, the stairway, and the
decorations of which attest the reverence in which it was held. While
digging here in 1856, De Rossi found the important epitaph of Eusebius
before given.[312]

Intimately connected with this are also the adjacent cemeteries of St.
Soteris, a virgin martyr of the same family from which Ambrose was
descended; and that of St. Balbina, of vast extent, in several
_piani_, and on a scale of unusual grandeur. These are as yet only
partially explored, and promise the richest results to future
examination. That of St. Balbina has many double, and even quadruple,
_cubicula_, and the largest and most regular group of subterranean
chambers that have yet been discovered, all lighted by one large
hexagonal shaft. They were evidently excavated for worship, not for
sepulture. This Catacomb was enlarged and beautified by Mark, bishop
of Rome, in A. D. 330, who was buried in a basilica erected over these

These several areas were at first all distinct properties, and as
carefully restricted within their respective limits as would be          183
buildings above ground. When, however, the sepulchres of the
Christians, no longer protected by law, were invaded by the
persecutors, the different areas were connected by a vast and
bewildering labyrinth of cross passages for the purpose of
facilitating escape and of furnishing additional space for interment.
As the areas, even when contiguous, were often at different levels, a
good deal of ingenuity was exercised by the fossors in effecting a
junction of the different galleries; though often they had to break
through _loculi_ and _cubicula_ for that purpose. Thus the area we
have described so fully is five feet lower than that which is adjacent
on one side, which enables us to determine its exact limit.

We will now take a more rapid survey of the other principal Catacombs
of Rome.

Nearly opposite the cemetery of Callixtus, on the Appian Way, is that
of Prætextatus. One of the entrances, situated in the Vigna Molinari,
is represented in Fig. 2. A well-worn stairway, trodden by the feet of
pious generations, leads to subterranean galleries of considerable
extent. It is celebrated as the scene of the martyrdom of St. Sixtus
and his deacons, A. D. 259; and as the burial-place of two of them,
Felicitas and Agapetus, commemorative epitaphs of whom have been
found. Their tomb, accidentally discovered by some labourers in 1857,
presents the unique example of a large square crypt, not hewn out of
the rock but built of solid masonry, and formerly lined with marble.
This is explained by the ancient record that the Christian matron
Marmenia constructed their tomb immediately beneath her own house. A
Damasine epitaph of Januarius, who suffered under Aurelius, A. D. 162,
has also been found here. In this cemetery, too, occurs that _suite_
of chambers, with a hexagonal apartment, known as the chapel with two    184
halls, represented in section and perspective in Figs. 10 and 11.

Especial interest attaches to the Catacomb of St. Sebastian from the
fact of its being the only one of which any knowledge was retained
during the darkness of the Middle Ages. During that obscure period it
was known in all the ancient documents as the _Coemeterium ad
catacumbas_, and has given their generic name to this vast system
of subterranean sepulchres. Lying beneath the property of the
Augustinian monks, it enjoyed religious protection in the rudest ages,
and was open to the occasional pilgrims to the sacred places of the
Eternal City. It is also that which is most frequently visited by
modern travellers, being accessible without the special permission
which must be obtained for exploring the other Catacombs. It is
situated on the Appian Way, about two miles from the Sebastian gate. A
stately basilica was erected over the entrance to the Catacomb, it is
said in the time of Constantine. A part of the original building which
yet remains is claimed to be still older, dating from the first
century. With this possible exception, few traces of the ancient
structure now exist, the present building having been erected in 1611
by Cardinal Scipio Borghese. The church is very rich in paintings,
sculptures, and relics, among which are the reputed head of Callixtus,
arm of St. Andrew, and body of St. Sebastian, the impressions of the
Saviour’s feet in the stone from the Appian Way, and the very chair in
which St. Stephen received the crown of martyrdom, and which was
sprinkled with his blood!

This Catacomb takes its name from the Christian martyr Sebastian, who
suffered during the Diocletian persecution. The story of his martyrdom
is one of great beauty; but, as is the case with most of these           185
legends, its historic value is invalidated by the miraculous episodes
of his history. According to the “Acts of St. Sebastian,” this young
and gallant officer was a native of Narbonne, in Gaul, who held the
high rank of commander of the prætorian guard of Diocletian and
Maximian. His access to the emperors enabled him to offer a powerful
protection to the persecuted Christians, which he did not fail to
extend. Two of his fellow-soldiers, Marcus and Marcellinus, were about
to recant their profession, when Sebastian exhorted them to
steadfastness with such fervour as to nerve them for martyrdom and
convert the judges and all present. For his own fidelity to the
Christian faith he was transpierced with arrows and left for dead. He
recovered, however, either through the pious care of the Christian
matron Irene, or through the special grace of the Virgin. Undeterred
by his recent experience, he presented himself before the emperor,
upbraided him for his persecution of the Christians, and foretold his
death. He was immediately seized by the command of the tyrant and
beaten to death with clubs in the hippodrome of the palace, A. D. 286.
His body was ignominiously thrown into the Cloaca Maxima, or main
sewer of Rome, in order to deprive it of Christian burial. But the
place where it lay being revealed in a dream, his remains were rescued
from their loathsome and unconsecrated grave, and piously interred in
the Catacomb which bears his name.

The indignities that he suffered have been more than compensated by
the honours paid his relics. Over his tomb the high altar of the
church blazes with lights and jewels, and a marble effigy of the saint
pierced with arrows commemorates his martyrdom. The genius of Berini,
Guido, and the Caracci, has glorified his memory in deathless painting   186
and in “animated bust.”[313]

Connected with the church is an irregular semi-subterranean building,
where, tradition asserts, the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul for a
time reposed. It would appear, according to the legend, that upon the
martyrdom of these “princes of the apostles” the oriental Christians
sent for their hallowed remains as belonging of right to them as their
fellow-countrymen. Their bodies were conveyed thus far from their
original sepulchres when a violent storm prevented the accomplishment
of the sacrilegious act, and the Roman Christians re-interred the
sacred relics in this chamber, where they remained, according to one
account, a year and seven months, or, according to another, forty

The present structure dates probably from the time of Liberius, in the
middle of the fourth century. The indefatigable Damasus made a marble
pavement--_fecit platoniam_--and seems to refer to the legend in the
following rather unclassical metrical inscription:


     “Here, you must know, that saints once dwelt. If you ask their
     names, they were Peter and Paul. The East sent disciples, as we     187
     willingly acknowledge. The saints themselves had, by the merit of
     their bloodshedding, followed Christ to the stars, and sought the
     home of heaven and the kingdoms of the blest. Rome, however,
     obtained to defend her own citizens. These things may Damasus be
     allowed to record for your praise, O new stars of the heavenly

  [Illustration: Fig. 27.--Plan of Crypt of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.]

Figs. 27 and 28 show the plan and perspective of the crypt. D is the
chamber and E the subterranean vault. Around the wall are twelve
_arcosolia_, in front of which runs a low stone seat. In the centre is
an opening in the floor widening into a vaulted and frescoed marble
tomb about six feet square and as many deep. Here, according to
tradition, the two great apostles lay side by side in death; and to
this spot was especially given for many centuries the name _Catacumbæ_.

A door out of the left aisle of the church leads to the Catacomb
proper. This, having been so long open, has been despoiled of every
object of interest, and nearly all the monuments and inscriptions have
been removed to the museums of the city. Though of considerable          188
extent, it is not nearly as large as some others. Previous to De
Rossi’s exploration of the Catacomb of Callixtus in 1854 it was
confounded with that cemetery, but he has shown that opinion to be

  [Illustration: Fig. 28.--Crypt of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.]

Nearly opposite the church of St. Sebastian is situated the Jewish
Catacomb discovered in 1859 in the Vigna Randanini, and already in
part described. The principal entrance is an open chamber, originally
vaulted, with a floor of black and white mosaic and walls of masonry.
A peculiarity in this cemetery is the number of deep graves in the
floor capable of containing several bodies, and the number of
sarcophagi, some of which are finely carved and gilt. The
seven-branched candlestick frequently occurs on the walls and tombs.
This Catacomb has been often rifled, and the galleries are strewn with
marble fragments of its monuments. Most of the inscriptions have been    189
dug out of this _débris_ and affixed to the adjacent walls. At the
other entrance, on the Appian Way, are raised stone seats, intended,
it is thought, as resting-places for the bearers of the dead.

Not far from this cemetery, but fronting on the Via Ardeatina, is one
which De Rossi concludes upon very good evidence to be that of
Domitilla, grand niece of the emperor Domitian, of whose banishment
and probable martyrdom for the Christian faith we have already spoken.
The entrance is an elegant structure of fine brickwork with a cornice
of terra cotta, built in the slope of a rising ground and close by the
roadside. Connected with the entrance are external chambers, in one of
which is a well, which were designed, it is conjectured, for the
custodian of the Catacomb, and for the holding of the religious
services connected with the burial of the dead and the anniversaries
of the martyrs. A spacious vestibule within contains recesses once
occupied by several large sarcophagi, fragments of which still remain.
The entire roof and walls are covered with the most exquisite
arabesques and graceful landscapes, as well as biblical paintings, in
the style of the best classic period. It is evidently the monument of
a family of wealth and distinction.

Connected with this Catacomb is that of Nereus and Achilles, the
chamberlains of Domitilla, who suffered martyrdom in the second
century. A broad and handsome stairway leads down to the supposed
tombs of the martyrs in the lower level of the Catacomb. To facilitate
the visits of pilgrims to these shrines the galleries have been
widened and lined with masonry, probably by John I., A. D. 523. There
are two principal _piani_, in the lower of which is a large
chamber paved with marble and lighted by a _luminare_ of unusual size,   190
reaching to the surface of the ground. A large proportion of the
inscriptions are Greek, or Latin in Greek characters, which
circumstance refers the date of this Catacomb to a period when Greek
was still regarded as a sort of sacred and official language of the

On the Via Labicana are several interesting Catacombs. About a mile
and a half from the city is that of Peter and Marcellinus, the former
a priest and the latter an exorcist of the time of Diocletian, who
with other martyrs are said to be buried here. The entrance to the
Catacomb is from a church built in the ruins of the ancient structure
traditionally called the mausoleum of Helena.

This tradition has given its name to the interesting Catacomb of
Helena discovered in 1838 in the Vigna del Grande, about a quarter of
a mile further along the Via Labicana. It was evidently constructed
after the peace of the church. The marble stairway, mosaic pavements,
and elegant stucco ornaments betray an imperial magnificence
impossible during the age of persecution, and which is found in no
other Catacomb. The similarity of style and material to that of the
contiguous tomb of Constantia, the sister of Helena, indicates a
synchronous construction. The entrance to the Catacomb is by one of
those _brevissimæ ecclesiæ_, or oratories for meditation and prayer,
which were early erected near most of the cemeteries, now generally in
ruins. As shown in the illustration, the descent is by an easy
stairway and an inclined plane to a vaulted gallery with mosaic
pavement, in which are _arcosolia_ with brick arches. The galleries
are of great width, and the _luminari_ will be observed to be
cylindrical in shape. One of these, it will be seen, is choked with      191
rubbish. The double entrance indicated is in accordance with the
ancient usage, especially in subterranean assemblies, of separating
the sexes. The same purpose is effected within the crypt by
balustrades, and even by parallel galleries to the same chamber. This
Catacomb is remarkable for the number of its _luminari_, _arcosolia_,
_cubicula_, and mosaics. A variety of marble, glass, and terra cotta
vases have also been found, as well as numerous coins and medals of
the Constantinian period.

  [Illustration: Fig. 29.--Section of Catacomb of Helena.]

About three miles from Rome on this road, in the Vigna del Fiscale, is
the Catacomb of _i Santi Quatro_, or _Quatuor Coronati_, the Four
Crowned Ones, as they are called. They are said to have been Christian
sculptors, who, for refusing to exercise their art in the service of
idolatry, suffered martyrdom under Diocletian. Iron crowns, set with
spikes, were forced upon their heads, and they were then scourged to
death with _plumbatæ_. Ten miles from Rome in this same road is the
Catacomb of St. Zoticus, also honoured as one of the primitive martyrs.

On the Via Tiburtina, about ten minutes’ walk from the Porta di San
Lorenzo, is the Catacomb of St. Cyriaca, named after a Christian
matron of noble family, who founded it in her own land in the year
A. D. 258. During the thirty-two years of her widowhood she employed     192
her vast wealth in ministering to the necessities of the saints, and
finally herself received the crown of martyrdom. Here it is said the
body of St. Lawrence was first interred, and afterward removed to the
neighbouring church, where it is still revered with devout
superstition. The excavations made to insulate the ancient basilica of
San Lorenzo, and to enlarge the cemetery at present in use, have laid
open a number of galleries of this Catacomb, exposing the long hidden
_loculi_ and paintings to the light of day. The style of the ancient
inscriptions and those of the modern necropolis, which, in accordance
with a decree of the pope, are all in Latin, may be compared; not
greatly to the advantage of the latter, notwithstanding the rigorous
censorship they must first undergo. This Catacomb, with others, was
explored and described by Bosio two centuries and a half ago. On the
opposite side of the road is the cemetery of Hippolytus, commemorated
in the verses of Prudentius in the fourth century.

About a mile and a quarter from the Porta Pia, on the Via Nomentana,
is situated the Catacomb of St. Agnes. The legend of this saint is one
of the most beautiful in the martyrology, and has been preserved with
peculiar fulness of detail by St. Ambrose in his treatise _de
Virginibus_. The youthful martyr was the daughter of rich and noble
Roman parents, and is described in the Acts that bear her name as
being of a sweet and tender beauty. Being sought in marriage by the
son of the prefect of the city, she rejected his suit; declaring in a
strain of impassioned eloquence her espousals to a bridegroom nobler,
richer, and more beautiful far than any of earth, who had betrothed
her by the ring of his faith, and would crown her with jewels to which
earthly gifts were dross--a bridegroom so fair that the sun and moon     193
were ravished by his beauty, and so mighty that the angels were his
servants.[315] She thus betrayed her attachment to the cause of
Christ, and was forthwith put to the torture in order to compel her
recantation of the faith. With touching _naiveté_ the Acts relate that
no fetters could be found small enough for her wrists. As the crowning
ignominy to which her maiden modesty could be exposed, she was sent to
the place of shame--_ad locum turpitudinis_; but her unshorn hair
flowed in golden waves to her feet, forming a perfect veil, and the
eyes of the gazers on her degradation were smitten with blindness.
Having been first cast into the flames, which, it is said, played
harmlessly about her, she was publicly beheaded in the amphitheatre,
and overcoming the feebleness of her age and sex, thus received the
crown of martyrdom at the tender age of thirteen, A. D. 303.[316]

She is frequently represented in art; sometimes, in allusion to her      194
name, with a lamb as her attribute. Indeed, after Christ and the
Apostles, no figure is more common.[317] The den of infamy in which
she was exposed to shame became changed to the Christian sanctuary of
_S. Agnese in Piazza Navone_, one of the most beautiful churches in
Rome. A subterranean cell of peculiar sanctity is said to have been
the scene of her degradation and deliverance. She was buried in a
garden a mile from the city, and Constantia, the daughter of
Constantine, having been healed at her tomb of a dangerous malady,
that prince erected over her body the church of _S. Agnese fuori le
Mura_, which is one of the least altered and most beautiful examples
of the imperial basilicas. A long flight of stairs, whose walls are
covered with inscriptions from the adjacent Catacombs, leads down to
the church, which was constructed on a level with the reputed tomb of
the saint.[318]

Many noble Roman families chose the place of their sepulture near the
tomb of so illustrious a martyr. Constantia herself was there interred,  195
and soon after two other daughters of Constantine, Helena, the wife of
Julian, and Constantina, the wife of Gallus. Having died, the former
at Vienne in Gaul, the latter at the extremity of Bithynia, they were
brought from the west and the east to rejoin their sister sleeping
near this celebrated saint. This region became, in fact, the
fashionable cemetery of the great during the fourth century; as is
still evident from the superior regularity and spaciousness of the
corridors, and the more laboured execution although inferior style of
the paintings. Thus was formed in course of time the vast Catacomb of
St. Agnes.

  [Illustration: Fig. 30.--Entrance to the Catacomb of St. Agnes.]

The entrance to the cemetery is situated in a delicious valley about a
quarter of a mile from the church, in view of the storied hills which
have been celebrated by Martial and Pliny, and near the ruins of a
pagan temple. Behind are the gray walls and towers of Rome, and on
every side spreads the solemn expanse of the Campagna. All is graceful   196
and picturesque in the landscape, “and it is not,” says Perret,
“without a pious tenderness[319] that the charm of the place blends in
the soul of the pilgrim to the shrine of the Christian heroine.” The
stairs by which the descent is made date probably from the time of
Constantine. The graves on either side of the somewhat spacious
gallery have long been rifled of their contents. Several of these from
their size were evidently designed for _bisomi_. The consular date, A.
D. 336, on a tomb attests the age of this part of the Catacomb. One
_suite_ of chambers near the entrance, but in the lower and therefore
more recently constructed _piano_, has received the title of the
Basilica. The larger _cubiculum_ has two tufa seats at the side, and
one more elevated for the presiding presbyter. The altar, probably a
small movable one of wood, if any at all, must have stood before the
presbyter. On the opposite side of the gallery is a chamber, divided
by columns and an arch, supposed to have been for the females of the
assembly, or perhaps for the catechumens not yet admitted to the
celebration of the eucharist. A connected series of five chambers has
been found, and one _cubiculum_, called the _scuole grande_, will
contain seventy or eighty persons. Much of the architecture, however,
is debased, indicating the decline and eclipse of art in the fifth or
sixth century. Another chamber is known as the Lady Chapel, or Crypt
of the Virgin, on account of the so-called picture of the Madonna
which it contains;[320] and a third as the Baptistery, from the
presence of a spring of water, supposed to have been used in baptismal

One feature of especial interest associated with this cemetery is its    197
connexion with an adjacent _arenarium_, or sand pit. This is situated
near the basilica of St. Agnes, and overlies part of the Catacomb. It
consists of a series of large and gloomy caverns utterly unlike the
sepulchral crypts below. A stairway leads down to the Catacomb, and
also a deep shaft with foot-holes cut in the rock for climbing.
Probably this was the only way of escape in time of persecution. There
is also apparent evidence of the existence of a windlass, by which the
excavated tufa was raised, and either deposited in the _arenarium_ or
carted away. This cemetery has been carefully examined by Padre
Marchi, who has published a plan of an area of about seven hundred by
five hundred and fifty feet. The united length of the passages in this
part is about two English miles. Yet Father Marchi says this area is
only about one eighth of the whole Catacomb, the aggregate extent of
whose streets would, therefore, be fifteen or sixteen miles.

Just without the Porta Pia on this Nomentan Way, is the little
Catacomb of Nicodemus. At the third mile, we read in ancient records,
was that of Ostrianus or Fons Petri, as it was called, from a
tradition that Peter once baptized there. It has not, however, been
satisfactorily identified. Nearly six miles from the city is the
so-called Catacomb of Alexander, bishop of Rome A. D. 117-120, who,
according to the _Liber Pontificalis_, suffered martyrdom by
decapitation on this spot under the emperor Hadrian, together with the
presbyter Eventius and the deacon Theodulus. Here were discovered in
1853, below the level of the Campagna, the ruins of an ancient
basilica erected in honour of these martyrs. In the roofless structure
was found a sarcophagus bearing the name of Alexander, and probably
once containing his ashes. The graves here are less disturbed than
in the Catacombs nearer Rome. This cemetery was used for sepulture       198
comparatively late, as the language of some of the inscriptions
indicates a decided approximation to modern Italian. In 1857 the
foundations of a large church, designed to include the whole of the
ancient structure, were laid with great pomp by the present pontiff.

The Salarian Way is exceedingly rich in Christian cemeteries.
Prominent among these is the Catacomb of St. Priscilla, one of the
noblest monuments of the primitive church. It is of interest also as
that whose accidental discovery in 1578 led to the unveiling of these
vast treasuries of Christian antiquity. The entrance is beautifully
situated amid embowering verdure, in the vineyard of the Irish
college, about two miles from the Porta Salara.[321] Tradition asserts
that this cemetery was dug in the property of the senator Pudens,
mentioned by St. Paul; and a crypt called, from the language of its
inscriptions, the _Cappella Greca_, is alleged to be the sepulchre of
his daughters Pudentiana and Praxedes, and other members of that
distinguished Christian family. If so, this is the most ancient
Catacomb yet discovered. The classical style of the architecture,
frescoes, graceful stucco reliefs, and garlands, and the character of
the inscriptions, all point to a period before art became degraded and
the church oppressed. Some of the galleries are exceedingly long and
straight, and one is the most extensive yet discovered. Its principal
crypt is remarkable as being regularly built of masonry, and without
the usual _loculi_ in the walls, being evidently designed for the
reception of sarcophagi--another proof of its high antiquity. A
portion of this cemetery has been constructed with great labour in an
ancient _arenarium_, and shows how unsuited these excavations were for   199
the purposes of Christian sepulture. Long walls of solid masonry and
numerous pillars of brick work have been built for supporting the roof
and giving space for _loculi_. A large shaft for removing _pozzolana_
has been transformed into a _luminare_ by being bricked up to about
half its original dimensions. Only one of the four _piani_ in which
the Catacomb is constructed being easily accessible, it has been but
partially explored. The ancient records assert that Marcellinus and
Marcellus, martyr-bishops of the church in the time of Diocletian, are
buried here; also Crescentianus and Silvester; and we have already
seen the memorial inscription of three thousand other martyrs, whose
remains are said to hallow these sacred crypts.

On this same road are the Catacomb of St. Felicitas, with three
_piani_ of galleries much dilapidated; that of Thraso and Saturninus,
of considerable extent but difficult of access; and the crypt of
Chrysanthus and Daria, in which these martyrs were blocked up alive by
command of the Emperor Numerian. On the old Salarian Way is the
Catacomb of Hermes, who is said to have suffered in the time of
Hadrian. It is partially constructed, as we have seen, in an
_arenarium_, and contains the largest subterranean church yet found,
with remarkable mosaics of Daniel and of the resurrection of Lazarus
in the vaulting of the roof.

There are comparatively few Catacombs of interest on the northwest
bank of the Tiber, owing to the smaller population of that part of
Rome in ancient times. We shall briefly enumerate the more important.
On the Flaminian Way is the cemetery of St. Valentinus. On the
Aurelian Way are those of Agatha, Pancratius, and Calepodius. The
latter, the reputed burial place of Callixtus and of many martyrs,       200
is beneath the church dedicated to Pancratius--the English
Pancras--and on the supposed scene of his sufferings. On the Via
Portuensis, near the city, is the Catacomb of Pontianus, a patrician
Roman of the third century. It is remarkable for the very perfect
subterranean baptistery to be hereafter described. On the Ostian Way,
near the basilica of _S. Paolo fuori le Mura_, is the ancient cemetery
of Commodilla, or Lucina, in which tradition asserts that the body of
the apostle Paul was laid after his martyrdom. It is in a very ruinous
condition, most of the galleries being choked up and impassable; but
here Boldetti found the two oldest extant inscriptions. On this road
also is the Catacomb of St. Zeno, in which were said to be buried
twelve thousand Christians employed in building the Baths of

On the Vatican Hill, now crowned with the grandest temple in
Christendom, is said to have existed the oldest Christian cemetery of
Rome. Tradition asserts that the remains of St. Peter were interred on
this spot, on the site of an ancient temple of Apollo, and near the
alleged scene of the apostle’s martyrdom in the circus of Nero, and
that hither they were restored after their removal to the crypt of
Sebastian.[322] Here also ancient ecclesiastical documents record the
burial of ten of the Roman bishops of the first and second
centuries;[323] after which, we have seen, the Catacomb of Callixtus
became their chief place of burial. The series of papal interments in    201
this place again begins with that of Leo the Great, A. D. 461. In the
dim crypts beneath the high altar of St. Peter’s are shown the tombs
of most of his successors, many of them far removed in life and
character from the lowly Galilean fisherman.[324]

We cannot better conclude this necessarily imperfect survey of these
ancient Christian cemeteries than by quoting the following passage,
though characterized by a somewhat fervid rhetoric, from “Les Trois
Romes” of the Abbé Gaume: “Here is the glorious monument,” he
exclaims, “of the faith and charity of our forefathers! This work of
giants was completed by a community of poor men, destitute of
resources, without talent as without fortune, incessantly persecuted
and frequently decimated. What, then, was the secret of their power?
This is the problem suggested by the sight of the Catacombs in
general, and of the Catacombs on the Appian Way in particular. The
solution is in one word--FAITH. This power--unknown to the
ancient world, and too little recognized in the modern world--this       202
faith, was the lever by which the early Christians could remove
mountains, and turn and change the universe. With one hand they
constructed in the bowels of the earth a city more astonishing than
Babylon or the Rome of the Cæsars; and with the other, seizing on the
pagan world in the abyss of degradation into which it was plunged,
they raised it to the virtue of angels, and suspended it to the cross.”

     [291] This book, so often referred to, has been ascribed to
     Damasus but much of it is unquestionably of much later origin.
     While much of its information is valuable, more of it is quite

     [292]          “Qua limite noto
     Appia longarum teritur _Regina Viarum_.”--_Stat. Syl._, II, 2.

     [293] Often mere vulgar wealth exhibited its ostentation even in
     death by the magnitude and magnificence of these tombs designed
     to perpetuate the memory of their occupants forever. But, as if
     to rebuke that posthumous pride, they are now mere crumbling
     ruins, often devoted to ignoble uses, the very names of whose
     tenants are forgotten. Many of them, during the stormy period of
     the Middle Ages, were occupied as fortresses. More recently that
     of Augustus, on the Campus Martius, was used as an arena for
     bull-fights, and as a summer theatre, where Harlequin played his
     pranks upon an emperor’s grave. Some of the tombs have been
     converted into stables, pig-styes, or charcoal cellars. The
     cinerary urn of Agrippina, wife of Germanicus, was long used as a
     measure for corn. In many a _vignarolo’s_ hovel in the Campagna
     swine may be seen eating out of sculptured sarcophagi, and in the
     imperial halls where banqueted the masters of the world they hold
     their unclean revels. “Expende Hannibalem,” says the Roman
     satirist, “quot libras in duce summo invenies?”

     [294] _Monumenti delle Arti Cristiane Primitive_, p. 73.

     [295] Substitit ad veteres arcus, madidamque Capenam.
                                                 --Juv., _Sat._, iii.

     [296] The legend asserts that as the Apostle Peter was leaving
     Rome in the early dawn, in order to escape martyrdom, he met Our
     Lord bearing his cross, and, throwing himself at his feet,
     exclaimed, _Domine quo vadis_--“Lord, whither goest thou?” In
     accents of tender rebuke the Master answered, _Venio Romam iterum
     crucifigi_--“I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Stung
     with contrition and remorse, the disciple, according to the
     tradition, returned to the city, and there was crucified--by his
     own request with his head downwards, as unworthy to share the
     same mode of death as the Lord whom he had denied. In the
     neighbouring church of St. Sebastian is a white marble slab
     bearing impressions _said_ to have been made by the feet of Our
     Lord. The story is first mentioned by Origen, who applies it to
     St. Paul. St. Ambrose substitutes St. Peter, but the precise spot
     was not fixed till the fifteenth century; and Aringhi, in the
     seventeenth century, is the first who mentions the impression of
     the feet in “that stone most worthy, more valuable than any
     precious jewel.” This white marble slab is certainly very unlike
     the dark gray porphyry of the Appian pavement, and the irregular
     depression in its surface bears slight resemblance to human feet.
     But no historical difficulties are too great for the devout
     credulity of Rome.

     [297] _Rom. Sott._, ii, 367.

     [298] _De Resurrect. Carnis._, c. 27.

     [299] _Rom. Sott._, i, 210.

     [300] The Council of Elvira, A. D. 305, forbade the burning of
     wax tapers by day in the cemeteries of the dead--Cereos per diem
     placuit in coemeterio non incendi. _Conc. Elib._, can. 34.

     [301] He was killed by being thrown out of the window of his
     house in a popular tumult in Rome. His body was cast into a well,
     and afterwards secretly conveyed to the cemetery of Calepodius,
     on the Via Aurelia, in the immediate vicinity.

     [302] See section of this stairway in Fig. 22.

     [303] Here were also found a number of polygonal basalt
     paving-stones, evidently from the roadway above.

     [304] Pp. 81-83.

     [305] Pp. 85, 86.

     [306] The old brick building with three apsides and a vaulted
     roof, near the entrance to this crypt, long used as a gardener’s
     storehouse, has been claimed as the basilica which Damasus
     provided for the burial of himself, his mother, and sister; but
     it was more probably the _fabricia_ for worship or the
     celebration of the agape, or simply for the guardian of the

     [307] About A. D. 230, say the Acts, although the Christians then
     enjoyed profound peace.

     [308] An antique fresco at St. Cecilia represents the apparition
     of the martyr to the pontiff as he slept in his throne on St.
     Peter’s day.

     [309] In an arched recess under the high altar of St. Cecilia is
     a beautiful marble statue of the saint in a recumbent posture, by
     Stefano Maderna, accompanied by the following inscription:


     “Behold the image of the most holy Virgin Cecilia, whom I myself
     saw lying incorrupt in her tomb. I have in this marble expressed
     for thee the same saint in the very same posture of body.”

     [310] The modern additions have less claim on our reverence. The
     skeptical will see no reason why the remains of Cecilia should
     defy the laws of nature for fourteen centuries, when after only
     two those of Charles Borromeo, also a saint, which are exhibited
     at Milan arrayed in costly gold-embroidered robes and sparkling
     with gems, reveal only a black and decaying head and eyeless
     sockets, the skin shriveled and ruptured and the shrunken lips
     parting in a ghastly smile.

     [311] _Monumen. Art. Crist. Prim._, p. 172.

     [312] Page 95.

     [313] This striking object of Christian art has been known, says
     Mrs. Jameson, to cause in Italian women a devotion leading to
     hopeless passion, madness, and death. (“Sacred and Legendary
     Art,” _in loco_.) The soldier saint is regarded as a sort of
     Christian Apollo, banishing disease and pestilence.

     [314] Pope Gregory I. first mentions the story, _circ._ A. D. 600,
     as a reason for refusing to send the head of St. Paul to the
     Empress Constantina.

     [315] Discede a me fomes peccati ... quia jam ab alio amatore
     præventa sum, qui mihi satis meliora obtulit ornamenta, et annulo
     fidei suæ subarravit me, longe te nobilior, et genere et
     dignitate.--Ambros., _Epis._ 34.

     [316] Damasus at the end of the fourth century thus commemorates
     the event in one of his metrical inscriptions, now in a lateral
     aisle of the basilica of _S. Agnese fuori le Mura_:


     “Fame reports that the pious parents formerly brought back Agnes
     when the trumpet had resounded the funeral chants; that suddenly
     the maiden left the bosom of her nurse, and willingly spurned the
     threats and rage of the cruel tyrant, when he resolved to burn
     her noble body in the flames; that she overcame her intense fear
     with her feeble strength, and spread her luxuriant hair over her
     naked limbs, lest the face of a perishing man might behold the
     temple of the Lord. O holy one, ever to be honoured by me, sacred
     ornament of modesty, illustrious martyr, I entreat that you aid
     the prayers of Damasus.”

     [317] Jameson, _Sac. and Leg. Art._, p. 381. According to
     St. Jerome, in the fourth century her fame was in all lands.

     [318] Here on the Festival of St. Agnes, January 21, is performed
     the ceremony of blessing two lambs, the emblems of the innocence
     and of the name--_Agnus_, a lamb--of the child-martyr. From
     the wool of these lambs are woven the _pallia_, which, after
     lying on the so-called tomb of St. Peter, are distributed by the
     pope to the great church dignitaries as emblems of office.

     [319] “Attendrissement.”--_Les Catacombes de Rome_, tom. ii,
     p. 52.

     [320] See Fig. 90.

     [321] See Fig. 1.

     [322] This is probably “the trophy on the Vatican,” mentioned by
     the Roman presbyter Caius, quoted by Eusebius, _Hist. Eccles._,
     ii, 25. When Heliogabalus made his circus on the Vatican the body
     was said to have been again transferred to St. Sebastian; but it
     is impossible to unravel the tangled accounts of the ancient

     [323] On this spot De Rossi says was discovered in the seventeenth
     century the sepulchre of the very first bishop after Peter, (?)
     bearing simply the name LINVS.

     [324] Of especial interest to English-speaking visitors to this
     shrine of departed greatness will be three urns containing the
     ashes of “James III.,” “Charles III.,” and “Henry IX.,” as they
     are designated, the last princes of the unfortunate house of
     Stewart. The third of these, Henry Benedict Maria Clement, second
     son of James the Pretender, took orders at Rome, was advanced to
     the purple, and during the life-time of his brother, Charles
     Edward, was known as Cardinal York. On the death of his brother
     he assumed the regal style of Henry IX., King of England. The
     usurpation of Bonaparte caused his flight to Venice, where, aged
     and infirm, the descendant of a line of kings sank into absolute
     poverty. His successful rival for the British throne, George
     III., learning his deplorable situation, generously settled on
     him an annuity of £4,000, which he enjoyed till his death in
     1807, at the age of eighty-two. With the worn old man, dying upon
     a foreign shore, passed away the last survivor of the ill-starred
     dynasty which has contributed through successive generations so
     many tragic and romantic episodes to the drama of history.

                            BOOK SECOND.                                 203


                             CHAPTER I.

                        EARLY CHRISTIAN ART.

The conditions under which Christian art was cultivated in the early
centuries were eminently unfavourable to its highest development. It
was not, like pagan art, the æsthetic exponent of a dominant religion,
enjoying the patronage of the great and the wealthy, adorning the
numerous temples of the gods and the palaces and banquet chambers of
the emperors and senators, commemorating the virtues of patriots and
heroes, and bodying forth the conceptions of poets and seers. There
was no place in the Christian system for such representations as the
glorious sun-god, Apollo, or the lovely Aphrodite, or the sublime
majesty of Jove, which are still the unapproached _chefs d’oeuvre_ of
the sculptor’s skill. The beautiful myths of Homer and Hesiod were
regarded with abhorrence, and the Christians were expressly forbidden
to make any representation of the supreme object of their worship, a
prohibition which in the early and purer days of Christianity they
never transgressed.

Nevertheless, the testimony of the Catacombs gives evidence that art
was not, as has been frequently asserted, entirely abjured by the
primitive Christians on account of its idolatrous employment by the
pagans. They rather adopted and purified it for Christian purposes,      204
just as they did the diverse elements of ancient civilization. It was
not till increasing wealth and the growing corruptions of the church
led to the more lavish employment of art and its perversion to
superstitious uses that it called forth the condemnation of the
Fathers of the early centuries.

The art of any people is an outgrowth and efflorescence of an internal
living principle: and as is the tree so is its fruit. An adequate
representation of its art being given, we may estimate, at least
proximately, the moral condition of any age or community. It is the
perennial expression of the phenomena of humanity. The iconography of
the early centuries of Christianity is, therefore, a pictorial history
of its development and of the successive changes it has undergone.[325]
The corruptions of doctrine, the rise of dogmas, the strifes of
heresiarchs and schismatics, are all reflected therein.[326]

The frescoes of the Catacombs are illustrations, inestimable in value,
of the pure and lofty character of that primitive Christian life of
which they were the offspring. They were the exponent of a mighty
spiritual force, “seeking,” as Kugler remarks, “to typify in the
earthly and perishing the abiding and eternal.”[327] The very intensity
of that old Christian life under repression and persecution created a
more imperious necessity for a religious symbolism as an expression of
its deepest feelings and as a common sign of the faith. Early Christian
art, therefore, was not realistic and sensuous, but ideal and            205
spiritual. It sought to express the inner essence, not the outer form.

Christianity has nothing to fear from the comparison of these remains
of its primitive art with those of the pre-existing art of paganism.
As little has Protestantism to fear their comparison with the
monuments of that debased form of Christianity into which the early
church so soon, alas! degenerated. On the one hand may be seen the
infinite contrast between the abominable condition of society under
the empire and the purity of life of the early Christians; and on the
other, the gradual corruption of doctrine and practice as we approach
the Byzantine age. The exhumation of Pompeii and the recent
exploration of the Catacombs bring into sharp contrast Christian and
pagan art. While traversing the deserted chambers of the former “two
thousand years roll backward,” and we stand among the objects familiar
to the gaze of the maids and matrons of the palmy days of Rome. But
what a tale of the prevailing sensuality, what a practical commentary
on the scathing sarcasms of Juvenal, the denunciations of the Fathers,
and the awful portraiture of St. Paul, do we read in the polluting
pictures on every side. Nothing gives a more vivid conception of the
appalling degradation of pagan society in the first century of the
Christian era than the disinterred art of that Roman Sodom. Amid the
silence and gloom of the Catacombs we are transported to an entirely
different world; we breathe a purer moral atmosphere; we are
surrounded by the evidences of an infinitely nobler social life; we
are struck with the immeasurable superiority in all the elements of
true dignity and grandeur of the lowly and persecuted Christians to
the highest development of ancient civilization.

The decoration of these subterranean crypts is the first employment of   206
art by the early Christians of which we have any remains. A universal
instinct leads us to beautify the sepulchres of the departed. This is
seen alike in the rude funeral totem of the American savage, in the
massive mausolea of the Appian Way, and in the magnificent Moorish
tombs of the Alhambra.[328] It is not, therefore, remarkable that the
primitive Christians adorned with religious paintings, expressive of
their faith and hope, the graves of the dead, or in times of
persecution traced upon the martyr’s tomb the crown and palm, emblems
of victory, or the dove and olive branch, the beautiful symbol of
peace. It must not, however, be supposed that the first beginnings of
Christian art were rude and formless essays, such as we see among
barbarous tribes. The primitive believers had not so much to create
the principles of art as to adapt an art already fully developed to
the expression of Christian thought. Like the neophyte converts from
heathenism, pagan art had to be baptized into the service of
Christianity. “The germs of a new life,” says Dr. Lübke, “were in
embryo in the dying antique world. Ancient art was the garment in
which the young and world-agitating ideas of Christianity were
compelled to veil themselves.”[329] Hence the earlier paintings are
the superior in execution, and manifest a richness, a vigour and         207
freedom like that of the best specimens of the classic period. Their
design is more correct, their ornamentation more chaste and elegant,
and the accessories more graceful than in the later examples. These
shared the gradual decline which characterized the art of the dying
empire, becoming more impoverished in conception, stiff in manner, and
conventional and hieratic in type, till they sink into the barbarism
of the Byzantine period.

This is contrary to the opinion which has till recently been
entertained. Lord Lindsay asserts of the paintings of the Catacombs
that, “considered as works of art, they are but poor productions--the
meagreness of invention only equalled by the feebleness of
execution--inferior, generally speaking, to the worst specimens of
contemporary heathen art.”[330] But this characterization was the
result of imperfect acquaintance with the subject. Indeed, he speaks
of the Catacombs as “for the most part closed up and inaccessible, and
the frescoes obliterated by time and destroyed.” But recent
discoveries have brought to light many important examples which
completely disprove his depreciatory estimate. In many of the newly
opened crypts the colours are as fresh as if applied yesterday; and,
as regards style and execution, the frescoes of the Catacombs
“approach,” says the eminent art critic, Kugler, “very near to the
wall paintings of the best period of the empire.”[331] No one can look
through the magnificent volumes of Perret without being struck with
the grace, vigour, and classic beauty of many of the paintings there
reproduced. It is admitted that the French artists have “touched up”
the faded colours, and some of the pictures may be better termed         208
restorations than accurate copies; but they are nowhere accused of
being false to the general character and spirit of the originals.

The antiquity of these better specimens of Christian art is still
further confirmed by their being found in the oldest crypts of the
Catacombs; and, like the architectural character of these more ancient
chambers, they indicate the publicity of their construction and their
legal protection. In the later excavations, on the contrary, the
paintings are few in number, and inferior in type and execution--an
evidence of the persecution and impoverishment of the Christians as
well as of the decline of art. The more celebrated shrines, it is
true, were repeatedly decorated at successive periods down to the
ninth century;[332] but the times of these decorations may be
approximately estimated by internal evidence, as the presence of the
Constantinian monogram, of the nimbus,[333] and other characteristic
signs testify.

  [Illustration: ☧]

Early Christian art thus sprang out of that which was pre-existing,
selecting and adapting what was consistent with its spirit, and
rigorously rejecting whatever savoured of idolatry or of the sensual
character of ancient heathen life. It stripped off, to use the figure
of Dr. Lübke, what was unsuitable to the new ideas, and retained the     209
healthy germ from which the tree of Christian art was to unfold in
grand magnificence. As Christianity was the very antithesis of
paganism in spirit, so its art was singularly free from pagan error.
There are no wanton dances of nude figures like those upon the walls
of Pompeii, but chaste pictures with figures clothed from head to
foot; or, where historical accuracy required the representation of the
undraped form, as in pictures of our first parents in the garden of
Eden, or of the story of Jonah, they are instinct with modesty and
innocence. Pagan art, a genius with drooping wing and torch reversed,
stood at the door of death, but cast no light upon the world beyond.
Christian art, inspired with lofty faith, pierced through the veil of
sense, beyond the shadows of time, and beheld the pure spirit soaring
above the grave, like essence rising from an alembic in which all the
grosser qualities of matter are left behind. Hence only images of hope
and tender joy were employed. There is no symptom of the despair of
paganism; scarce even of natural sorrow.

Independent statues were in the first ages rarely if ever used.[334]
There seemed to be greater danger of falling into idolatry in the
imitation of these, in which form were most of the representations of
the heathen deities, than in the employment of painting; and it was
against the making of graven images that the prohibition of Scripture
was especially directed.[335] Their fabrication, therefore, was
especially avoided. Indeed, sculpture never became truly Christian,
and even in the hands of an Angelo or a Thorwaldsen failed to produce
triumphs of skill like those of Phidias or Praxiteles. Christian         210
graphic art, however, in its noblest development far surpassed even
the grandest achievements of which we have any account of the schools
of Apelles and Zeuxis. Christianity is the embodiment of the gentler
graces; paganism, in its purest form, that of the sterner virtues. The
former finds its best expression in painting, the latter in sculpture.

The first Christian paintings were light and graceful sketches, after
the manner of the older classic art; and but for the substitution of a
Christian for a heathen conception--a biblical scene or character, as
Daniel in the lions’ den, Jonah, or the Good Shepherd, or some
striking Christian symbol--it would be difficult to distinguish them
from contemporary pagan pictures.[336] While the principal figure gave
an unquestionably Christian character to the whole, the accessories,
divisions of space, colouring, and general treatment were quite in the
manner of the antique. Garlands, festoons of flowers and vases of
fruits; graceful arabesques, luxuriant vines, grapes, birds and genii;
ideal heads, masks, and fabulous animals; hunting, vintage and harvest
scenes, and pastoral groups; personifications of the hours, seasons,
rivers, and the like, made up the _entourage_, or formed part of
the picture. Thus the roof of a crypt in the most ancient part
(probably of the first century) of the cemetery of Domitilla is
completely covered with branches trailing in graceful curves with
exquisite naturalness, and entirely free from the conventional           211
restraint and geometrical symmetry which indicate the subsequent
decline of art. Among the branches flit birds, and winged genii like
little cupids. Another specimen of great beauty, of the second
century, in the Catacomb of Prætextatus, exhibits a well drawn harvest
scene, with wreaths of roses, vine, and laurel, and with birds
flitting about their nests. A fresco of the Good Shepherd and an
inscription attest its Christian character. The drapery and drawing of
the figures in the earlier examples are also exceptionally good.

Several of the Christian symbols were common also to pagan art; as the
palm, the crown, the ship, and others to be hereafter mentioned. They
acquired, however, under Christian treatment a profounder and nobler
significance than they ever possessed before. But there are other and
more striking examples of the adoption, when appropriate to Christian
themes, of subjects from pagan art. Orpheus charming the wild beasts
with his lyre is a frequently recurring figure in the Catacombs, and
is referred to by the Christian Fathers as a type of Him who drew all
men to himself by the sweet persuasive power of his divine word. The
victory of Our Lord over death and hell, and probably an ancient
interpretation of his preaching to the spirits in prison,[337] may
have found a sort of parallel in the beautiful legend of the faithful
lover seeking in the under-world the lost Eurydice bitten by a deadly
serpent; while, at the sound of his wondrous harp, gloomy Dis was
soothed, Ixion’s wheel stood still, Tantalus forgot his thirst, and
the stone of Sisyphus hung poised in air.[338] The Orphic verses were    212
also said by the Fathers to have contained many true prophecies
concerning Our Lord. These, however, like the testimony of the Sibyls,
were pious forgeries of post-Christian date.

Another fable of the pagan mythology reproduced in early Christian art
is that of Ulysses and the Sirens. A sarcophagus in the crypt of
Lucina represents the “much-planning” wanderer of Ithaca, bound to the
mast, deaf to the blandishments of the rather harpy-like daughters of
the sea, and so sailing safely by. Maximus of Turin, in the fifth
century, explained the ship of Ulysses to be “a type of the church,
the mast being the cross, by which the faithful are to be kept from
the seductions of the senses. Thus,” he says, “shall we be neither
held back by the pernicious hearing of the world’s voice, nor swerve
from our course to the better life, and fall upon the rocks of

These reminiscences of pagan art are more frequent in the sculptures
of the sarcophagi, in which the classic type seems more persistent
than in the paintings. Thus, in a bas-relief, in the Lateran Museum,
of the ascent of Elijah in the fiery chariot to heaven, by a strange
solecism Mercury is represented standing at the horses’ heads. This
was probably the result of an unconscious imitation of some heathen
design. On a sarcophagus from the Catacomb of Callixtus, in a harvest
scene, is what seems to be a representation of Cupid and Pysche. This,
however, was found buried beneath the floor, and bore indications of
having been coated with plaster, as if in concealment of the heathen
figures. On others have been observed bas-reliefs of Bacchus attended    213
by cupids, fawns and satyrs, the unfortunate Marsyas, the desertion of
Ariadne, and the return of Ulysses. It is probable that some of these
incongruities resulted from the sarcophagus having been carved by a
pagan artist, inasmuch as sculpture was less likely to be practised by
the Christians than painting. Indeed, some of these subjects,
offensive to Christian feeling, have been carefully defaced with a
chisel, or turned to the wall; as one in the crypt of Lucina, on which
is a bacchanalian scene, while on the rough side, exposed to view, is
inscribed the Christian epitaph. The sarcophagi of Constantia and
Helena, daughters of Constantine, now in the Vatican Museum, bear
vintage and battle scenes and Bacchic masks; and on that in which the
Emperor Charlemagne was buried, probably of pagan origin, is
represented the rape of Proserpine. On the gilded glasses of the
Catacombs, some of which were evidently employed for festive purposes,
pagan influence also appears in such representations as Achilles,
Hercules, Dædalus, Minerva, the Graces, Cupid and Psyche, Neptune with
his trident, and a river-god as the symbol of the Jordan.

Even in distinctively Christian subjects it is sometimes apparent that
the artist had not freed himself from the influence of pagan types.
Thus the Good Shepherd is represented with the short tunic and buskins
of the Roman peasant, and often with the classic syrinx or rustic
pipes, probably from some reminiscence of the popular rural deity, the
god Pan. In the Lateran Museum is a manifest example--the sarcophagus
of Paulina--of a pagan sculpture having been adapted as a Christian
Good Shepherd. In a bas-relief of Jonah, in the Vatican Library, the
classic influence is seen in the Triton blowing his horn, and Iris
floating over the vessel with her fluttering scarf, to indicate the      214
subsidence of the storm. The ship is like the barges that navigate the
Tiber, and the sea-monster that swallows the recreant prophet is like
that which menaced Andromeda.

Christianity thus preserved amid the wreck of ancient civilization
some germs of classic art, over which she brooded till they quickened
under the more genial influences of later times. She became thus, as
Dr. Lübke remarks, the mediator between the antique heathen life and
the art of modern Christendom. That distinguished critic,
Raoul-Rochette, has, however, attributed to pagan types too great an
influence on the art of the Catacombs, and almost denies the latter
all originality or distinctiveness of treatment; and he is certainly
quite in error in speaking of the almost pagan physiognomy of the
decorations of the Catacombs.[340] He was misled in forming these
opinions in part by certain monuments in the Catacomb of Prætextatus,
discovered and described by Bottari, and at first supposed to be of
Christian origin.[341] This opinion, however, has been since refuted
in an able monograph on the subject by Padre Garrucci.[342]

The exceptional and unique character of these monuments deserves a
somewhat detailed examination. They occur in a gallery of the
Catacomb, not far from the Appian Way. In the vault of an
_arcosolium_ is a representation of Venus--a subject never found
in early Christian art--accompanied by two genii as infants. Near these   215
are the following epitaphs of a pagan priest and his wife:


     Here lies Vincentius, a priest of the deity Sebasis, who with
     pious mind has observed the sacred rites of the gods.


     O Vincentius, many formerly in crowds, as you here see, have gone
     before me; I await all. Eat, drink, play, and come to me. While
     thou livest act well: this thou shalt bear with thee.

The _arcosolium_ to which this is attached contains the remarkable
paintings represented in the accompanying engraving.[344] The first
picture to the left represents the death of Vibia, wife of Vincentius,
and is labeled ABREPTIO · VIBIES · ET · DESCENSIO. She is depicted as
being borne off by Pluto, to indicate that her death was premature.
The god is standing upright in his _quadriga_, conducted by Mercury
and holding in his arms the form of Vibia. In the original picture,
issuing from an urn at the foot of Mercury, is seen the river Acheron,
by which Pluto is about to descend to the infernal regions, as
indicated by the word DESCENSIO.

  [Illustration: Fig. 31.--Perspective of Interior of Vault, with        216
  Pagan Paintings.]

At the top of the vault is represented the judgment of Vibia at the
tribunal of Pluto. The god is seated on his throne, with his wife
Proserpine, and over their heads are written the words DISPATER and
ABRACVRA--titles of the deities. To the right of the throne we see       217
three fates--FATA · DIVINA--and to the left Vibia preceded by
Mercury--MERCVRIVS · NVNTIVS--and accompanied by Alcestis, the heroine
of conjugal love. The figures all have their names written above their

The principal painting of the series, that in the tympanum of the
arch, represents the introduction of Vibia to the banquet of the
blessed. This is shown in the left hand corner of the picture, and is
designated INDVCTIO · VIBIES. She is introduced by a youthful figure
crowned with flowers, and holding in his hand a floral wreath. His
name--ANGELVS · BONVS--the good messenger--is perhaps less an
indication of Christian influence than of the Greek and Oriental ideas
which have presided over the whole of these scenes. Vibia next appears
seated at the banquet in the midst of those who have been judged
worthy of the recompense of the good--BONORVM · IVDICIO · IVDICATI.
They are ranged around a crescent-shaped table formed of cushions, and
wear festive crowns upon their heads. In the foreground are seen the

The fourth scene, to the extreme right of the vault, represents the
funeral banquet in honor of Vibia. It is given by her husband
Vincentius, who is designated by name, to the priests of Sebasis, over
whose heads are written the words, SEPTE · PII · SACERDOTES. All these
paintings, not only by their inscriptions, but by their conception and
treatment, demonstrate their pagan origin. They are not in any sense
or degree Christian; nor is there any reason to infer, as has been
asserted, that they are of Gnostic execution, but decidedly the

But how are we to account for the presence of this pagan monument
within the limits of a Christian cemetery? There are two things to be    218
observed, says M. Perret, in explanation of this circumstance. First,
the _arcosolium_ is not exclusively Christian in character. M. de
Saulcy has given examples of several Jewish and pagan tombs in the
form of _arcosolia_.[345] In the second place, there is nothing
strange in a family practising an oriental rite, like the worship of
Mithras--which with the Phrygian and Isiac mysteries were widely
prevalent in Rome in the early Christian centuries--having a private
place of sepulture, as this seems to have been. It is situated near
the Appian Way, from which there was probably a separate entrance.
Near by is a pagan _columbarium_ which now forms one of the
entrances of the Catacomb, of which it seems part equally with the
gallery containing this tomb. This space may possibly have been
originally usurped from the Christian cemetery; but it is more
probable that the gallery and tomb were independently constructed, and
that the fossors came unexpectedly upon it in their excavations. This
conjecture is confirmed by the indications of its having been
subsequently shut off, but the obstructions have long since been
removed. It is impossible to admit that the Christians, in contempt of
the sacred usages of the primitive ages, have commingled their
sepulchres with those of the pagans.[346]

But Christian art, though affected by pagan influence, did not
servilely follow pagan types. It introduced new forms to express new
ideas, or employed existing forms with a new significance; just as
Christianity itself introduced new words, or gave new meanings to old
ones, not only in the classic tongues but in every language which it
has adopted as the vehicle of its sublime truths. It created a cycle
of symbolical types of especial Christian significance; and became       219
more enriched and enlarged in its scope by allegorical representations
of religious doctrine, and by illustrations of Old and New Testament
history and miracles. But Christian art soon lost that freedom of
treatment which it inherited from its classic parentage, and fell into
fixed and conventional forms, which were endlessly reiterated. “Before
many years,” says Maitland, “the empire of imagination passed away,
and the genius of art, with ‘torch extinct and swimming eye,’ had to
mourn over the introduction of the hieratic style which, wherever it
has appeared throughout the world, has cramped and almost annihilated
the inventive faculty.” Like the hieroglyphs of Egypt and of India, or
like the picture-writing of the lost races of Central America, though
in a less degree, the objects of Christian art became not so much
representative as symbolic. Individual genius can only struggle
hopelessly with the shackles of a conventional system. From the
freedom of nature it sinks into a servile copyism which can hardly be
called art at all.

Yet the symbols of the Catacombs, though often rude and uncouth, must
not provoke our contempt. They fulfilled their purpose no less fully
than the triumphs of art in the _Camera Raphaele_ or the Sistine
Chapel. They were addressed not to the external sense, nor to the
critical taste, but to the inner eye of the soul and to the sublime
faculty of faith. They were not mere representations of the outward
semblances of things, but suggestions of eternal verities which
transcend the limits of time and space. The rudely scratched anchor
told of a hope that reached forward beyond this world and laid hold on
the great realities of the world to come; the dove spoke of the
brooding peace of God, which kept the heart and the mind amid
persecution and affliction with the power of an everlasting life; and    220
the palm was the symbol of the final victory over death and hell.

When the age of persecution passed away, this childlike and touching
simplicity of Christian art gave place to a more ornate character.
Called from the gloomy vaults of the Catacombs to adorn the churches
erected by Constantine and his successors, it gradually developed into
the many-coloured splendour of the magnificent frescoes and mosaics of
the basilicas. It became now more personal and historical, and less
abstract and doctrinal. The technical manipulation became less
understood, and the artistic conception of form more and more feeble,
till it gradually stiffened into the immobile and rigid types which
characterize Byzantine painting. It exhibited the weakness not of
infancy but of decrepitude, and might almost be called the last sigh
of art till its revival after the long slumber of the Middle Ages. It
is of importance, however, as enabling us to trace the development of
religious error, and the introduction of unorthodox additions to
Christian belief, and as showing the slow progress toward image
worship. It demonstrates the non-apostolicity of certain Romish
doctrines, the beginning of which can be here detected. It utters its
voiceless protest against certain others which are sought for in vain
in the places where, according to the Roman theory, they should
certainly be found. Where still employed in the Catacombs, art shared
the corruption and degradation above described.

It is to this period that most of the condemnations of art, or rather
of its abuse, in the writings of the primitive Fathers must be
referred. Toward the close of the fourth century Augustine inveighs
against the superstitious reverence for pictures, as well as the
growing devotion to the sepulchres, which he says the church condemned
and endeavoured to correct.[347] His contemporary, Epiphanius,           221
stigmatizes the employment of painting as contrary to the authority of
Scripture.[348] About the same time Paulinus of Nola made use of
biblical pictures for the instruction of the rude and illiterate
multitude who visited the shrine of Felix. “Perhaps it may be asked,”
he says, “for what reason, contrary to the common usage, I have
painted this sacred dwelling with personal representations?... Here is
a crowd of rustics of imperfect faith, who cannot read, who before
they were converted to Christ used profane rites, and obeyed their
senses as gods. I have, therefore, thought it expedient to enliven
with paintings the whole habitation of the saint. Pictures thus traced
with colours will perhaps inspire those rude minds with astonishment.
Inscriptions are placed above the paintings in order that the letter
may explain what the hand has depicted.”[349]

The feeblest intelligence might rise through the material to the
conception of spiritual truth.[350] But this ecclesiastical employment   222
of art speedily became the source of religious corruption and the
object of superstitious worship. At length it provoked the stern
iconoclasm of the Isaurian Leo and his successors, and was formally
prohibited by the general Council of Constantinople in the eighth
century. Even early in the fourth century the Council of Elvira, as if
with a prescience of the dire result that would follow, prohibited the
use of pictures in the churches, “lest that which was worshipped and
adored should be painted on the walls.”[351]

The iconoclastic spirit, however, was principally directed against
_graven_ images, which were regarded as the special objects of
idolatry. The earliest examples of these have been attributed to the
Gnostics, who so strangely blended the doctrines of Christianity with
pagan superstition. They claimed to possess contemporary images of
Christ from the collection of Pontius Pilate! But doubtless, like        223
the alleged statue of Christ at Cæsarea Philippi, mentioned by
Eusebius,[352] even if they had any reference to Our Lord at all, they
were of much later date. According to Augustine,[353] the Carpocratian
heretics had similar images; and Marcellina, who belonged to that
sect, exhibited in the Gnostic church at Rome figures of Christ, Paul,
Homer, and Pythagoras. In a similarly eclectic spirit the emperor
Alexander Severus placed among his lares the images of Our Lord and
Abraham, with those of Orpheus and Apollonius.[354]

Mosaic, which in classic times was used only for the decoration of
floors, was employed in Christian art in the more honourable task of
adorning the walls of the stately basilicas and churches. This
intractable material was not adapted for the delineation of objects
requiring delicacy of expression, but was admirably suited for
representing strongly pronounced types and solemn figures of Christ
and the saints, analogous to those in the stained-glass windows of
gothic cathedrals and minsters. Hence the mosaics, and gradually all
Byzantine art, stiffened into an expression of severity and gloom,
filling the mind of the beholder with solemnity and awe.[355] This
character is still strikingly seen in the art of the Greek church,
especially in Russia, where there is an intense and superstitious        224
reverence for pictures, known nowhere else. Many of the churches are
completely covered with paintings, which are valued, not for their
execution, for they are often hideously ugly, but as a sort of
talismans on account of their supposed religious sanctity.[356] Thus
art, which is the daughter of paganism, relapsing into the service of
superstition, has corrupted, and often paganized, Christianity, as
Solomon’s heathen wives turned his heart from the worship of the true
God to the practice of idolatry. Lecky attributes this degradation of
style to the latent Manicheism of the dark ages, to the monkish fear
of beauty as a deadly temptation, and to the terrible pictures of
Dante, which opened up such an abyss of horrors to the imagination.
But by means of this mediæval art, imperfect, and even grotesque as it
often was, would be brought vividly before the minds of the people of
a rude and barbarous age an intense conception of the scenes of
Christ’s passion, and a realistic sense of the punishment of the lost.

It will be convenient to treat the art of the Catacombs under the two
heads of symbolical and biblical paintings, and to discuss separately
the gilt glasses and other objects of interest found in these crypts.
De Rossi divides the subject into symbolical, allegorical, biblical,
and liturgical paintings; but some of these divisions, as for
instance, the last, assumes the whole question of the purport and
interpretation of these pictures.

     [325] M. Didron’s _Iconographie Chrétienne_ is a valuable
     contribution on this important subject.

     [326] In the beautiful figure of Pressensé, all art is an Æolian
     harp, shivering with the breezes that pass over it.

     [327] _Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte_, p. xii.

     [328] One of the earliest indications of human existence on the
     planet is a sepulchral cave in the post-pliocene drift at
     Aurignac, in France, in which are evidences of the celebration of
     the funeral banquet and other sepulchral rites. “The artificially
     closed Catacomb,” says Dr. Wilson, “the sepulchred dead, the
     gifts within, the ashes and _débris_ of the last funeral feast
     without, ... all tell the ever-recurring story of reverent piety,
     unavailing sorrow, and the instinctive faith in a future life
     which dwells in the breast of the rudest savage.”--“Prehistoric
     Man,” by Daniel Wilson, LL.D., Toronto University, p. 84.

     [329] “History of Art,” by Dr. Wilhelm Lübke, vol. i, p. 275.

     [330] “History of Christian Art,” vol. i, p. 39.

     [331] _Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte_, p. 14.

     [332] Mr. J. H. Parker refers to the fifth or sixth century many
     paintings which De Rossi ascribes to the second or third. These
     eminent authorities represent two extremes of opinion. Probably
     the truth lies between them.

     [333] No example of the former is known before A. D. 312. The
     nimbus is given to Our Lord in the fourth century, to angels in
     the fifth, but did not reach its widest application till the
     seventh. (Martigny, _Dict. des Antiqs. Chrét._) It was employed
     in ante-Christian pagan art, both Egyptian and classical. In
     Byzantine art it is a symbol of power and of office, and was
     therefore given alike to Pharaoh, Saul, Herod, Constantine,
     Judas, the apocalyptic Dragon, and Satan. Sometimes that of Judas
     is _black_. (Didron, _Iconog. Chrét._ in _loco_.)

     [334] Certain Gnostic images will be hereafter mentioned.

     [335] Ex. xx, 4. פֶּסֶל  is a _carved_ image, from the
     root פָּסַל, to cut, or carve.

     [336] These pictures were generally on smooth white plaster, and
     in beautiful bright colours, for the most part in spaces limited
     by lines of vivid blue, yellow, or red, or by bands of
     Egyptian-like lotus or lily pattern. If on the ceiling, they were
     in _lunettes_ similarly divided. These bands frequently run
     around the _loculi_ and _arcosolia_, and divide the walls into
     panels. Occasionally the latter are covered with a reticulated or
     lattice-like pattern in bright opaque colors. The paintings are
     now often much faded and defaced.

     [337] 1 Pet. iii, 19.

     [338] The Mediæval conception of Christ’s “Harrowing of Hell” and
     delivery of our first parents, ruined through the guile of the
     serpent, is a striking analogue of this myth. Compare also
     Bacon’s rather fantastic explanation of this legend by the
     principles of natural and moral philosophy. See his “Wisdom of
     the Ancients,” chap. xi.

     [339] Hom. i, _De Cruce Domini_.

     [340] “La physionomie presque payenne qui offre le décoration des
     Catacombes de Rome.”--_Discours Sur l’origine des types imitatifs
     de l’Art du Christianisme._ Paris, 1834, p. 96.

     [341] _Sculture e pitture sagre_, etc., t. iii, pp. 193, 218.

     [342] _Le Mystère de Syncrétisme Phrygien dans les Catacombes
     Roman de Prétextat._ (_Nouvelle Interprétation._) Paris, 1854.

     [343] Another reading is:

     [344] Fig. 31, from Perret, tom. i, planche lx. The description
     in the text is translated from his account, founded on Garrucci.
     See also _Tre sepolcri con pitture ed iscrizioni appartenenti
     alle superstizioni pagane del Bacco Sabazio e del Persidico
     Mitra_. Napoli, 1852.

     [345] _Voyage dans les terres bibliques_, pl. 5.

     [346] _Perret_, i, p. 44.

     [347] Novi multos esse sepulchrorum et picturarum adoratores ...
     quos et ipsa ecclesia condemnat, et tanquam malos filios
     corrigere studet.--Aug., _de Morib. Eccl. Cathol._, lib. i,
     c. 34.

     [348] Contra auetoritatem Scripturarum.--Epiphan., _ad Johan.

     [349] Forte requiratur, quanam ratione gerendi
           Sederit hæc nobis sententia, pingere sanctas
          _Raro more_ domos animantibus adsimulatis.
                           Turba frequentia his est
           Rusticitas non casta fide, neque docta legendi.
           Hæc adsueta diu sacris servire profanis,
           Ventre Deo, tandem convertitur advena Christo.
           Propterea visum nobis opus utile, totis
           Felicis domibus picturâ illudere sanctâ:
           Si forte attonitas hæc per spectacula mentes
           Agrestes caperet fucata coloribus umbra,
           Quæ super exprimitur titulis, ut litera monstret
           Quod manus explicuit.
             --Paulin., _De Felice Natal. Carm._, ix, vv, 541,
              _et seq._

     [350] Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem
           Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus.
                                           --Hor., _de Arte Poeticâ_.

           Mens hebes ad verum per materialia surgit
           Et, demersa prius, hac visa luce resurgit.
                                 --_On doorway of St. Denis, Paris._

     During the Middle Ages much religious truth was doubtless
     conveyed by these storied basilicas or “gospels in stone.” Of St.
     Mark’s, Venice, Dr. Guthrie says, “It is not more remarkable for
     its oriental splendour than for the flood of gospel truth set
     forth to all eyes in the mosaics that cover and adorn its domes
     and walls.... Here the grand central, saving doctrine, the glory
     of Paul and hope of sinners, ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified,’
     is exhibited with wonderful fulness and fidelity.” In A. D. 483,
     Pope Sixtus dedicated to the people of God--_plebi Dei_--the
     mosaics of S. Maria Maggiore at Rome, executed for their

     [351] Placuit picturas in ecclesia esse non debere, ne quod
     colitur aut adoratur in parietibus depingatur.--_Concil.
     Eliber._, A. D. 305, c. 36.

     [352] Τοῦτον δὲ τὸν ἀνδιάντα εἰκόνα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ
     φέρειν ἔλεγον.--_Hist. Eccles._, vii, 18.

     [353] Sectae ipsius (Carpocratis) fuisse traditur socia quædam
     Marcellina, quæ colebat imagines Jesu et Pauli, et Homeri et
     Pythagoræ, adorando incensumque ponendo.--Aug., _de Hæresib._, c.
     vii; cf. Iren., _advers Hæres._, i, c. xxv, § 6. Rochette figures
     one of these Gnostic tessaræ or amulets with a head of Christ and
     the word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, accompanied by the symbolic fish.

     [354] In larario suo ... Christum, Abraham et Orpheum, et
     hujusmodi ceteros, habebat ac majorum effigies, rem divinam
     faciebat.--Lamprid., _in Alex. Sever._, c. xxix.

     [355] Lübke, vol. i, p. 316.

     [356] Stanley’s _Eastern Churches_, _passim_.

                            CHAPTER II.                                  225


Primitive Christianity was eminently congenial to religious symbolism.
Born in the East, and in the bosom of Judaism, which had long been
familiar with this universal oriental language, it adopted types and
figures as its natural mode of expression. These formed the warp and
woof of the symbolic drapery of the tabernacle and temple service,
prefiguring the great truths of the Gospel. The Old Testament sparkles
with mysterious imagery. In the sublime visions of Isaiah, Ezekiel,
and Daniel, move strange creatures of wondrous form and prophetic
significance. In the New Testament the Divine Teacher conveys the
loftiest lessons in parables of inimitable beauty. In the apocalyptic
visions of St. John the language of imagery is exhausted to represent
the overthrow of Satan, the triumph of Christ, and the glories of the
New Jerusalem.

The primitive Christians, therefore, naturally adopted a similar mode
of art expression for conveying religious instruction. They also, as a
necessary precaution in times of persecution, concealed from the
profane gaze of their enemies the mysteries of the faith under a veil
of symbolism, which yet revealed their profoundest truths to the
hearts of the initiated. That such disguise was not superfluous is
shown by the recent discovery of a pagan caricature of the Crucifixion
on a wall beneath the Palatine, and by the recorded desecration of the
eucharistic vessels by the Apostate Julian.[357] To those who            226
possessed the key to the “Christian hieroglyphs,” as Raoul-Rochette
has called them,[358] they spoke a language that the most unlettered
as well as the learned could understand. What to the haughty heathen
was an unmeaning scrawl, to the lowly believer was eloquent of
loftiest truths and tenderest consolation.

Although occasionally fantastic and far-fetched, this symbolism is
generally of a profoundly religious significance, and often of extreme
poetic beauty. In perpetual canticle of love it finds resemblances of
the Divine Object of its devotion throughout all nature. It beholds
beyond the shadows of time the eternal verities of the world to come.
It is not of the earth earthy, but is entirely supersensual in its
character, and employs material forms only as suggestions of the
unseen and spiritual. It addresses the inner vision of the soul, and
not the mere outer sense. Its merit consists, therefore, not in
artistic beauty of execution, but in appositeness of religious
significance--a test lying far too deep for the apprehension of the
uninitiate. It is perhaps also influenced, as Kugler remarks, in the
avoidance of realistic representation, by the fear which pervaded the
primitive church of the least approach to idolatry.

Great care must be observed, however, in the interpretation of this
religious symbolism, not to strain it beyond its capacity or
intention. It should be withdrawn from the sphere of theological
controversy, too often the battleground of religious rancour and         227
bitterness, and relegated to that of scientific archæology and
dispassionate criticism. An allegorizing mind, if it has any
theological dogma to maintain, will discover symbolical evidence in
its support where it can be detected by no one else.[359]

One of the most striking circumstances which impresses an observer in
traversing these silent chambers of the dead is the complete avoidance
of all images of suffering and woe, or of tragic awfulness, such as
abound in sacred art above ground. There are no representations of the
sevenfold sorrows of the _Mater Dolorosa_, nor cadaverous Magdalens
accompanied by eyeless skulls as a perpetual _memento mori_. There are
no pictures of Christ’s agony and bloody sweat, of his cross and
passion, his death and burial; nor of flagellations, tortures, and       228
fiery pangs of martyrdom, such as those that harrow the soul in many
of the churches and picture-galleries of Rome.[360] Only images of joy
and peace abound on every side. These gloomy crypts are a school of
Christian love and gentle charity, of ennobling thoughts and elevating
impulses. The primitive believers, in the midst of their manifold
persecutions, rejoiced even in tribulation. “There is no sign of
mourning,” says d’Agincourt, “no token of resentment, no expression of
vengeance; all breathes of gentleness, benevolence, and love.” “To
look at the Catacombs alone,” says Rochette, “it might be supposed
that persecution had no victims, since Christianity has made no
allusion to suffering.” There are no symbols of sorrow, no appeals to
the morbid sympathies of the soul, nothing that could cause vindictive
feelings even toward the persecutors of the church; only sweet
pastoral scenes, fruits, flowers, palm branches and laurel crowns,
lambs and doves; nothing but what suggests a feeling of joyous
innocence, as of the world’s golden age.

The use of pictorial representations appears often to have been a
matter of necessity. Many of the Christians could understand no other
written language. Numerous inscriptions, by the extreme ignorance
manifested--the wretched execution, grammar, and spelling--show the      229
lowly and unlettered condition of those who affixed them to the
walls.[361] The relatives of the deceased would naturally desire some
token by which they might recognize, in that vast and monotonous
labyrinth of graves, the tomb of their departed friend. To those
ignorant of letters an inscription would but ill subserve this
purpose. Hence we often find some pictorial representation, either
with or without an accompanying inscription, on the tomb. These were
sometimes rude figures having a phonetic correspondence to the name of
the deceased, and sometimes the emblems of his trade. Of the former
kind are the following examples copied from the walls of the
Lapidarian Gallery:


         ET PONTIA · MAZA · COZVS · VZVS. (_sic._)
                          MERENTI ·

     “Pontius Leo made this for himself while living. He and his wife
     Pontia Maxima made this for their well-deserving son,
                    Fig. 33.--Phonetic Symbol.]

The friends of Leo were probably unable to read this inscription,
whose atrocious latinity betrays the ignorance of the mason by whom it
was executed, and therefore had engraved upon the stone the rude
outline of a lion, the symbol of his proper name.

Another slab bears the outline of a little pig, the pictorial
translation of the somewhat singular name Porcella. It was, perhaps,
a term of endearment, like the obsolete English “Pigsney.”               230


      Q · VIXIT ANN · III · M · X · D · XIII ·

     “Here sleeps Porcella in peace. She lived three years, ten
     months, and thirteen days.”
                    Fig. 34.--Phonetic Symbol.]

In like manner the tombs of Dracontius, Vitulus, and Onager, bear
respectively a dragon, a steer, and an ass, the phonetic synonymes of
these names. These figures may in some cases be a mere pictorial
paronomasia, but the explanation above suggested is the more probable
one. In the following example this is almost asserted:


     TITVLV FACTV                      [Transcriber’s Note: sailboat]

     “Navira in peace; a sweet soul, who lived sixteen years and five
     months; a soul sweet as honey; this epitaph was made by her
     parents. The sign, a ship.”
                    Fig. 35.--Phonetic Symbol.]

More frequently the figures had reference to the trade or occupation
of the deceased, as in the following epitaph, probably of a
wool-comber, found by Dr. Maitland built into the wall of the Piazzo
di Spagna, in Rome. Many important funeral tablets, both Christian and
pagan, have been thus employed for the commonest purposes. The objects   231
in the engraving are probably the shears, comb, ladle, and an unknown
instrument used for cleansing wool.

                      “To Veneria, in peace.”
                Fig. 36.--Wool-Comber’s Implements.]

The following, from the Lapidarian Gallery, indicates the trade of a
carpenter. The saw and adz are very like those now employed:

                      BAVTO ET MAXIMA SE VIVI

  [Illustration: [Transcriber’s Note: carpenter’s tools]

     “To Bautus and Maxima. They made this during their lifetime.”
                   Fig. 37.--Carpenter’s Tools.]

On another slab is a figure, probably of a vine-dresser, in a short      232
Roman tunic, standing near a wine cask, the symbol of his occupation.
He appears to be starting to the field with his mattock on his
shoulder, and in his hand is a wallet containing, perhaps, the
provision for the day.

                      GAVDENTIO FECERVM FRATRI

     “To Gaudentius. His brothers made this. He lived twenty-eight
     years, eight months, seventeen days.”
                 Fig. 38.--A Vine-Dresser’s Tomb.]

In the Catacomb of St. Agnes is a fresco of husbandmen carrying a wine
butt on their shoulders, the meaning of which is probably the same.
Mr. Hemans rather fantastically interprets this symbol as implying
concord, or the union of the faithful bound together by sacred ties,
as the staves of the cask are by its hoops.[362] Maitland translates
it as standing for a proper name. We have seen examples representing
fossors at work,[363] and Fabretti figures the slab of a sculptor,
exhibiting the manufacture of sarcophagi. Other examples occur, in
which the fuller’s tomb is indicated by mallets, the shoemaker’s by      233
shoes or lasts, the baker’s by loaves, the wood-feller’s by an axe,
the grocer’s by scales, and the like, although the meaning of some of
these figures is questioned. Didron, however, presses this
interpretation of these symbols much too far, making the dove, fish,
anchor, and sheep, only the emblems of the occupation of the fowler,
fisherman, sailor, and shepherd, respectively, thus doing violence to
the acknowledged canons of epigraphic criticism to be presently

But by far the larger proportion of these symbols have a religious
significance, and refer to the peace and joy of the Christian, and to
the holy hopes of a life beyond the grave; and many of them were
derived directly from the language of Scripture. They were often of a
very simple and rudimentary character, such as could be easily
scratched with a trowel on the moist plaster, or traced upon the
stone. They were sometimes, however, elaborately represented in
excellent frescoes or sculpture.

The beautiful allusion of St. Paul to the Christian’s hope as the        234
anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, is frequently represented
in the Catacombs by the outline of an anchor, often rudely drawn, but
eloquent with profoundest meaning to the mind of the believer. It
assured the storm-tossed voyager on life’s rough sea that, while the
anchor of his hope was cast “within the veil,” his life-bark would
outride the fiercest blasts and wildest waves of persecution, and at
last glide safely into the haven of everlasting rest. This allusion is
made more apparent when it is observed how often it is found on the
tombstones of those who bear the name Hope, in its Greek or Latin
form, as ΕΛΠΙϹ, ΕΛΠΙΔΙΟϹ, SPES, etc. In the accompanying example it is
displayed on a Christian patera. This symbol is not unknown in classic
art. It occurs on a ring from Pompeii, in the Museum of Naples, with
the word ΕΛΠΙϹ, Hope.

  [Illustration: Fig. 39.--Symbolical Anchor.]

Of kindred significance with this is the symbol of a ship, which may
also refer to the soul seeking a country out of sight, as the ship
steers to a land beyond the horizon. Sometimes it may be regarded as a
type of the church; and in later times it is represented as steered by
St. Peter and St. Paul.[365] The symbol of “the heaven-bound
ship”--ἡ ναῦς οὐραοδραμοῦσα--is mentioned by Clement of Alexandria       235
as being in vogue in the second century. This figure was used also in
pagan art as an emblem of the close of life, and may still be seen
carved on a tomb near the Neapolitan Gate of Pompeii. In the Catacombs
the execution of the symbol is often exceedingly rude, the design
being apparently copied from the clumsy barges of the Tiber. The mast
and yard sometimes present a vague imitation of the cross.[366] The
accompanying figure is from the Lapidarian Gallery of the Vatican.[367]

  [Illustration: Fig. 40.--Symbolical Ship.]

The palm and crown are symbols that frequently occur, often in a very
rude form. Although common also to Jewish[368] and pagan art, they
have received in Christian symbolism a loftier significance than they
ever possessed before. They call to mind that great multitude whom no
man can number, with whom Faith sees the dear departed walk in white,    236
bearing palms in their hands. The crown is not the wreath of ivy or of
laurel, of parsley or of bay, the coveted reward of the ancient games;
nor the chaplet of earthly revelry, which, placed upon the heated
brow, soon fell in withered garlands to the feet; but the crown of
life, starry and unwithering, the immortal wreath of glory which the
saints shall wear forever at the marriage supper of the Lamb. They are
the emblems of victory over the latest foe, the assurance that

         The struggle and grief are all past;
           The glory and worth live on.

The palm and crown conjoined, the latter encircling the sacred
monogram, are represented in the accompanying example from a slab in
the Vatican Library.

  [Illustration: Fig. 41.--Symbolical Palm and Crown.]

The palm has also been claimed, but, as we shall see, without any
warrant whatever, as the emblem of the martyrs and the designation of
their tombs.

One of the most beautiful symbols of the Catacombs is the dove, the
perpetual synonym of peace. Indeed, that word is frequently annexed to
the figure as if to show more distinctly its meaning, as in Figs. 42
and 43.[369] The innocence and purity of the dove make it an
appropriate emblem of the souls of departed Christians, soaring beyond
the defilements of earth to the peaceful blessedness of heaven.[370]     237
It is, therefore, in allusion to this thought sometimes accompanied by
the words, _anima innocens_, _anima simplex_--“innocent soul,” “simple
soul.” Perhaps there may be also a reference to the admonition of Our
Lord, “Be ye, therefore, ... harmless as doves.” The gentleness and
tender affection of these beautiful birds make them an emblem of
endearment in every age, as is strikingly seen in the frequent
allusions of the matchless Song of Songs. It may, therefore, be often
employed in the Catacombs with reference to the domestic virtues of
the deceased, and to the mutual constancy of husband and wife. The
expression, _palumbus sine felle_--“a dove without gall”--is often
applied in Christian epitaphs to the departed, especially in its
diminutive form--_palumbulus sine felle_--on the tombs of little
children, as if the bereaved parents presented their babes to the
Lord, like the turtle-doves and young pigeons of the ancient Jewish
offering of infant consecration.

                       “In the Peace of God.”
                    Fig. 42.--Symbolical Doves.]

The dove generally bears in its beak or claws an olive branch, the
sign of the assuaging of the waters of Divine vengeance from the face
of the earth. (See Fig. 43.) It is, then, as Tertullian expresses it,    238
“the herald of the peace of God.”

  [Illustration: Fig. 43.--Symbolical Dove.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 44.--Doves and Vase.]

                       “The place of Primus.”
               Fig. 45.--Dove Eating Olive Berries.]

Sometimes it is seen drinking out of a vase, or pecking at grapes or
olive berries, a symbol of the soul’s enjoyment of the fruits and
refreshing draughts of paradise.[371] (See Figs. 44 and 45.) As seen
sitting on the arms of the cross,[372] the dove is an appropriate
symbol of the peace with God purchased by the death of Our Lord Jesus
Christ. The dove in a cage may imply the faithful under persecution,     239
or the soul imprisoned in the body.

The dove was also used in the Catacombs as the symbol of the Holy
Spirit in representations of the baptism of Our Lord, and is described
by Paulinus as similarly employed in the church of Nola.[373]
Tertullian[374] applies toward the ecclesiastical edifice the
expression, _columbæ domus_--“house of the dove”--possibly, however,
with reference to the dove-like religion and character of the
Christians. In Mediæval art the Holy Spirit, under the form of a dove
wearing a cruciform nimbus, the symbol of divinity, is represented
brooding over the face of the waters of primeval chaos, inspiring the
prophets and saints, and even nailed to the cross above the crucified
body of Our Lord. This sacred emblem of the Paraclete, the Divine
Comforter, by a monstrous violation of propriety was emblazoned upon
battle-flags, and the Holy Name given to a military order and to ships
of war.[375]

This emblem was also used in pagan art. The light-winged coursers who    240
drew the airy chariot of Venus were doves. From the oaks of Dodona
doves uttered oracles of the future. A dove was also the celestial
messenger of Mahomet. The olive, too, was sacred to Minerva, and as
the symbol of peace was woven into the victor’s crown.

  [Illustration: Fig. 46.--Symbolical Peacock.]

Other pagan types were employed, but with a new and nobler Christian
significance. Thus the peacock, the proud bird of Juno, frequently
appears in the Catacombs, not as the symbol of the all-seeing eye of
God, in imitation of the pagan myth of the hundred eyes of Argus, but
as the emblem of immortality.[376] Associated in meaning and
frequently confounded in form with the peacock was the phoenix, the
marvellous story of whose rejuvenescence from the ashes of its funeral
pyre Clement of Rome recounts with unfaltering faith.[377] Lactantius
makes it the theme of an elaborate poem,[378] and Tertullian cites it
as a striking illustration of the resurrection of the dead.[379] It
was also considered a type of the new birth and of eternal felicity.
The cock, generally associated with St. Peter,[380] is interpreted as
the symbol of unsleeping vigilance; it is, perhaps, also an emblem or    241
suggestion of the remorse of the apostle for his denial of his Lord.

Another adaptation of classic symbolism is the employment of the stag,
the attribute of Diana, as the emblem of the Christian thirsting after
the living waters. It is generally represented drinking at a stream,
probably in allusion to the Psalmist’s panting after God as the hart
after the water-brooks.[381] The hare sometimes occurs, an appropriate
type of the persecution of the Christians, hunted amid those secret
burrows in the earth like rabbits in their warrens. The horse is
interpreted as symbolizing eagerness or speed in running the Christian
race, or, perhaps, the course of life happily accomplished;[382] and
the lion, fortitude of soul, or, from the notion that he slept with
open eyes, vigilance against the snares of sin.[383] It is remarkable
that the dog, a pagan symbol of fidelity, never occurs except as         242
accessory in hunting scenes of manifestly heathen type; probably on
account of the abhorrence of this, to them, unclean beast, by the
Jews, who so largely impressed their characteristics on Christian
thought and feeling.[384] The serpent, a common pagan symbol, and with
the cock the attribute of Æsculapius, nowhere appears but in the scene
of the temptation of Eve by the “Old Serpent, the Devil.”

The vine is an appropriate symbol of the intimate union of the
believer and Christ, and the olive tree of a life fruitful in good
deeds, or of the church, in whose sheltering arms all souls may find
rest, as the fowls of the air in the boughs of a tree. Flowers and
fruits may be the emblems of future beatitude; and a loaf, of the
bread of life or of the holy eucharist. The fountain is a type of the
living waters, and the lyre, of the influence of the Divine Orpheus.
The lamp and the light-house are the emblems of spiritual illumination
through the gospel. The balance may refer to the just dealing of the
deceased, or perhaps to the final judgment and the Eastern notion of
psychostasy.[385] The house probably indicates the tabernacle of the
body, or perhaps the last long home of the grave, or the house not
made with hands on high. Most of the symbols, however, refer to the
person and work of Christ, as the central and dominating idea of the     243
church of the Catacombs. Some of these are of such importance and of
so frequent occurrence as to demand a more detailed examination.

One of the most striking and beautiful of these symbols is that which
represents Christ as the Good Shepherd, and believers as the sheep of
his fold. While the doves, as we have seen, may be regarded as
emblematic of the beatified spirits of the departed, the sheep more
appropriately symbolize those who, still in the flesh, go in and out
and find pasture. Suggesting the thought of that sweet Hebrew
idyl[386] of which the world will never grow tired; which, lisped by
the pallid lips of the dying throughout the ages, has strengthened
their hearts as they entered the dark valley; and to which Our Lord
lent a deeper pathos by the tender parable of the lost sheep--small
wonder that it was a favourite type of that unwearying love that
sought the erring and the outcast and brought them to his fold again.
With reiterated and manifold treatment the tender story is repeated
over and over again, making the gloomy crypts bright with scenes of
idyllic beauty, and hallowed with sacred associations.

This symbol very happily sets forth the entire scope of Christian
doctrine. It illustrates the sweet pastoral representations of man’s
relationship to the Shepherd of Israel who leadeth Joseph like a
flock,[387] and his individual dependence upon him who is the Shepherd
and Bishop of all souls.[388] But it especially illustrates the
character and office of Our Lord, and the many passages of Scripture
in which he represents himself as the Good Shepherd, who forsook his
eternal throne to seek through this wilderness-world the lost and
wandering sheep, to save whom he gave his life that he might bring       244
them to the evergreen pastures of heaven.

This subject undergoes every possible variety of treatment and is
endlessly repeated--rudely scratched on funeral slabs, elaborately
sculptured on sarcophagi, moulded on lamps and vases, graven on seals
and rings, traced in gold on glass, and painted in fresco, generally
in the most prominent and honourable position, in the vaulting of the
chambers and tympana of the _arcosolia_.[389] The Good Shepherd is
generally represented as a youthful beardless figure in a short Roman
tunic and buskins, bearing tenderly the lost sheep which he has found
and laid upon his shoulders with rejoicing. This is evidently not a
personal image, but an allegorical representation of the “Lord Jesus,
that Great Shepherd of the sheep.” He is generally surrounded, as in
Fig. 47, by a group of fleecy followers, whose action and attitude
indicate the disposition of soul and manner of hearing the word. Some
are listening earnestly; others are more intent on cropping the
herbage at their feet, the types of those occupied with the cares and
pleasures and riches of this world. A truant ram is turning heedlessly
away, as if refusing to listen; and often a gentle ewe nestles fondly
at the shepherd’s feet or tenderly caresses his hand. An early
Christian writer, contemporary with this primitive art, furnishes an
interpretation of these pictures. He compares the poor of this world
to sheep in a barren desert; finding no allurements here below, they
seek after those things which are above. The rich, on the contrary,
are like sheep in a pleasant pasture, with heads and hearts always
intent on the things of earth. Frequently a shower of rain, or of
water from a rock--the emblem of the dews of grace or the waters of
salvation--falls, abundantly on the listening sheep, scantily on those   245
that are feeding, not at all on the one that is turning away.

  [Illustration: Fig. 47.--The Good Shepherd.]

Sometimes the sheep appears to nestle with an expression of human
tenderness and love on the shepherd’s shoulders; in other examples it
is more or less firmly held with one or both hands, as if to prevent
its escape. In a few instances the fold is seen in the background,
which seems to complete the allegory. Frequently the shepherd carries
a staff or crook in his hand, on which he sometimes leans, as if weary
beneath his burden. He is sometimes even represented sitting on a
mound, as if overcome with fatigue, thus recalling the pathetic words
of the _Dies Iræ_:

         Quærens me sedisti lassus.

Occasionally he is represented with a musical instrument, like the
classical syrinx or Pan’s-pipe, in his hand, as in Fig. 48, as if to
indicate the sweet persuasive influence of his word. In allusion to
this thought Gregory Nazianzen remarks, “The Good Shepherd will at one
time give his sheep rest, and at another time lead and direct them,
with his staff seldom, more generally with his pipe.” In a fresco in     246
the Catacomb of St. Agnes the shepherd’s tenderness and pity are
contrasted with the mercenary harshness of the hireling who careth not
for the sheep, and who rudely seizes by the leg one that struggles to
get free, while the Good Shepherd merely calls his sheep, and they
hear his voice and follow him. Sometimes an Orpheus, to whose lyre the
sheep seem to listen with pleased attention, takes the place of the
Good Shepherd.

  [Illustration: Fig. 48.--Good Shepherd with Syrinx.]

Sometimes the shepherd is represented as leading or bearing on his
shoulders a kid or goat instead of a sheep or lamb. This apparent
solecism has been thought a careless imitation of pagan figures of the
sylvan deity Pan, who frequently appears in art in this manner. It is
more probable, however, that it was an intentional departure from the
usual type, as if to illustrate the words of Our Lord, “I am not come    247
to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” and to indicate his
tenderness toward the fallen, rejoicing more over the lost sheep that
was found than over the ninety and nine that went not astray. It was
also, probably, designed as a protest against the rigour of the
Novatians in refusing reconciliation to penitent apostates. Sometimes
Our Lord, thus symbolically represented, is accompanied by one or more
of his disciples, as under-shepherds to whom is given command to feed
the flock of Christ, over which the Holy Ghost had made them

In the Catacomb of St. Agnes is a remarkable fresco of a lamb between
two wolves, over which is written the word SENIORES, evidently an
allegorical representation of the story of Susanna and the elders, and
in mystic form an image of the church surrounded by persecution, or an
illustration of the words of Our Lord, “Behold, I send you forth as
sheep in the midst of wolves.”

The figure of the Good Shepherd has been a favourite symbol in every
age, and was common in pagan art. Mercury was worshipped under the
name Criophorus, or the Ram-bearer, and was thus represented in
painting and statuary.[390] More frequently the god Pan appears under
that figure, generally bearing in his hand the simple instrument to
which he has given his name. The Roman poets employ this sweet
pastoral image in their beautiful eclogues[391] to illustrate the
shepherd’s tender care for his flock, gently bearing the lambs in his
arms or on his shoulders, recalling the inspired language in which
Isaiah depicts the Almighty’s loving-kindness toward his people.[392]
From this outward resemblance between the pagan and Christian themes,    248
Raoul-Rochette has imagined that the frescoes of the Catacombs were
careless imitations of the heathen type, overlooking their
distinctively Christian interpretation. But the naked fauns dancing
with the nymphs of pagan art, as in the tomb of the Nasos, are
infinitely removed from the sweet and tender grace of the Christian
“Pastor Bonus.” Tertullian, in the second century, speaks of chalices
on which were paintings of the Good Shepherd and the lost sheep.[393]
Eusebius says that Constantine placed a statue of this subject in the
forum of Constantinople. It also appears in mosaic at Ravenna, A. D.
440, and in a Catacomb at Cyrene in Africa.[394]

But Our Lord is sometimes represented as a lamb instead of a
shepherd.[395] Indeed, this symbol is no less appropriate than the one
just considered, and has equally the sanction of Scripture. The          249
manifold sacrifices of the tabernacle and temple all pointed to the
Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the true Passover of
mankind. The immaculate purity, gentleness, and divine affection of
the Redeemer, and his patience under affliction and persecution, make
this beautiful symbol an appropriate type of his innocence and
sufferings as he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and, as a sheep
dumb before its shearers, opened not his mouth.[396] In the devout
recognition of Our Lord by John the Baptist,[397] and in the sublime
visions of the Apocalypse,[398] he is thus figuratively represented;
and to this divine Lamb is chanted evermore the song of praise and
honour and thanksgiving.[399]

  [Illustration: Fig. 49.--Lamb as Symbol of Christ.]

In the accompanying engraving from a sarcophagus in the Lateran, of
the fourth or fifth century, the lamb, wearing the nimbus in which are
inscribed the sacred monogram and the letters Alpha and Omega, the
emblems of divinity, is standing upon a hillock, perhaps intended for    250
Mount Zion,[400] from which flow four streams, probably the “river of
water of life,... proceeding out of the throne of God and of the
Lamb,” and dividing toward the four quarters of the earth. These
streams are also variously interpreted as signifying the four
evangelists, and the four rivers of paradise.[401] On a sarcophagus of
later date Our Lord is represented in human form with a scroll in his
hand, standing on a mound from which the four mystical rivers flow,
and by his side a lamb bearing a Latin cross on its head. On either
side are lambs, personifications of the apostles, to whom he is giving
the final commission to preach in all lands the gospel contained in
the scroll which he holds, and to baptize with the sacred waters at
their feet. Sometimes twelve lambs are represented approaching one in
the centre, as in frescoes in St. Clement’s at Rome, and at Ravenna.
On a gilt glass patera in the Vatican Library the lambs are seen to
issue from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, as indicated by their names
written above, and to approach Mount Zion, from which flow the four
evangelical streams united in the mystical Jordan. This is perhaps
emblematic of the twelve tribes, or of the gentiles coming from the
east and west to drink of the water of life. Paulinus describes a
mosaic in his basilica of Fondi, where a cross symbolical of Christ      251
was placed on the rock, and two flocks, of sheep and goats
respectively, stood around it. “The shepherd turns away,” he says,
“the goats on the left, and embraces with his right hand the
well-deserving lambs.”[402] This was perhaps the first of that series
of art-presentations of the last judgment which culminates in the
tragic terrors of the Sistine Chapel.

Sometimes a milk-pail is represented near a lamb, or hanging on a
crook by its side, or even resting on its back. Sometimes also it is
carried by the Good Shepherd. This has been magnified without due
evidence into a symbol of the eucharist. It might more naturally be
regarded as an emblem of the blessings of salvation, set forth by
Isaiah under the figure of wine and milk, or it may refer to the
soul’s being fed with the sincere milk of the word.

On the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus in the crypts of St. Peter’s, of
date A. D. 359, are exhibited several scenes from scripture history,
which will be hereafter described. In the spandrels of the arches over
these is a series of bas reliefs, in which lambs are naively shown as
enacting other scriptural scenes. In one a lamb, the personification
of Moses, strikes a rock from which the water bursts forth, and
another receives the law from the hand of God. Three lambs in a fiery
furnace represent the three Hebrew children in the furnace of
Nebuchadnezzar. Our Lord is symbolized by a lamb on whose head
another, personifying John the Baptist, is pouring the waters of
baptism, while the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove breathes divine      252
grace. A lamb, the personification of Christ, multiplies the loaves,
and brings forth Lazarus from the grave.

One of the most remarkable and important, in its theological
significance, of the symbols of the Catacombs is that of the fish. It
is one of the oldest in the entire hieratic cycle. It is found
accompanying the first dated inscription which bears any emblem
whatever,[403] and nearly a hundred examples occur which are
attributed to the first three centuries. It was also one of the first
to be discontinued. During the fourth century it rapidly fell into
disuse, and by the beginning of the fifth had almost entirely
disappeared from religious art.[404]

The abandonment of this remarkable figure may be explained by its
mysterious and anagrammatic character. It is a striking illustration
of that _disciplina arcana_ of the primitive church which employed
signs whose secret meaning its heathen foes could not understand. When
the age of persecution passed away there was no longer the necessity
to conceal under allusions and emblems, known only to the initiated,
religious truths which were openly proclaimed on every hand. Hence
this purely conventional sign fell into disuse.

This symbol probably derived its origin from the fact that the initial
letters of the names and titles of Our Lord in Greek--Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς,   253
Θεοῦ Υἱὸς, Σωτήρ, Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Saviour--make up the
word ΙΧΘΥΣ, a fish. “This single word,” says Optatus, “contains a
host of sacred names.”[405] The same word also occurs acrostically in
the initial letters of certain so-called Sibylline verses quoted by
Eusebius[406] and Augustine,[407] which were doubtless of Christian
origin. The symbol is first mentioned by Clement of Alexandria,[408]
and probably had its origin in the allegorizing school of Christianity
which sprang up in that city.[409]

There appears also to have been an allusion in this figure to the
ordinance of baptism. “We are little fishes,” says Tertullian, “in
Christ our great fish. For we are born in water, and can only be saved
by continuing therein,”[410] that is, through the spiritual grace of
which baptism is the visible sign. “This sign,” says Clement, “will
prevent men from forgetting their origin.” “He (that is, Christ) is
that fish,” says Optatus, “which in baptism descends in answer to
prayer into the baptismal font, so that what was before water is now
called, from the fish, (_a pisce_,) _piscina_.”[411] Even the mythical   254
fish mentioned in the apocryphal book of Tobit,[412] occasional
pictures of which occur in the Catacombs, is interpreted by some of
the Fathers as typifying Our Lord. “That fish which came alive out of
the river to Tobias,” says Augustine, “whose heart, (liver,) consumed
by passion, put the demon to flight, was Christ.”[413]

This sacred sign was also regarded as an emblem of the sufferings of
Our Lord and the benefits of his atonement. “The Saviour, the Son of
God,” says Prosper of Aquitania, “is a fish prepared in his passion,
by whose interior remedies we are daily enlightened and fed.”[414]
“ΙΧΘΥΣ is the mystical name of Christ,” says Augustine, “because he
descended alive into the depths of this mortal life as into the abyss
of waters.”[415] “The fish in whose mouth was the coin paid as the
tribute money,” says Jerome, “was Christ, at the cost of whose blood
all sinners were redeemed.” Origen merely speaks of him as
“figuratively called the fish.”[416] “Thus this symbol became,” says
Dr. Northcote, “a sacred _tessera_, embodying with wonderful brevity
and distinctness a complete abridgment of the creed--a profession        255
of faith, as it were, both in the two natures and unity of person, and
in the redemptorial office, of Our Blessed Lord.”[417]

  [Illustration: Fig. 50.--Symbolical Fish.]

Few symbols, if any, were more common than this. It occurs rudely
scratched on funeral slabs, painted in the _cubicula_, sculptured on
the sarcophagi, moulded on lamps,[418] engraven on rings and
seals,[419] carved in ivory, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones, and
cast in bronze or glass. These last, often pierced in order to be worn
like an amulet, were frequently given to the neophyte at baptism to
remind him of the privileges and obligations which it conferred, and
they are often found buried with the dead. One of these has engraved
upon it the word ΣΩΣΑΙΣ--“Mayest thou save us;” and a sepulchral lamp,
besides representations of fishes, bears the word ΙΧΘΥΣ, and, as if
in explanation, the cyphers Α. Ω., ΙΗ. ΧΘ. ΣΩΤΗΡ--that is, The First
and the Last, Jesus Christ, the Saviour. A slab, on which are engraved
two fishes and an anchor, bears the inscription, ΙΧΘΥΣ ΖΩΝΤΩΝ--“The
fish of the living.” Sometimes this sacred sign is inscribed on pagan
tombstones used to close the _loculi_ of the Catacombs, in order to
give them a Christian character. Frequently the execution is
exceedingly rude, as in Fig. 50; occasionally it is of a more artistic
form, as in Fig. 51. It seldom occurs alone, however, but associated
with other Christian emblems, as the anchor or dove, (see Figs. 52 and   256
53,) as if to indicate that the deceased rests in Christ, in hope and
in peace. Sometimes the fish bears a wreath in its mouth, perhaps in
allusion to the crown which Christ will give to all his saints. Didron
objects to applying these symbols to Christ, because the fish does not
wear the nimbus. But the nimbus was not worn at all at this early
period; such a criterion is therefore inadmissible.

  [Illustration: Fig. 51.--Symbolical Fish.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 52.--Fish and Anchor.
  _From the Catacomb of Hermes. Earliest dated example, A. D. 234._]

  [Illustration: Fig. 53.--Fish and Dove.
  _From the Catacomb of St. Priscilla._]

  [Illustration: Fig. 54.--Eucharistic Symbol.]

This sacred fish is sometimes represented, as in Fig. 54, from the
crypt of St. Lucina, bearing what seems to be a basket of bread and a
flagon of wine on its back, or occasionally a loaf of bread in its
mouth. In these cases there is probably a reference to the bread of
life which Christ breaks to his disciples, or possibly to the holy
eucharist. Sometimes a bird is pictured as deriving nourishment from
the mouth of a fish, the symbol of a soul receiving refreshment from     257
Christ. The eucharist is also thought to be indicated by frequent
representations of a fish and bread on a table, sometimes with a
figure in prayer standing by; and also by a picture of seven persons
eating a repast of bread and fish together, probably Christ dining
with the disciples by the sea-shore after his resurrection.

Melito of Sardis speaks of Our Lord under the figure of a fish broiled
on the fire of tribulation.[420] A mystical interpretation was also
given to the loaves and fishes multiplied by Christ for the feeding of
the multitude, as indicating the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit and the
dispensations of the law and the gospel.[421]

A remarkable Greek inscription, found about thirty years ago in an
ancient Christian cemetery at Autun, in France, throws much light on
the profound religious significance of the symbol of the fish.[422]
Its date, as indicated by the character of the epigraphy, in the
opinion of the most eminent critics, is about the year 400.[423] The
language is of Homeric purity and vigour, which is accounted for by
the fact that Autun was, during the fourth and fifth centuries, a sort
of “French Eton,” where Greek, the tongue “of Homer and the gods,” was
sedulously cultivated. The following is the text as restored and
translated by Marriott. It will be perceived that the word ΙΧΘΥΣ         258
occurs acrostically in the initial letters of the first five
lines, and is found four times in the body of the inscription. It is
conjectured that the figure of a fish was also engraved, though now
unhappily obliterated, at both the lower corners, where spaces for it
seem to have been left.

     ΙΧΘΥΟϹ οὐρανίου ἅγιον γένος, ἤτορι σεμνῷ
     Χρῆσε, λαβὼν ζωὴν ἄμβροτον ἐν βροτέοις
     Θεσπεσίων ὑδάτων· τὴν σὴν, φίλε, θάλπεο ψυχὴν
     Ὕδασιν ἀενάοις πλουτοδότου Σοφίης,
     Σωτῆρος δ’ἁγίων μελιηδέα λάμβανε βρῶσιν.
     Ἔσθιε πεινάων ΙΧΘΥΝ ἔχων παλάμαις.
     ΙΧΘΥΙ χεῖρας ἄραρα· λιλαίεο δέσποτα Σῶτερ
     Εὐθύ μοι ἡγητήρ, σε λιτάζομε, φῶς τὸ θανόντων.
     Ἀσχανδῖε πάτερ, τῷ ’μῷ κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ,
       Σὺν μητρὶ γλυκερῇ καὶ πὰσιν τοῖσιν ἐμοῖσιν
         ΙΧΘΥΝ ἰδὼν υἵου μνήσεο Πεκτορίου.

     “Offspring of the heavenly Ichthus, [Christ,] see that a heart of
     holy reverence be thine, now that from divine waters thou hast
     received, while yet among mortals, a spring of life that is to
     immortality. Quicken thy soul, beloved one, to ever fuller life,
     with the unfailing waters of wealth-giving wisdom, and receive
     the honey-sweet food of the Saviour of the saints. Eat with
     longing hunger, holding Ichthus [the Divine Food] in thy hands.
     On Ichthus [Christ] my hands are clasped; in thy love draw nigh
     unto me and be my guide, my Lord, and Saviour; I entreat thee,
     thou Light of them for whom the hour of death is past. My father,
     Aschandeius, dear unto my heart, and thou, sweet mother, and all
     I love on earth, oft as you look on Ichthus [the holy sign of
     Christ] so often think of me, Pectorius, your son.”[424]

In this beautiful expression of primitive faith and hope Romish          259
interpretation has discovered evidence of prayers for the dead, of the
invocation of the Virgin Mary, the doctrine of transubstantiation and
communion in one kind, and mention of the “sacred heart of Jesus.”
Marriott has well shown the grammatical and other difficulties which
these forced interpretations create, and the absurdity of importing
into antiquity “controversial phrases of comparatively modern
theology, utterly unknown to the early church.”

Sometimes, by a confusion of metaphor common to both pictorial and
literary figurative expression, the symbol of the fish is applied to
men as well as to Our Lord. Indeed, this may have been its primary
application, and has the sanction of the scriptural designation of the
apostles as “fishers of men.” The Greek liturgy adopts the same
figure, and, in pursuance of the metaphor, speaks of the rod of the
cross, the hook of preaching, and the bait of charity.[425] There are
also frequent representations on the sarcophagi and in the frescoes of
the Catacombs, doubtless in allusion to this function of the Christian
ministry, of men drawing fish out of the water. These, however, must
not be confounded with the occasional fishing scenes copied from pagan
art; and the symbolical fish must be carefully discriminated from the
dolphins which frequently occur on the sarcophagi, and from the “great
fish” which swallowed Jonah. It is remarkable that a bronze image with   260
a chalice and fish was found at Autun, in the neighbourhood of the
inscription above given. The figure occurs also on certain ancient
coins, and in representations of the Phoenician Dagon or fish-god.

It is noteworthy that there are in the Catacombs comparatively few
representations of the cross, that sacred sign of salvation which in
after years became perverted to such superstitious uses; and when it
does occur it is generally in some disguised form, and not in that by
which it is now generally indicated, familiarly known as the Latin
cross. There is probably a twofold reason for this. The very sanctity
of the symbol, and the detestation in which it was held by the
heathen, conspired to prevent the early Christians from exposing it to
their profane gaze. It is almost impossible to conceive the abhorrence
in which the cross was held in the early centuries by the Greek and
Roman mind. It has for ages been hallowed by the most sacred and
venerable associations, and invested with the most sublime and solemn
interest as the emblem of the world’s redemption. It has waved on
consecrated banners, and been quartered on the arms of earth’s
proudest monarchs. It has shone on cathedral spire and dome, and,
emblazoned with gold and costly gems, has gleamed on many a sacred
shrine. It has been marked on the infant brow in baptism, and held
before the filming eyes of the dying; and has been associated with the
deepest emotions and holiest hopes of the soul.

Not so in the earliest ages of the church. It was then the badge of
infamy and sign of shame--the punishment of the basest of slaves and
the vilest of malefactors. It was regarded with a loathing and
abhorrence more intense than that in which the felon’s gibbet is held
to-day. Its very name was an abomination to Roman ears,[426] and it      261
was denounced by the prince of Roman orators as a most foul and brutal
punishment, an infamous and unhappy tree.[427] Hence this Christian
emblem became the object of scoffing and derision by the persecuting
heathen. An illustration of this is seen in the blasphemous caricature
of the Crucifixion, found upon the walls of the palace of the Cæsars
and attributed to the time of Septimius Severus.[428] It represents a
figure with an ass’s head attached to a cross, which another figure,
standing near, salutes by kissing the hand, or adores in the classical
sense of the word. Beneath is a rude scrawl which has been interpreted
thus: Ἀλεξόμενος σέβετε (_sic_) Θεὸν--“Alexomenos worships his god,”
probably the sneer of some Roman legionary at a Christian soldier of
Cæsar’s household. Lucian also contemptuously speaks of Our Lord as a
“crucified impostor.”[429]

The Christians, therefore, reverently veiled this sacred sign from the
multitude; but they cherished it in their hearts, and in times of
persecution gladly bore its reproach. The early Fathers, both Greek
and Latin, recognize the occurrence of this symbol everywhere            262
throughout the universe, and expatiate with fervent eloquence on its
mystical meaning. The points of the compass, says Jerome, and the
fourfold dimensions of space as mentioned by the apostle,[430] set it
forth. Its form was assumed by birds in their flight, by men in the
act of swimming and in the attitude of prayer, and is seen in the
masts and yards of vessels.[431] “The cross,” says Justin Martyr,[432]
“is impressed on all nature; there is scarcely a craftsman but employs
the figure of it among the implements of his industry.” It was seen in
the beam and share of the plough, and in the forms of flowers and
leaves. It was typified in countless analogies of Scripture, in the
measurement of the ark, the number of Abraham’s servants, the shape of
Jacob’s staff, and the roasting of the paschal lamb; in the rod of
Moses, the seven-branched candlestick, and the wave-offerings of the
temple service; and it was the hallowed sign marked in blood on the
lintels of the Hebrews’ houses. It healed the envenomed wounds of the
serpent-bitten Israelites in the desert, routed the Amalekites in
battle, and restored to life the son of the widow who gave bread to
the prophet. It was the mark of God on the saints of Jerusalem, and
was to be the sign of the Son of man in the heavens. The Christians
wore the sacred token like a banner on their foreheads,[433] and the
form at which men once shuddered, says Chrysostom, became the badge
of highest honour, so that even emperors laid aside the diadem to        263
assume the cross. “Let him bear the cross,” says Paulinus, “who would
wear the crown.”[434] Christians were known as “devotees of the
cross,”[435] and this sign of Christ[436] was employed to hallow every
act of their lives, their down-sitting and up-rising, their going out
and coming in.[437] It was especially adopted, as several of the
Fathers remark,[438] as the attitude of prayer, and Chrysostom quotes
in explanation the words of the Psalmist, “Let the lifting up of my
hands be as the evening sacrifice.”[439] Tertullian and Asterius
Amasenus[440] expressly declare that thus is set forth the passion of
Our Lord.

This symbol acquired at length in popular apprehension the power of a
sacred talisman to banish demons, vanquish Satan, avert evil, protect    264
in time of danger or temptation, and to shut the mouths of lions about
to devour the intrepid confessors of the faith.[441] The sign of the
cross on the forehead and heart, says Prudentius, banishes all
evil.[442] Another poet of the fifth century recommends the mystical
charm as an antidote to diseases of cattle. Into such superstition had
Christianity already degenerated.[443]

More common than any other Christian symbol in the Catacombs is the
so-called Constantinian monogram, ☧. The first certain example of     265
this is the following, which bears the date A. D. 331:[444]



     [Frond]   IN SIGNO      ☧         [Palm leaf]

     Asellus and Lea to Priscus, their well-deserving father, in
     peace, who lived sixty-four years, three months, twelve days. In
     the sign of Christ.

         Fig. 55.--Earliest dated Constantinian Monogram.]

A somewhat similar form occurs with the date A. D. 291, but De Rossi
thinks it is only an ornamental point.[445] The following fragment may
possibly belong to the year 298, when one of the consuls was named
Gallus; but it cannot be proved that he is the one mentioned in the
inscription: [VI]XIT ... ☧ ... GAL . CONSS.--“He lived in Christ
... and Gallus being consuls.”[446]

In the year 339 the second dated example occurs, enclosed in a circle.
In A. D. 341 three examples are found, and in A. D. 343 it occurs four
times in one inscription. After this it becomes exceedingly common,
and is even employed as a mark of punctuation between the words.         266

This monogram is formed, as will be perceived, by the combination of
the Greek characters CHI and RHO, the first two letters of the word
ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, or Christ. It may, indeed, be regarded rather as a
contracted form of writing that word than as a proper symbol, just as
we sometimes write Xt. and Xmas. for Christ and Christmas. Indeed, it
most probably originated in the prevalent practice of contracted and
monogrammatic writing, of which we have so many examples in these
inscriptions. That the monogram stands for the name of Our Lord will
be apparent from an examination of a few of the inscriptions in which
it occurs, as, for instance, the very first dated example, above
given. See also the following: IN PACE ET IN ☧ DEO--“In peace and
in Christ God;” BIBAS IN ☧--“May you live in Christ;” IN ☧ VICTRIX,
which probably meant “Victrix (a woman’s name) victorious in Christ.”
Marangoni gives the accompanying impression of a seal on the plaster
of a grave. See figure 56.

  [Illustration: “Hope in Him,” _i. e._, in Christ.
                     Fig. 56.--Christian Seal.]

This monogram soon became almost universal in the Catacombs, on
sepulchral slabs, lamps, vases, rings, seals, weights, gems, etc., and
in every conceivable modification of form, some of which are shown in
the illustration on next page. See also the vignette on title page,
copied from an alabaster slab in the Collegio Romano, originally from
the Catacombs.

  [Illustration: Fig. 57.--Various Forms of the Constantinian Monogram.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 58.--“Tasaris in Christ, the First and the Last.”]

Frequently the Greek letters Alpha and Omega accompany the monogram,
as in numbers 1, 4, and 6 of Fig. 57, in allusion to the sublime
passage in the Revelation descriptive of the eternity of Christ.[447]    267
Sometimes the order of the letters is reversed, probably through the
ignorance of the artist, as in the accompanying rude example, Fig. 58.
The whole was sometimes placed obliquely, or even turned upside down,
doubtless for the same reason. Even in its simplest form it was
considered sufficient to give a Christian character to a tombstone
which had been originally pagan. Such inscriptions are called            268
_opisthographæ_, that is, written behind. In the following example
from Aringhi the letters D. M., for the heathen formula DIS
MANIBVS,--“To the Divine Manes,” are partially obliterated, and the
consecrating sign substituted instead.

  [Illustration: Fig. 59.--Opisthographic Inscription.]

This monogram has been supposed to have been adopted from the
celebrated Labarum, or battle-standard of Constantine, which bore this
sacred figure. This was derived in turn, it was feigned, from the
image which the imperial convert saw, or thought he saw, traced in the
sky in characters of fire brighter than the noon-day sun, before the
battle of the Milvian Bridge. Probably a solar halo of unusual
splendour was magnified by the eager imagination of Constantine into a
token of divine assistance, and the legend Ἐν τούτῳ νίκα was an after
addition of the credulous historian. The Christian emblem, according
to Prudentius,[448] was worn upon the shields and helmets of the whole
army as well as on the imperial standard; “and so,” says Milman, “for
the first time the meek and peaceful Jesus became a God of battle; and
the cross, the holy sign of Christian redemption, a banner of bloody     269

Probably there is allusion to the above mentioned legend in the
following inscription from Bosio:

                            IN HOC VINCES


                         SINFONIA ET FILIIS.

     In this thou shalt conquer. In Christ. Sinfonia, also for her sons.

On a remarkable sarcophagus in the Lateran Museum is a representation
of the monogram[450] supported on a cross and surrounded by a wreath,
at which doves are pecking; probably a symbol of the souls of the
blessed feeding on the hope of an immortal crown and the sweetness of
eternal bliss. Beneath are crouched two soldiers, types, it is
thought, of the Christian warriors not yet entered into rest, whose
only place of safety is at the foot of the cross; or they may refer to
the Draconii, or imperial guard of the Labarum, who, according to
Eusebius, passed unhurt amid showers of javelins.

The following enlarged copy of an early Christian seal exhibits the
triumph of the cross over the Old Serpent, the Devil, while it is the
symbol of salvation to the saints represented by the doves at its
foot. In later art the figures of lions, eagles, falcons, peacocks,      270
doves, and lambs, grouped around the cross, seem to signify its power
to subdue evil passions and to inspire holy virtues.

  [Illustration: Fig. 60.--Early Christian Seal.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 61.--Monogram, united with the Cross.]

The change of the monogram into the cross was very gradual. First one
stroke of the X became coincident with the vertical part of the P, and
the other at right angles to it, as in No. 6, Fig. 57. At length the
loop of the P disappears and the Greek cross results. In the other
examples of Fig. 57 the cross, if cross it was at all, was neither in
the Greek nor Latin form, but in that known as St. Andrew’s. Finally
the lower arm was lengthened till it assumes the form shown in the
accompanying engraving, which was found on the grave of a neophyte
four years old. The first dated example of a simple undisguised cross
in the Catacombs does not occur till A. D. 407;[451] but during the
latter part of the fifth century it became quite common. It also
became more ornate in form, and was frequently adorned with gems and
wreathed with flowers, especially in the later bas reliefs. In the
fourth century it had already become an object of such superstitious     271
veneration as to call forth the reproaches of Julian and the
extravagant laudation of many of the Christian fathers.[452] In the
time of Chrysostom the alleged discovery of the true cross by the
Empress Helena was universally received, and “materialized at once,”
says Milman, “the spiritual worship of Christianity.”[453] Its
position was revealed in a vision and its genuineness proved by the
miraculous cures which it performed, as recorded by St. Cyril,
afterward bishop of Jerusalem, a reputed eye-witness of the event. The
precious relic, distributed throughout Christendom[454] and in minute
portions worn as sacred talismans, did much to cultivate a spirit of
superstition which culminated in the Romish festivals of the Invention
and Exaltation of the Cross, and in the hymns and offices of the
church, often bordering, at least, upon idolatrous homage.[455] It
also led to the conception of the marvelous legend of the cross in the   272
apocryphal gospels and ancient traditions.[456]

The cross thus gradually assumed the form in which it is now generally   273
represented; but it was a sign of joy and gladness, crowned with
flowers, adorned with precious stones, “a pledge of the resurrection
rather than a memorial of the passion.”[457] It was like the rainbow
in the cloud to Noah after the flood--a promise of mercy, not a symbol
of wrath. It was not the dead Christ but the glorified Redeemer that
the primitive Church presented to the imagination. She lingered not by
the empty sepulchre, but followed by faith the risen Lord. The
persecuted saints shared the triumph of His victory over death and the
grave, and felt that because He lived they should live also.

The early believers carefully avoided, as though prevented by a sacred
interdict, any attempt to depict the awful scenes of Christ’s passion,
the realistic treatment of which in Roman Catholic art so often shocks
the sensibilities and harrows the soul. This solemn tragedy they felt
to be the theme of devout and prayerful meditation rather than of
portraiture in art. Hence we find no pictures of the agony and bloody
sweat, the mocking and the shame, the death and burial of Our Lord.
“The Catacombs of Rome,” says Milman, “faithful to their general
character, offer no instance of a crucifixion, nor does any allusion
to such a subject of art occur in any early writing.”[458] “The
passion is not represented literally,” says Dr. Northcote, a strenuous   274
advocate of Roman Catholic views, “but under the veil of secresy. It
is not our Beloved Lord, but some other who bears his cross. The crown
which is placed on his head is of flowers rather than of thorns, and
corresponds better with the mystical language of the Spouse in the
Canticles[459] than would a literal treatment.”[460] With this agrees
the assertion of the distinguished Prussian archæologist, Prof. Piper,
of Berlin. Speaking of the series of art representations, belonging to
the first five centuries, of scenes in the life of Our Lord, which
extend from his nativity to his appearance before Pilate, he says,
“Further, however, this series does not go: the death and resurrection
of Christ have not at all been made the subject of representation in
this period.”[461]

In the fifth century Paulinus of Nola speaks of Christ as represented
by a snowy lamb standing at the foot of the cross.[462] Sometimes a
lamb bore the cross, at others it was couchant in the midst of it;
and, as if to bring the sacrificial emblem more vividly to mind, the     275
lamb was represented as wounded and bleeding, an innocent victim given
to an unjust death.[463]

In A. D. 692 the Quinisextan Council decreed that the historic figure
of Christ in human form should be substituted for paintings of the
lamb[464]--an evidence that the earlier representations were purely
allegorical. The lamb, however, still continued to be employed, and it
required the reiterated injunction of Pope Adrian, in the eighth
century, to enforce uniformity of usage; and even after that time a
reversion to the former practice sometimes occurred.

The oldest extant representation of the crucifixion is a miniature in
a Syrian evangelarium, of date A. D. 586, now in the Laurentian
Library at Florence. The treatment of the subject is exceedingly rude,
bordering on the grotesque. The figure of Our Lord is crowned with a
nimbus and clothed with a long purple robe The soldiers on the ground
are casting lots for his garments, and the sun and moon look down upon
the scene. A companion picture represents the ascension of Christ and
the effusion of the Holy Spirit. “These are the oldest pictorial
representations,” says Prof. Piper, “of the earthly life of Jesus and
of his exaltation.... At a somewhat later period,” he continues, “they
appear also in the west.”[465]

Gregory of Tours, about the end of the sixth century, mentions,
apparently as an unusual innovation, a picture in the church at          276
Narbonne which represented the crucifixion of Our Lord.[466] About the
same time Venantius Fortunatus mentions what seems to have been a
metallic cross bearing the image of Christ.[467]

The figure of Jesus first appeared standing at the foot of the cross,
frequently with outstretched arms as if in prayer, which type was
common in the eighth century. Sometimes the bust only was exhibited at
the top of the cross, or even hovering over it, as in a reliquary
presented to Theodelinda by Gregory the Great, the head being crowned
with a nimbus, but without any expression of pain.

In the ninth century the form of Christ is raised to the centre of the
cross; but he is still alive, with open eyes and head erect, as if to
indicate that the divine nature was not subject to death. The hands
are not nailed, but extended in prayer; the darkened sun and moon look
down upon the awful tragedy; but still a feeling of reverence
prevented the depicting of any expression of suffering on the
countenance of the Redeemer. It was not till the eleventh century that
art attempted to represent either the agony or death of the Son of
God.[468] From this time he is exhibited lifeless upon the cross, his    277
hands and feet transpierced with nails and a spear wound in his side,
from which the flowing blood sometimes falls on the head of the
spectators, as if indicating the efficacy of the atonement; and in the
thirteenth century the head drops heavily to one side.[469]

The arrangement of the drapery differs greatly in these paintings. In
the tenth century the form of the divine victim is entirely clothed
with a long robe with sleeves, the hands and feet alone being
uncovered. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the robe becomes
shorter and the sleeves disappear; in the thirteenth it is reduced to
a short tunic; and in the fourteenth it is little more than a narrow
girdle about the loins, at which stage it has since remained. The
_suppedaneum_, or support for the feet, is generally represented.
It is frequently in the form of a globe, or of a chalice. The support
for the body is never shown in art. Sometimes the sepulchre, with the
angel and the two Marys, is seen in the background. One example, in
St. John’s Lateran, exhibits the gate of paradise and the tree of

The expression of the face also underwent a change--a dire eclipse of
woe--no less painful to behold. In the earlier pictures of the
crucifixion the countenance of the Redeemer is still gentle and
benign, the type of tenderness and truth; but it gradually becomes
more and more strongly marked with the expression of sorrow and
physical anguish, till all the divine fades away, and only the human
agony of the wan and furrowed face remains. The serene and joyous
aspect which, as we shall see, the representations of Our Lord always    278
wore in the Catacombs, vanishes, and he is depicted as the “man of
sorrows,” crushed with hopeless grief, crowned with thorns,
transpierced with nails, and stained with dropping blood from the
ghastly spear-wound in his side. Art exhausted its power in
delineating the intensest forms of anguished suffering, sinking lower
and lower in the depths of a brutal materiality and ferocity of
treatment of this sacred theme. Even the genius of Michael Angelo only
renders more painful the contrast between the tender and pitiful Good
Shepherd of the Catacombs and the relentless Judge of the Sistine
Chapel, menacing the guilty with the thunderbolts of wrath--a pagan
Zeus rather than the Christian God of Mercy. This striking change but
too faithfully represents the corresponding degradation and
materialization of religious belief.

The crucified Christ was not only depicted in his dying agonies on
earth, but this human anguish is even introduced into representations
of heaven, bringing gloom upon its glory and sadness amid its joy. The
Divine Father is frequently portrayed as sitting on the throne of his
majesty, and holding in his hand a cross on which hangs the agonized
body of his Son.[470]

In the East the development of image worship seems to have been
earlier than in the West.[471] During the eighth century its
corruptions provoked the iconoclastic zeal of the Isaurian Leo; and a
general council condemned as idolatrous all symbols of Christ except
the holy Eucharist.[472] Their destruction was rigorously prosecuted
in the Eastern Empire; but Gregory II. became the champion of image      279
worship in the West, and Italy, adhering to her ancient pagan
instincts, substituted this new idolatry for that which she had

The development of the graven representation of the passion was more
gradual than its treatment in graphic art. This was the work of the
sculptors. At first the figure of Our Lord was merely painted on a
flat surface of wood or metal. This was afterward incised in outline,
and exhibited in low relief, as on an ivory diptych of date A. D. 888
in the Vatican Museum. In this the sun and moon, as genii, hold
torches above the cross; and by a singular association of ideas,
Romulus and Remus, suckled by the wolf, appear at its foot, probably
in allusion to Christ’s spiritual subjugation of the Roman
Empire.[473] The treatment of this sacred theme passed gradually
through the stages of _basso_, _mezzo_, and _alto relievo_, becoming
more and more detached, till, in the fourteenth century, the figure of
Our Lord upon the cross stood out, the completed and portable
crucifix.[474] From this, through rapid stages, we arrive at the gross
and ghastly images which abound throughout Roman Catholic Christendom;
in every church and at every shrine; in the homes alike of prince and
peasant; at the street corners and by the way side; often in popular
apprehension endowed with the power of weeping, motion, speech, and
working miracles.[475] By such gradations between the soul of man and    280
the living Saviour came the image of the dead Christ, diverting the
thoughts from the faith in a living Lord to an idolatrous veneration
of a lifeless symbol.

Thus, as Dr. Maitland remarks, in painting sight superseded faith, and
in sculpture touch superseded sight. But still another resource of
sensuousness was to be discovered; and in the year 1223, “when the
world was growing cold,”[476] as the Roman Church, with a deeper
meaning than it knew, asserted, Saint Francis of Assis is feigned to
have received the stigmata of the five wounds of Christ, and
thenceforth to have borne about in his body--a living crucifix--the
marks of the Lord Jesus. This miracle was afterwards frequently
repeated; but the Church, seeking amid the growing darkness of the
times to walk by sight and not by faith, wandered ever further and
further from the central source of light and power, and lost all
ability to communicate to a cold and dying world any spiritual life
and warmth.

The sad lesson of the history we have been tracing is but too plain.
In the early ages, and in the fervent glow of primitive faith, no
outward symbol was necessary to reveal to the soul the presence of the
Divine, or to interpret the profound meaning of the atonement. The
Church required no sensuous image of Him, whom having not seen she
loved, to prevent that love from growing cold. As the fervour of faith
failed she relied more on the visible sign to quicken her languid
devotion; but not till six centuries of gathering gloom had passed       281
over her head after her fatal alliance with imperial power did
degenerate art dare to portray to the eye of sense the death pangs and
throes of mortal agony of the suffering Son of God. In the church of
the Catacombs these images of sadness and gloom have no place. All is
bright, cheerful, and hope-inspiring. In the following chapter we
shall see that these characteristics are strikingly manifested in all
the representations of Our Lord that there occur.

     NOTE.--We have made no reference in the foregoing remarks to the
     pre-Christian crosses, of which so many examples occur. It is not
     remarkable that this perhaps simplest of all geometrical figures
     should have attracted the notice of many diverse and ancient
     races, and even have been regarded as a sign of potent mystical
     meaning. This subject has been treated with a good deal of
     fantastic theory by S. Baring-Gould, M.A., (_Curious Myths of the
     Middle Ages_, pp. 341, _et seq._;) more philosophically by
     Creuzer, (_Symbolek_, pp. 168 _et seq._,) and by various
     travellers and observers of ancient remains in many lands. Sir
     Robert Ker Porter mentions the hieroglyph of a cross, accompanied
     by cuneiform inscriptions, which he saw on a stone among the
     ruins of Susa. (_Travels_, vol. ii, p. 414.) Prescott mentions
     its occurrence among the objects of worship in the idol temples
     of Anahuac, (_Conquest of Mexico_, vol. iii, pp. 338-340.) It was
     found on the temple of Serapis at Alexandria, which fact was
     urged by the pagan priests to induce Theodosius not to destroy
     that building. (Socrates, _Eccl. Hist._, v, 17.) It was probably
     a Nilometer, or perhaps the so-called “Key of the Nile,”
     frequently held in the hand of Egyptian deities as the emblem of
     life, or the symbol of Venus, probably of phallic significance.
     (Tertul., _Apol._, c. 16.) It is found also on Babylonian
     cylinders, on Phoenician and Etruscan remains, and among the
     Brahminical and Buddhist antiquities of India and China.
     (Medhurst’s _China_, p. 217.) It was also the sign of the Hammer
     of Thor, by which he smote the great serpent of the Scandinavian
     mythology. On rather slender evidence S. Baring-Gould attributes
     its use to the pre-historic lake-dwellers of Switzerland. It was
     also found, he asserts, combined with certain ichthyic
     representations in a mosaic floor of pre-Christian date, near Pau
     in France, in 1850. This example was probably post-Christian.

     [357] When persecution ceased, this veil of mystery was thrown
     off and a less esoteric art employed; but even when Christianity
     came forth victorious from the Catacombs, symbolical paintings
     celebrated its triumph upon the walls of the basilicas and
     baptisteries which rose in the great centres of population.

     [358] _Mémoire sur les antiquités Chrétiennes des Catacombes._
     (_Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscr., XIII._)

     [359] Sometimes this superzealous interpretation leads to absurd
     mistakes. Aringhi devotes two folio pages to the explanation of
     certain figures which occur in the inscriptions of the Catacombs,
     which he calls representations of the human heart. He illustrates
     the subject with much sacred and profane learning, and with many
     quotations from the Scriptures, the Fathers, and classic authors.
     Another archæologist, Boldoni, suggests that the figures signify
     the bitterest sorrow of heart--_dolorem cordi intimum_; and
     another believes them to be representations of a heart
     transpierced with a thorn, the symbol of profoundest grief. These
     mysterious figures, whose hidden meaning was sought with such
     empty toil--_arcanam significationem inani labore
     investigarint_, says De Rossi--were, however, nothing more
     than the leaf-decorations employed in both pagan and Christian
     inscriptions by way of punctuation! See the following example:

       [Illustration: Fig. 32.--To Berpius, (or Verpius,) in Peace.]

     [360] See especially the church of S. Stefano Rotondo, where is a
     chronological series of martyrdoms, represented in all their
     direst horrors, from the crucifixion of Our Lord to the reign of
     Julian. Among other _grotesqueries_ is a picture of St. Dionysius
     walking in full episcopal robes at the head of a procession,
     holding his head, streaming with blood, in his hands!

     The desire to find martyrs has led over-zealous antiquarians to
     discover instruments of torture in the implements of trade
     commonly represented on the gravestones of the Catacombs. The adz
     and saw of the carpenter are made to do duty in some sensational
     tale of chopping and sawing of a Christian sufferer, and the
     baker’s corn measure is transformed into a martyr’s fiery furnace.

     [361] See Figs. 122 to 128, and context.

     [362] _Sac. Art_, p. 43.

     [363] Figs. 23, 24.

     [364] Such symbols were not peculiar to Christian tombs. There
     were many pagan examples of a similar character. Thus a
     _cultrarius_, or cutler, has knives; a _pullarius_, or poulterer,
     a cage or coop of chickens; a _tabellarius_, and postman, a
     writing case; and a _marmorarius_, or mason, a mallet and chisel,
     on his tomb. Sometimes a shop, with customers bargaining, is
     shown. A bag or purse signifies an agent; money, a banker; and
     the like. The _ascia_ or axe, so common on Roman tombs, probably
     represents a sacrificial instrument. Analogous to these are the
     sphere and cylinder engraven on the tomb of Archimedes, and the
     square and compasses on modern masonic monuments. In the Armenian
     cemeteries a hammer, trowel, last, scales, and shears, indicate
     the grave of a carpenter, mason, shoemaker, grocer, or tailor. In
     the Cemetery de l’Est, at Paris, animals acting mark the tomb of
     the French fabulist, La Fontaine; masks, that of Molière; a
     palette or brushes, that of a painter. See also the naval and
     military trophies on the tombs of many distinguished sailors and

     [365] Fig. 112. This symbol is designated by modern Italians La
     Navicella di San Pietro--the Bark of St. Peter. From the fancied
     resemblance of the body of the church to a ship, or from the
     above allusion, the word _nave_, applied to that part, has been
     derived as if from _navis_, a ship. May it not possibly be from
     ναός, a temple?

     [366] “Arbor quædam in navi,” says St. Ambrose, “est crux in

     [367] Compare the following beautiful passage from Tertullian, in
     which the metaphor is elaborately carried out: “Amid the reefs
     and inlets, amid the shallows and straits of idolatry, Faith, her
     sails filled with the Spirit of God, navigates; safe, if
     cautious, secure, if intently watchful. But to such as are washed
     overboard is a deep, whence is no outswimming; to such as run
     aground is inextricable shipwreck; to such as are engulfed is a
     whirlpool, where there is no breathing in idolatry. All its waves
     suffocate; every eddy drags down to Hades.”--_De Idol._, c. 24.

     [368] Compare 2 Esdras ii, 44, 45. See _ante_, Fig. 18. The
     palm appears on the coins of Simon Barchocab.

     [369] See also Figs. 15, 77, and 82. The figures are often very
     conventional, and look more like geese or ducks than doves.

     [370] See Psa. lxviii, 13. In Mediæval art the soul is
     represented issuing from the mouth of the dying or flying through
     the air in the form of a dove. One example bears the
     inscription--_animæ interfectorum_--the souls of the slain.

     [371] See the common epigraphic expression, ΠΙΕ ΕΝ ΘΕΩ--“Drink
     in God,” and the language of Augustine concerning a deceased
     friend--“Jam ponit spirituale os ad fontem tuum, Domine, et bibit
     quantum potest.”--_Con._, ix, 3.

     [372] See Figs. 60 and 106. “The doves which perch upon the
     cross,” says Paulinus, “show that the kingdom of God is open to
     the simple”--
              Quæque super signum resident cæleste columbæ
                Simplicibus produnt regna patere Dei.

     [373] Per columbam Spiritus Sanctus fluit.--_Ep. ad Sever._

     [374] _Contra Valentin._, c. iii. Sometimes a gold or silver
     dove was placed over the altar, (Bing., viii, 6, § 19,) as is
     still occasionally seen even in Protestant churches. In the
     Middle Ages churches and abbeys were named from this symbol, as
     _Santa Columba_ and Sainte Colombe, the church of the Holy
     Dove. They were also dedicated to the Holy Ghost under the title
     of Saint Paraclete, Santo Spirito, and Saint Esprit.

     [375] According to an apocryphal Gospel, the Holy Ghost under the
     form of a dove designated Joseph as the spouse of the Virgin Mary
     by lighting on his head; and in the same manner, says Eusebius,
     (vi. 29,) was Fabian indicated as the divinely appointed bishop
     of Rome. According to a singular legend, the Holy Spirit in the
     form of a dove was present at the Council of Nice, and _signed
     the creed_ that was there framed. In the Arthurian legend a snowy
     dove accompanied the apparition of the Holy Grail. In the
     fifteenth century a pigeon which lighted on the tent of Edward
     III., at Calais, was thought to be a manifestation of the Holy
     Ghost. (_Mémoires de Phil. de Commines_, iv, 10.) Seven doves
     hovering around the head of Our Lord or the Virgin Mary
     symbolize, in Mediæval art, the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit.

     [376] See Figs. 46, 89.

     [377] _Ep. ad Corinth._, § 25.

     [378] _De Phoenice._

     [379] _De Resurrec. Carn._, c. 13.

     [380] See Fig. 102.

     [381] Psa. xlii, 1. See Fig. 132.

     [382] See Fig. 115.

     [383] In later art this figure is used as an emblem of the Lion
     of the tribe of Judah, and is sometimes represented as opening
     the apocalyptic book with seven seals. The four living creatures
     of John’s vision, (chap. iv, 6, 7,) the lion, calf or ox, eagle,
     and man or angel, and the tetramorph figure of that of Ezekiel,
     (chap. i, ver. 10,) became symbols of the four evangelists, and
     also of Christ.

     In mediæval art uncouth and grotesque figures--“Gorgons and
     hydras and chimeras dire”--took the place of the bright and
     genial symbols of the Catacombs. To the terrified imagination of
     the age all nature swarmed with malignant and demoniac beings,
     which were bodied forth in the dragons and griffins, and
     monstrous forms and faces that haunt the gothic minsters and
     abbeys, especially in the northern countries of Europe, where the
     savageness of nature is reflected in the weirdness of art. Yet
     even in its distorted grotesqueness, this art proved its moral
     superiority to the gay and joyous spirit of heathenism. The
     intense consciousness of sin and evil, and of the mortal struggle
     of the human soul with the powers of darkness which it
     manifested, is essentially nobler than the frivolous sensualism
     of ancient art and life, without hope or fear of the future.

     [384] See Job xxx, 1; Psa. xxii, 16; Matt. vii, 6; Phil. iii, 2;
     Rev. xxii, 15.

     [385] Compare the prophecy of Belshazzar’s doom--Dan. v, 27. To
     this the weighing of the fates of Achilles and Hector in the
     Iliad is analogous. (McCaul, 49.) Several of these symbols are
     often associated together. Thus, on a slab bearing date A. D.
     400, are crowded the Constantinian monogram, the balance, mummy,
     candelabrum with seven lights, a house, and fish. On a marble
     ambo at Ravenna are six series, ten in each, of sheep, peacocks,
     doves, stags, ducks, and fishes. Whether symbolical or not, the
     selection is a remarkable parallel to many of the figures of the

     [386] Psa. xxiii.

     [387] Psa. lxxx, 1.

     [388] 1 Pet. ii, 25.

     [389] See Fig. 105.

     [390] Pausanias, lib. x.

     [391] Tibullus, _Eleg._, ii, 11, 12; Calpurn., _Eclog._, v, 39.

     [392] Isa. xl, 11.

     [393] Patrocinabitur Pastor, quem in calice depingitis. A
     parabolis licebit incipias, ubi est ovis perdita, a Domino
     requisita et humeris ejus revecta.--_De Pudicit._, ii and x.

     [394] The later Christian poets also celebrated this tender
     theme. In lines whose lyric cadence charm the ear like a
     shepherd’s pipe Thomas Aquinas sings:

           Bone Pastor, panis vere,
           Jesu, nostri miserere,
           Tu nos pasce, nos tuere;
           Tu nos bona fac videre,
             In terra viventium.

           Tu qui cuncta scis et vales,
           Qui nos pascis hic mortales
           Tuos ibi commensales
           Cohæredes et sodales
             Fac sanctorum civium.

     Another Mediæval hymn runs sweetly thus:

           Jesu dulcissime, e throno gloriæ
           Ovem deperditam venisti quærere!
           Jesu suavissime, pastor fidissime,
           Ad te O trahe me, ut semper sequar te!

     [395] In a distich accompanying an _Agnus Dei_ in the church
     of St. Pudentiana at Rome, both characters are ascribed to Our

           Hic agnus mundum restaurat sanguine lapsum,
           Mortuus et vivus idem sum, pastor et agnus.

     “This Lamb restores the lost world with his blood. Dead and
     living, I am but one; I am at once the Shepherd and the Lamb.”

     Paulinus beautifully says: “The same Lamb and Shepherd rules us
     in the world who from wolves has made us lambs. He is now the
     Shepherd of those sheep for whom he was once the victim
     Lamb.”--_Epis._ iii, _ad Florent_.

     [396] Isa. liii, 7.

     [397] John i, 19.

     [398] Rev. v, 6.

     [399] _Ibid._, v, 12.

     [400] “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount
     Sion.”--Rev. xiv, 1.

     [401] Paulinus thus describes a mosaic of this subject at Fondi,
     (_Epis._ xii, _ad Severum_:)

           Petram superstat, ipse petra ecclesiæ,
           Ex qua sonori quatuor fontes meant,
           Evangelistæ, viva Christi flumina.

     “Standing upon a rock is He who is himself the Rock of the
     church, and from this go forth four voiceful streams,
     evangelists, the living rivers of Christ.”

     The _Agnus Dei_ is still often seen on altar cloths and

     [402] Et quia celsa (crux) quasi judex de rupe superstat,
           Bis geminæ pecudis discors agnis genus hædi
           Circumstant solium; lævos avertitur hædos
           Pastor et emeritos dextra complectitur agnos.
                             --_Epis._ xii, _ad Sulpic. Sever._

     [403] A. D. 234. De Rossi, _Inscript. Christ._, No. 6. (See
     Fig. 52.) Of course, there may have been many earlier whose
     precise date we cannot determine.

     [404] In later art, indeed, the figure sometimes occurs on
     baptismal fonts, in mosaics, and in architecture, but probably as
     a mere ornament, without any religious meaning. In Byzantine art
     it is unknown except as a natural representation, for example, of
     fish swimming in the water, or, in frescoes of the last judgment,
     as restoring human limbs which they had devoured, illustrative of
     the passage, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in
     it.”--Rev. xx, 13.

     [405] Piscis nomen, secundum appellationem Græcam, in uno nomine
     per singulas literas turbam sanctorum nominum continet ‘ΙΧΘΥΣ,’
     quod est Latinè, Jesus Christus, Dei Filius, Salvator.--Optat.,
     _Cont. Parmen._, lib. iii.

     [406] _Orat. Const. ad Coet. Sanct._, § 18.

     [407] _De Civ. Dei_, xviii, 23.

     [408] _Pædag._, lib. iii, cap. ii. The symbol also occurs in
     a Christian Catacomb at Alexandria, and at Cyrene, in Upper Egypt.

     [409] The Jewish Christians of that city would be already
     familiar with this mode of coining significant titles, which is
     illustrated in the name of their national heroes, the Maccabees,
     said to be made up of the initial letters, מָכָבִּי, of their
     battle cry, מִי־כָמֹכָה בָאֵלֹהים יְהֹוָה--“Who is like unto thee, O Lord,
     among the gods?”

     [410] Nos, pisciculi secundum ΙΧΘΥΝ nostrum Jesum Christum, in
     aqua nascimur, nec aliter quam in aqua permanendo salvi
     sumus.--_De Baptismo_, cap. i.

     [411] Hic (sc. Christus) est piscis qui in baptismate per
     invocationem fontalibus undis inseritur ut quæ aqua fuerat a
     pisce etiam piscina vocitetur.--_Epis. Milevitanus._ The
     _piscina_ is now the basin in which the sacred vessels are

     [412] See chaps. vi and xi.

     [413] Est Christus piscis ille qui ad Tobiam ascendit de flumine
     vivus, cujus jecore per passionem assato fugatus est diabolus.

     [414] Dei Filius, Salvator, piscis in sua passione decoctus,
     cujus ex interioribus remediis quotidie illuminamur et
     pascimur.--_De Promis. et Prædic. Dei_, ii, 39.

     [415] ΙΧΘΥΣ, in quo nomine mystice intelligitur Christus, eo
     quod in hujus mortalitatis abysso, velut in aquarum profunditate
     vivus.--_De Civ. Dei._

     [416] Χριστὸς ὁ τροπικῶς λεγόμενος Ἰχθύς.--_Opp._ ed. Bened.,
     tom. iii, p. 584.

     [417] _Rom. Sott._, p. 210. Probably the aureole of Mediæval
     art derived its name of _vesica piscis_ from this symbol.

     [418] See Fig. 113.

     [419] See Fig. 118.

     [420] Piscis ... Christus tribulationis igne assatus. Compare the
     phrase of Augustine--Piscis assus Christus passus.

     [421] Plerique septiformis Spiritus gratiam in panibus definitam,
     in piscibus quoque duplicis testamenti figuram intelligendam
     putant.--Ambrose, _in Luc._ ix.

     [422] This has been minutely examined by Cardinal Pitra--its
     discoverer--Kirchoff, Garrucci, Le Blant, and other eminent
     scholars. The monograph of Marriott, its latest editor, is a
     masterpiece of epigraphical criticism.

     [423] Cardinal Pitra places it about A. D. 250, but the elongated
     form of the letters, of which there is no early example, forbids
     the supposition.

     [424] The epitaph of Abercius, a Phrygian bishop of the second
     century, also contains an allusion to the heavenly Ichthus, and
     probably to the eucharist, in the lines which we quote:

                               ... Πίστις δὲ προσῆγε
           Καὶ παρέθηκε τροφὴν, Ἰχθὺν θείας ἀπὸ πηγῆς,
           Παμμεγέθη, καθαρὸν, ὃν ἐδράξατο παρθένος ἁγνή·
           Καὶ τοῦτον ἐπέδωκε φίλοις ἔσθειν διὰ παντὸς,
           Οἶνον χρηστὸν ἔχουσα, κέρασμα διδοῦσα μετ’ἄρτου.

     “Faith brought to us and set before us food, a fish from a divine
     fount, great and clean, which the holy maiden took in her hand
     and gave it to her friends, that they should always eat thereof,
     holding goodly wine, giving with bread a mingled drink.”

     The “holy maiden” is evidently, from the context, as Marriott
     remarks, Faith personified, although Padre Garrucci and Dr.
     Northcote regard her as no other than the Virgin Mary.

     [425] We have seen how Tertullian designates believers as little

     [426] Nomen ipsum crucis absit non modo a corpore civium
     Romanorum, sed etiam a cogitatione, oculis, auribus.--Cicero,
     _pro Rabirio_.

     [427] Crudelissimum et teterrimum ... arbor infelix, infame
     lignum.--Cic., _pro Rabirio_.

     [428] Now in the Museum of the Collegio Romano.

     [429] Τὸν ἀνεσκολοπισμένον ἐκεῖνον σοφιστήν.--_De Morte Peregr._

     Tertullian mentions as a common heathen delusion the idea that
     the God of the Christians had an ass’s head. He also speaks of a
     heathen picture of a figure having the ears of an ass, hoofed in
     one foot, carrying a book and wearing a toga, to which was
     affixed the inscription, “The God of the Christians, born of an
     ass.”--_Apol._, c. 16.

     Probably such caricatures were common. On a slab recently
     discovered in the Vigna Nussiner is a representation of an ass
     with the inscription, “Hic est Deus Hadriani,” apparently a
     satirical allusion to that emperor’s favourable disposition to

     [430] Eph. iii, 18.

     [431] Ipsa species crucis quid est nisi forma quadrata mundi?...
     Aves quando volant in æthera, formam crucis assumunt; homo natans
     per aquas, vel orans, forma crucis vehitur. Navis per maria
     antenna cruci similata sufflatur.--Hieronym. _in Mark_ XV.

     [432] _Apol._, i, 72. See also Minuc. Felix, cap. 29.

     [433] Ego Christianus ... et vexillum crucis in mea fronte
     portans.--Hieron., _Ep._ 113.

     [434] Tolle crucem qui vis auferre coronam.

     [435] Crucis religiosi.--Tertul., _Apol._, 16.

     [436] Signum Christi, τὸ κυριακὸν σημεῖον.--Clem. Alex.,
     _Strom._, vi, 11.

     [437] Ad omnem progressum atque promotum, ad omnem aditum et
     exitum, ad vestitum, ad calceatum, ad lavacra, ad mensas, ad
     lumina, ad cubilia, ad sedilia, quæcunque nos conversatio
     exercet, frontem crucis signaculo tenemus.--Tertul., _de Coron.
     Mil._, c. iii.

     [438] Crucis signum est, cum homo porrectis manibus Deum pura
     mente veneratur.--Minuc., _Dial._, p. 90. Expansis manibus in
     modum crucis orabat.--Paulin., _Vit. Ambros._, p. 12. Hic
     habitus orantium est, ut manibus in coelum extensis
     precemur.--Apuleius.--According to Eusebius, Constantine was thus
     represented on the coins of the empire.--Ὡς ἄνω βλέπειν δοκεῖν
     ἀνατεταμένος πρὸς Θεὸν, τρόπον εὐχομένου.--_Vit. Const._, l. iv,
     c. 15.

     [439] Chrys. in Psa. cxli, 2. Compare Paul’s expression about
     “lifting up holy hands” in prayer.--1 Tim. ii, 8.

     [440] Nos vero non attoleimus tantum, sed etiam expandimus,
     et Dominica passione modulantes, et orantes Christo
     confitemur.--Tertul., _de Orat._, c. 11. Τὸ τοῦ σταύρου πάθος
     ἐν τῷ σχήματι ἐξεικονίζει.--Aster., _ap. Phot._, cod. 271. This
     attitude of prayer was also common to the pagans in their
     addresses to the _Dii Superi_, or celestial gods. Hence Virgil
     represents Æneas as praying with his hands stretched out to
     heaven--Duplices tendens ad sidera palmas.

     [441] See an instance of this miracle recorded in
     Eusebius.--_Hist. Eccles._, viii, 7.

     [442] Fac cum vocante somno
             Castum petes cubile,
             Frontem locumque cordis,
             Crucis figura signet.
           Crux pellit omne noxium.--_Hymn_ VI.

     [443] Endelechius, _De mortibus Bovium_. In later times the
     sign of the cross was used in both Greek and Latin benedictions,
     which were given with many puerile distinctions, and with much
     supposed spiritual benefit.--See Didron, _Iconog. Chrét._,
     pp. 406-410. The cross has also given the name to many famous
     churches, which were frequently cruciform in shape. In France are
     over a score of cathedrals or abbeys named Sainte Croix, and in
     Italy many named Santa Croce. In Great Britain we have Saint
     Cross at Winchester, and Holyrood in Edinburgh. The cross was
     also used to mark boundaries, parishes, cross roads; hence the
     phrase, “to beg like a cripple at a cross.” Of three hundred and
     sixty wayside crosses once existing in Iona only one remains.
     This sign was used to mark the beginning and end of books, and as
     a mark of punctuation. It gave validity to legal documents, and
     still accompanies the sign manual of ecclesiastical dignitaries.

     Crucifixion was abolished by Constantine out of reverence for the
     manner of Our Lord’s death.

     The cross would scarcely have been publicly employed while this
     shameful mode of punishment was practiced. The earlier examples
     had probably a baptismal signification as a sign of the faith. Of
     this character seem to have been those erected or inlaid by
     Constantine in his baptisteries and elsewhere. Only by slow
     degrees did it become the symbol of the sufferings of Christ.

     [444] De Rossi, _Inscript. Christ._, No. 39.

     [445] _Ibid._, No. 17.

     [446] _Ibid._, No. 26. With true archæological enthusiasm, De
     Rossi exclaims, “Scarcely any monument in this whole class is
     worthy of such observation as this sepulchral fragment. For if
     indeed this name is that of Gallus, the colleague of Faustus,
     behold, what I have ever intensely desired, I have at length with
     joy obtained--to see with my own eyes a certain dated monument
     which exhibits the celebrated monogram ☧ before the year 312.
     Would that I could find the part of the inscription that is
     lost,” he adds, “which, if it bore the name of Faustus, I would
     esteem more precious than gold and gems--auro contra et gemmis
     cariorem æstimarem.” But he was not permitted to be so happy, and
     it is probable that the Gallus referred to is another of much
     later date.

     [447] Rev. i, 8. Prudentius in his ninth hymn paraphrases the
     same thought:
          Alpha et Ω cognominatus; ipse fons et clausula
          Omnium quæ sunt, fuerunt, quæque post futura sunt.

     In Mediæval art the letters ὁ ὤν are often inscribed on the
     cruciform nimbus indicating Our Lord, in allusion to the
     scripture, ἐγὼ εἰμὶ ὁ ὤν--“I am that I am.”

     [448]  Christus purpureum gemmanti textus in auro,
            Signabat labarum, clypeorum insignia Christus
            Scripserat: ardebat summis crux addita cristis.
                                      --_In Symmachum_, vv. 487-489.

     [449] _Hist. of Christianity_, bk. iii, chap. i. From the
     time of Constantine the monogram became common on the coins of
     the Empire. Valentinian III. and his wife Eudoxia first wore it
     on the imperial crown. In later Greek art the cross is generally
     accompanied by the letters ΙϹ-ΧϹ ΝΙΚΑ, that is, “Jesus Christ is
     conqueror.” Eusebius describes a statue of Constantine at Rome
     bearing this monogram. (_Hist. Eccles._, ix, 9.)

     [450] See Fig. 104, chap. iv. Paulinus refers to the bitter cross
     surrounded by a flowery crown:
              Ardua floriferæ Crux cingitur orbe coronæ.
                                           --Epis. xii, _ad Severum_.

     [451] De Rossi, _Inscrip. Christ._, No. 576. Of course there
     may be earlier examples which are undated.

     [452] In later art ingenuity was exhausted in multiplying
     varieties of the form of the cross. Besides the ordinary Greek
     and Latin types, there was the Resurrection cross, a reed-like
     shaft with a small crosslet, generally bearing a banneret; the
     Calvary cross, with steps at its foot; the _crux gammata_, or
     fourfold repetition of the Greek letter Γ, the _crux
     gemmata_, _stellata_, _florida_, etc. There were also innumerable
     minor varieties for which distinguishing names are provided in
     the jargon of heraldry.

     [453] _Hist. Christianity_, iii, 3. Eusebius is silent
     concerning this event.

     [454] Helena calmed the Adriatic with one of the nails; of
     another Constantine made a bit for his horse; a portion is
     annually exhibited at Rome bearing the threefold title of Our
     Lord in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the first undecipherable.

     [455] Witness the following from the _Vexilla Regis_, addressed
     to the material cross: “Hail, O cross, our only hope! give grace
     to the pious, blot out the sins of the wicked”--

              O crux, ave, spes unica!
              Piis adauge gratiam;
              Reisque dele crimina.

     Compare also the following, from the Office of the Invention of
     the Cross: “O cross, more splendid than all the stars,... which
     alone wast worthy to bear the ransom of the world! sweet wood,
     sacred nails, bearing so precious a burden, save this people
     assembled to-day to sing thy praises.”--O Crux, splendidior
     cunctis astris,... quæ sola fuisti digna portare talentum mundi!
     dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera, salva
     præsentem catervam in tuis hodie laudibus congregatam.

     This sacred theme has also been the subject of some of the
     noblest lyrics of the church, none of which, however, surpass the
     impassioned devotion of the following lines of Savonarola, the
     Luther of Italy, whose reform, alas! was quenched in his own

                   O croce, fammi loco!
                   E le mie membre prendi!
                   Che del tuo dolce foco
                   Il cor e l’alma accendi!
                   La croce e l’ crocifisso,
                   Sia nel mio cor scolpito,
                   Ed io sia sempre affisso
                   In gloria ov’egli è ito!

                 Cross of my Lord, give room! give room!
                   To thee my flesh be given!
                 Cleansed in thy fires of love and praise,
                   My soul, rise pure to heaven!
                 Ah! vanish each unworthy trace
                   Of earthly care or pride;
                 Leave only graven on my heart
                   The Cross, the Crucified.

     [456] According to this legend Adam when sick sent Seth to the
     gate of Eden to ask for the healing balm of the tree of life, but
     the guarding angel replied that ages must pass before that boon
     could be conferred on man. Seth received, however, three seeds,
     which he planted by his father’s grave, situated on the site of
     Golgotha. From these sprang the rod of Aaron, and the tree which
     gave its mysterious virtue to the Pool of Bethesda, and rising to
     the surface at the hour of the passion, became the instrument of
     the crucifixion of Our Lord. After that momentous event it was
     thrown into the town ditch with the crosses of the two thieves,
     and covered with rubbish; but at the intercession of Helena the
     earth opened, divine odours breathed forth, the three crosses
     were discovered, and that of Our Lord was revealed by its curing
     an inveterate disease and raising a dead man to life. See also
     _Legenda Aurea, De Inventione et Exaltatione Sanctæ Crucis_.

     The material of the cross is described in the following distich:

          Pes crucis est cedrus, corpus tenet alta cupressus,
          Palma manus retinet titulo lætabor oliva--

     “The foot is cedar, a lofty cypress bears the body, the arms are
     palm, the title olive bears.”

     [457] Milman, _Hist. Christianity_, bk. iv, c. 4.

     [458] _Hist. Christianity_, bk. iv, c. 4. One or two apparent
     exceptions, as in the semi-subterranean chapel annexed to the
     church of St. Sebastian, by their internal evidence--the drooping
     head, severe expression, and degraded art--indicate their late
     origin, Perret thinks of the twelfth or thirteenth century.
     Bottari figures one (Tav. 190) which may possibly belong to the
     seventh or eighth century.

     [459] Cant. iii, 11.

     [460] Northcote’s “_Catacombs_,” p. 130.

     [461] Weiter aber geht diese Reihe nicht; Tod und Auferstehung
     Christi sind in diesem Bereich gar nicht zur Darstellung
     gekommen.--_Ueber den Christlichen Bilderkreis_, p. 7. Berlin,
     1852. Bishop Münter, indeed, asserts that, although it is
     impossible precisely to determine the first appearance of the
     crucifix, before the end of the seventh century the church knew
     nothing of them--Es ist unmöglich das alter der crucifixe genau
     zu bestimmen. Vor dem Ende des siebenten Jahrhunderts kannte die
     Kirche sie nicht.--_Sinnbilder_, etc., p. 77.

     [462] Sub cruce sanguineâ niveo stat Christus in agno.--_Epis._

     [463] Agnus ut innocua injusto datur hostia letho.--Paulin.,
     _Epis._ xxxii.

     [464] Christi Dei nostri humana forma characterem etiam in
     imaginibus deinceps pro veteri agno erigi ac depingi
     jubemus.--_Concilium Quinisextum_, Canon 82.

     [465] Das sind die ältesten Bilder von dem Ende des irdischen
     Lebens Jesu und seiner Erhöhung.... Bald darauf kommen sie hin
     und wieder auch in Abendlande vor.--_Ueber den Christlichen
     Bilderkreis_, pp. 26, 27.

     [466] Est et apud Narbonensem urbem pictura quæ Dominum nostrum
     quasi præcinctum linteo indicat crucifixum.--_De Glor. Mar._,
     i, 23.

     [467] Crux benedicta nitet Dominus qua carne pependit.--_Carm._,
     lib. ii, 3.

     [468] The earliest example of a dead Christ is in a MS. of date
     A. D. 1059. The oldest mural picture of this awful theme, now so
     common throughout Roman Catholic Christendom, and which was
     prescribed as necessary for every altar by Benedict XIV, 1754, is
     the Church of Urban at Rome, and bears the date A. X. R. I.
     MXI.--Anno Christi 1011. Few of those in the Italian churches are
     older than the fourteenth century.

     [469] The inclination of the apse from the axial line in some
     churches is said to represent this drooping of the head.

     [470] Didron, _Iconog. Chrét._, pp. 226, 505.

     [471] Die also dem Morgenlande entstammen, says Professor
     Piper.--_Ueber den Christlichen Bilderkreis_, p. 27.

     [472] The Council of Constantinople, A. D. 754.

     [473] Hemans, _Sacred Art in Italy_, p. 534.

     [474] See the reliefs upon the marble pulpits of Pisa and Sienna.

     [475] See one at Lucca, ascribed by tradition to the workmanship
     of Nicodemus, which was so famous as to be sworn by in the oath,
     a favourite one with the Plantagenet kings, “by Saint Vult of
     Lucca.” Hemans, _Sac. Art_, p. 534. Another at Naples is said to
     have spoken in approval to St. Thomas Aquinas. Perhaps the most
     revolting extant representation of Our Lord is one in the
     Cathedral of Burgos, in Spain. It is a stuffed human skin, with a
     wig of false hair and a crown of real thorns. Elsewhere are Ecce
     Homos in wax with enamel eyes, and other puerile and unartistic
     modes of treatment of this solemn theme.

     [476] Refrigerante mundo, says the Roman office for St. Francis’

                            CHAPTER III.                                 282


The “Circlo Biblico,” or Biblical Cycle, of the Catacombs, as De Rossi
has called it, partakes of the same symbolical character as their
other art-creations. It has, for the most part, a twofold object:
first, the literal presentation of certain historical events; and,
second, a typical or allegorical reference to the spiritual truths of
Christianity, especially to the cardinal doctrines of the sacrifice,
resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord. The range of this art cycle
comprehends the grand drama of redemption, from the fall of man to his
restoration through the greater Man, Christ Jesus; with the careful
avoidance, however, of the scenes of the passion, which are nowhere
exhibited except under the veil of allegory or symbol. These numerous
and varied biblical representations imply a remarkable familiarity of
the primitive Christians with the holy scriptures, in striking
contrast with the prevalent ignorance of these sacred books in the
papal Rome of to-day. Indeed, these storied crypts must have been a
grand illustrated gospel, impressing upon the mind of the believer the
lessons of holy writ, and probably furnishing to the catechumens of
the faith and recent converts from paganism a means of instruction in
these sacred themes. The execution may often be coarse, and the
drawing uncouth; but to the devout mind this primitive Christian art
is invested with a profounder interest than all the triumphs of          283
genius in the galleries of the Vatican.[477]

In consequence of its symbolical purpose this hieratic series is
rather eclectic than cyclopædic in its character. Of the great variety
of available topics, the number selected for art-presentation was
comparatively limited; and the artist, in the treatment of these,
frequently contented himself with the constant and unvaried
reiteration of the same types, which were often of the rudest and most
conventional form. “The incidents that exemplified the leading
doctrines of the faith,” says Kugler,[478] “were chosen in preference
to others.” Hence the very fixedness of these doctrines imparted
somewhat of their own character to the pictorial representations

Subjects from the Old Testament are more numerous in proportion to the
whole than would have been anticipated. This is also a result and
illustration of the allegorical nature of the series. “Rome,” says
Lord Lindsay, “seems to have adopted from the first, and steadily
adhered to, a system of typical parallelism--of veiling the great
incidents of redemption, and the sufferings, faith, and hopes of the
church under the parallel and typical events of the patriarchal and
Jewish dispensations.”[479] We can refer in detail to only the more
striking of these biblical scenes. For convenience of treatment we       284
will include here those sculptured on the sarcophagi as well as those
painted on the walls. The temptation and fall of our first parents is
a frequent subject, and meets with considerable variety of
treatment.[480] They are generally shown as standing by the tree of
knowledge, around which the serpent coils, and receiving from him the
                              “Whose mortal taste
     Brought death into the world and all our woe.”

In the following example from the Catacomb of Callixtus, the fig-leaf
aprons with which they try to hide their guilty shame indicate that
the act of disobedience has been already consummated.

  [Illustration: Fig. 62.--The Temptation and Fall.]

On a sarcophagus in the Lateran Museum is a bas relief in which Our      285
Lord, as the representative of the Eternal Father, is seen standing
between Adam and Eve, and giving to the former a sheaf of grain, the
symbol that by the sweat of his brow he should eat bread, and to the
latter a lamb, that she may work diligently with her hands in the
domestic employment of spinning--the allotted labour of woman in every
age. Perhaps, also, as Dr. Northcote suggests, the lamb was a symbol
and mute prophecy of “the Lamb of God whom the second Eve was to bring
forth to atone for all the evil that the first Eve had brought upon

  [Illustration: Fig. 63.--Adam and Eve Receiving their Sentence.]

On another sarcophagus in the same museum is a bas relief of Cain and
Abel offering their respective sacrifices of the fruits of the ground
and the firstlings of the flock. This subject, however, is exceedingly
rare in the Catacombs.

One of the most frequently recurring figures in this series is that of   286
Noah in the ark. This is always repeated in one unvarying phase of the
most jejune and meagre character. There is no attempt at historical
representation of the actual scenes of the deluge. Instead of a huge
vessel riding upon the waves, with its vast and varied living freight,
there is only a small pulpit-like enclosure,[481] in which Noah stands
and receives in his hand the returning dove with the olive branch in
its mouth. The following engraving, which, although apparently out of
perspective, is an accurate copy of a painting in the Catacomb of
Callixtus, is a characteristic example.

  [Illustration: Fig. 64.--Noah in the Ark.]

Occasionally the position of the patriarch is slightly altered, as in
Fig. 65, from the Catacomb of St. Priscilla; but this is all the         287
variety of treatment of which the artistic genius of the age seemed

In the bas reliefs the treatment of this subject exhibits a still
greater degree of degradation and constraint, as in the following
examples from Christian sarcophagi of the fourth century.

  [Illustration: Fig. 65.--Noah in the Ark.]

Sometimes the figure ludicrously resembles the toy called “Jack in a
box,” which resemblance is heightened by the lid being half open and a
lock being carved on the front.

  [Illustration: Fig. 66.--Noah in the Ark.]

This rude representation, however, was regarded, in accordance with
the exposition of St. Peter,[482] as a symbol of Christian baptism;      288
while the ark was the figure of Christ’s church, in which believers
“may so pass the waves of this troublesome world that finally they may
come to the land of everlasting life.” The dove and olive branch may
further imply, that the weary soul, being justified by faith, found
peace with God and entered into endless rest.[483]

  [Illustration: Fig. 67.--Apamean Medal.]

Another favourite subject of the early Christian artists was the
sacrifice of Isaac, an appropriate type of the greater sacrifice to be
offered up when, in the fulness of the time, God should provide
himself a lamb for an offering. From this theme the persecuted
Christians doubtless often derived spiritual comfort amid the fiery
trials of their faith to which they were exposed. It taught also the
duty of self-consecration. “May I, like the youthful Isaac,” says
Paulinus, “be offered to God a living sacrifice, and, bearing my wood,
follow my Holy Father beneath the cross.”[484] This subject is
repeated, with considerable variety of treatment, both in frescoes and
in sculpture. In Fig. 68, from the cemetery of St. Priscilla, Isaac is
seen bearing the wood for the sacrifice. In Fig. 69, from the Catacomb   289
of Marcellinus, he is already bound, and Abraham has stretched forth
his hand to slay his son, while the divinely substituted lamb appears
from behind the altar.

  [Illustration: Fig. 68.--The Sacrifice of Isaac.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 69.--The Sacrifice of Isaac.]

In several examples a hand stretched forth from on high seizes the
knife to prevent the consummation of the sacrifice. (See Fig. 107.) It
is recorded that Gregory of Nyssa frequently shed tears on reading
this pathetic story.

Joseph, sold by his brethren and afterward saving them alive, was a
striking type of Him who redeemed with his own blood the guilty race     290
which caused his death. It is, therefore, a subject that appears with
peculiar propriety among the tombs of the primitive Christians.

Several scenes from the life of Moses are delineated in this biblical
cycle. One of these, as sometimes treated, for classic grace and
dignity reminds one of some noble antique. It is Moses on Mount Horeb
putting off his shoes from his feet. This act is interpreted by some
of the Christian Fathers[485] as an emblem of the renunciation of the
world, the flesh, and the devil demanded of the servants of Christ.
The accompanying example, Fig. 70, is from the cemetery of Callixtus.

  [Illustration: Fig. 70.--Moses on Mount Horeb.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 71.--Moses Receiving the Law.]

Fig. 71, from a sarcophagus in the Lateran, represents Moses on Mount
Sinai receiving from the hand of God the law, which was to be the
schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. Moses is sometimes exhibited,       291
also, as breaking the tables of the law on his descent from the mount.

  [Illustration: Fig. 72.--Moses and the Baskets of Manna.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 73.--Moses Striking the Rock.]

In the Catacomb of St. Cyriaca is a unique picture of the descent of
the manna--the emblem of the “True Bread which came down from heaven.”
It is seen falling in a copious shower, and gathered in the vestments
of four Israelites. According to Martigny the accompanying engraving,
Fig. 72, from the Catacomb of St. Priscilla, and another in the
Callixtan Catacomb, represent Moses standing among the baskets of
manna gathered in the wilderness. But for the severe and aged
expression of countenance, so different from the youthful aspect of
Our Lord in the frescoes of the Catacombs, they might be taken for
pictures of Christ and the seven baskets of fragments left after
feeding the multitude.

More frequently recurring than any other scene in the history of Moses   292
is that of his striking water from the rock, an emblem of the
spiritual blessings flowing to the church through the sufferings of
the Messiah, “For they drank of that spiritual Rock which followed
them; and that Rock was Christ.”[486] The illustration in Fig. 73 is
taken from a sarcophagus found in the cemetery of St. Agnes. That in
Fig. 74 is from a fresco of earlier date in the Catacomb of

  [Illustration: Fig. 74.--Moses Striking the Rock.]

In two or three of the gilded glasses to be hereafter mentioned, which
are of comparatively late date, this scene is rudely indicated, and
over the head or at the side of the figure is the word PETRVS
or Peter. From this circumstance Roman Catholic writers have asserted
that in many of the sarcophagal and other representations of this
event it is no longer Moses but Peter, “the leader of the new Israel
of God,” who is striking the rock with the emblem of divine power--a
conclusion for which there is absolutely no evidence except the very     293
trivial fact above mentioned.[487]

The sufferings of the patriarch Job form the subject of a few of these
scriptural illustrations. In the accompanying illustration, taken from
the cemetery of Marcellinus, he is seen sitting in his sorrow and
bemoaning the day that gave him birth. Amid their fiery trials of
persecution the primitive Christians doubtless often found comfort in
contrasting their sufferings with the still more terrible afflictions
of the patriarch of Uz.

  [Illustration: Fig. 75.--The Sufferings of Job.]

The sarcophagus of Junius Bassus exhibits a bas relief of Job
comforted by his friends. The complaint of the patriarch that even his
wife had abhorred his breath--so reads the Vulgate translation of
Jerome, which was in use at this period--is grotesquely illustrated
by a female figure, who holds a handkerchief to her nose.[488]           294

The victory of the stripling David over the great champion of the
enemies of Israel seemed strikingly to prefigure the triumph of
primitive Christianity over the colossal paganism to which it was
opposed. It was also the symbol of the victory of Our Lord over a
mightier foe than the insolent Philistine; and by some of the Fathers
the stones and sling of the Jewish shepherd-lad were likened to the
cross of Christ, by which Satan is vanquished and his kingdom
overthrown. The devout monarch of Israel was also a recognized type of
Him who was the root and the offspring of David, who should inherit
his throne, and reign over the house of Jacob forever.

The translation of Elijah was frequently depicted as being typical of
the ascension of Our Lord, which was regarded as too sacred a theme
for direct presentment in art. The chariot generally resembles the
classic _quadriga_. In a sarcophagal example in the Lateran
Museum Elisha is represented as reverently receiving the mantle of
Elijah, the emblem of the double measure of his spirit that rested
upon him. In the background two sons of the prophets gaze with
apparent astonishment on the scene. Two bears, which are also
indicated, are probably intended for those that devoured the children
who mocked the prophet Elisha on his way to Bethel.

  [Illustration: Fig. 76.--The Translation of Elijah.]                   295

In Fig. 76, from a fresco of earlier date in the Catacomb of
Callixtus, it will be seen that graves have been made in the back of
the _arcosolium_, cutting off the head of Elijah and the feet of
the two lower figures.

According to the strained mode of interpretation of Roman Catholic
writers on this subject, the gift of the mantle of Elijah to his
successor in office is a type of Christ’s bestowment of authority upon
St. Peter as the “Prince of the Apostles,” and his especial
representative on earth. “It would certainly,” says Dr. Northcote,
“have reminded the Roman Christians of the _pallium_, the symbol
of jurisdiction worn by the bishops of Rome, and given by them to
metropolitans as from the very body of St. Peter--_De Corpore Sancti
Petri_.”[489] A more improbable assumption it would be difficult to      296
imagine. Nobler in conception, which, as well as more scriptural, is
the interpretation of this type given by St. Chrysostom: “Elias, in
ascending into heaven, let his mantle fall on Elisha: Jesus, when he,
too, ascended thither, left the gift of his graces to his
disciples--graces which constitute not merely a single prophet, but an
infinite number of Elishas, much greater and more illustrious than
that one.”[490]

  [Illustration: Fig. 77.--The Three Hebrew Children.]

The persecuted saints who dared to encounter death and danger in their
most dreadful forms rather than deny their faith, found great
consolation in the remembrance of God’s deliverance of his servants in
the days of old. With the bloodthirsty cry of the ribald plebs of
Rome--_Christiani ad leones_--still ringing in their ears, and,
it may be, with the roar of the savage beasts of prey crashing on
their shuddering nerves, they were sustained by the thought of the
fidelity of those ancient worthies who, for their integrity to God,
braved the flames of the fiery furnace and the perils of the lions’
den. The three Hebrew children are generally exhibited with the
oriental _tiara_ and tunics. In the foregoing example from the           297
cemetery of St. Priscilla, a dove is shown bringing an olive branch,
the pledge of victory and peace.

  [Illustration: Fig. 78.--The Three Hebrew Children.]

In Fig. 78, from the cemetery of Hermes, they are shown as standing in
a “burning fiery furnace,” whose flames, though heated seven times
hotter than their wont, play lambently around them without even
singeing their garments.

In the following example from the Catacomb of St. Agnes the furnace is
reduced to a shallow vessel in which the Hebrews stand unhurt. This
has been incorrectly interpreted as a representation of martyrdom by
boiling in oil. Its association, however, with the figure of Daniel in
the lions’ den, and its general resemblance to other groups of the
same subject, unquestionably indicate its true character.                298

  [Illustration: Fig. 79.--The Three Hebrew Children.]

In all these the expression of countenance and attitude of the
immortal three--more dauntless than even the brave Horatii of classic
story--as they stand calmly amid the flames, indicates the presence
with them in their fiery trial of the Almighty Deliverer of his
saints. It is noteworthy, however, that the fourth figure, “like the
Son of God,” is never shown in these groups. It was reserved, as will
be hereafter seen, for mediæval art to attempt the representation of
the Divine.

The faith and heroism of many of the primitive Christians in refusing
to burn incense on the heathen altars, or to salute the statues of the
Cæsars, was no unworthy imitation of the fidelity of these Hebrew
youths in refusing to worship the great golden image set up on the
plains of Dura.

Daniel in the den is generally represented by a nude figure standing
between two lions, with his hands stretched out as if in supplication,
and thereby, says St. Gregory, conquering the lions by prayer. While,
generally, the type of the deliverance of God’s people, it may
sometimes by association have been a memorial of the Christian martyrs
devoured by wild beasts in the neighbouring Coliseum, whose sands were
so often drenched with their gore. The following fresco from the
Catacomb of St. Priscilla is a characteristic example. See Fig. 80.

Sometimes another figure, interpreted as “the prophet Habaccuc,” is
depicted as borne by an angel by the hair of the head and offering       299
food to Daniel, as described in the apocryphal story of Bel and the
Dragon. Another fresco represents Daniel as giving to the monster the
cake which he had prepared for its destruction. The story of Tobias
and the fish, and of Susanna and the elders, are also illustrated in
this remarkable series of paintings. These last are of interest as
indicating a familiar acquaintance with the apocryphal books in the
early centuries. Figures interpreted as Isaiah, who seems, like the
Magi, to come from afar to lay his gifts at the feet of Christ, and as
Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones, also occur in the Catacombs.

  [Illustration: Fig. 80.--Daniel in the Lions’ Den.]

One of the most common, and, if we may judge from the style of
execution, one of the favourite subjects of mural and sarcophagal
presentation in this biblical cycle, is the history of Jonah. It is
repeated over and over again with a high degree of picturesqueness,
and with greater variety of treatment than, perhaps, any other. It
appears also on lamps, vases, medals, gilt glasses, and funeral slabs.   300
The story is generally represented in a series of four scenes: the
storm, and the monster of the deep swallowing the prophet; his
deliverance from its horrid jaws, and restoration to land; his
reclining under the shadow of the gourd for refreshment and rest; and
his gloom and anger when the gourd has withered away and he lies in
his misery beneath the burning sun. Sometimes the four scenes occupy
the four walls of the _cubiculum_, or the compartments of a
vaulted ceiling; or only two may be exhibited, as in the engraving on
the opposite page, from the cemetery of St. Priscilla, in which Jonah
is portrayed as a child issuing from the mouth of the sea-monster, and
afterward reclining under the booth.

Sometimes the whole history is compressed into one crowded scene, as
in the following example. (Fig. 81.) The character of the little bark
is much like that seen in pagan frescoes.

  [Illustration: Fig. 81.--The History of Jonah.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 82.--Jonah, Moses, and Oranti.]                    301

In some instances the “ship” is reduced to a mere boat, and the          302
“mariners” to a single individual, as in Fig. 83, from the cemetery of
St. Priscilla.

  [Illustration: Fig. 83.--Jonah Swallowed by the “Great Fish.”]

In the following sarcophagal example, (Fig. 84,) the somewhat
startling anachronism of Noah receiving the dove from the prow of
Jonah’s vessel appears in the background. The “sea” is here a narrow
stream; and the “fish,” a monster with the head and paws of a
quadruped, on one side of the boat is swallowing the disobedient         303
prophet, and on the other is casting him forth upon the rocky shores.
Such solecisms are by no means uncommon in these groups.

  [Illustration: Fig. 84.--Noah and Jonah.]

On another sarcophagus in the Lateran Museum the influence of pagan
thought may be observed. The storm is personified by a triton blowing
through a convoluted shell, and Iris, hovering with floating scarf
above the vessel, indicates the calm which followed the casting out of
the prophet.

The “great fish” in these scenes bears no resemblance to any living
thing. It is generally a monster with contorted body, a long neck and
large head, sometimes armed with horns, (see Figs. 81, 82,) probably
to distinguish it from the symbolical fish, the emblem of Our Lord, or
as a type of “the old serpent, the devil.” The form may have been
derived from the mythological representations of the marine monster
from whose jaws Andromeda was rescued by Perseus. The latter story,
like that of Deucalion and many others in the Greek mythology,
probably had its origin in holy scripture.

This subject was naturally dear to the early Christians, inasmuch as
it was set forth by Our Lord himself as a type of his own resurrection
and that of his disciples. Therefore as the persecuted believers met
in those solemn and silent chambers of the dead, they inscribed on the
sepulchral slabs which hid the mouldering dust of the departed from
their view, or on the walls of the _cubicula_ in which they
worshipped, this symbol of faith and hope in the glorious
resurrection. It also conveyed a lesson of sublimest meaning to the
primitive Christians, called to be witnesses for God in a city greater
and more wicked and idolatrous than even Nineveh. It was a potent
incentive to fidelity even unto death. The storm-tossed bark, the        304
ravening monster, and the prophet’s booth and gourd, were the types of
life’s rough voyage, the yawning grave, and the speedy transit to the
bowers of everlasting bliss and the refreshing fruits of the tree of

A long and acrimonious controversy was waged between Jerome and
Augustine as to the nature of the plant which overshadowed the
prophet. Jerome called it ivy; but Augustine retained the word gourd
of the older Italic version, and excluded from his diocese of Hippo
the Vulgate version of Jerome containing the obnoxious translation. It
is a curious commentary on an ancient dispute in the church, and a
proof of the antiquity of the Catacombs, that their frescoes seem to
have followed the older version, and to have given their testimony
against the _innovation_ of Jerome. See Fig. 85, a copy of a
broken sepulchral slab, in which the prophet’s booth is reduced to a
single branch of a gourd.

  [Illustration: Fig. 85.--Jonah’s Gourd.]

Here ends this Old Testament cycle, so rich in holy teaching, all
whose types and symbols point to the great Antitype of whom Moses and
the prophets spake. The New Testament series will in like manner be
found to cluster around the person and work of the Redeemer; to the      305
exclusion, however, of the solemn scenes of the transfiguration, the
passion, resurrection, and ascension, which are the principal themes
of later religious art; and without the slightest indication of that
idolatrous veneration of Mary which is the chief feature of modern
Romanism, thus showing how far that church has departed from the usage
of apostolic times.

The first subject of this New Testament cycle is the manifestation of
Our Lord to the Magi by the star in the east, the sign that the Bright
and Morning Star had risen upon the world.[491] Over twenty
repetitions of this scene are found in the Catacombs.

The following sarcophagal example, from the Catacomb of Callixtus,
represents the Magi bearing their gifts, and led by the star to the
place where the young child lay. The babe is seen wrapped in
swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger. An ox and an ass stand near
the divine child, probably in fanciful allusion to that scripture,
“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib;” as well as
in historical illustration of the scene. Joseph and Mary appear in the   306
background as mere accessories of the group.

  [Illustration: Fig. 86.--The Adoration of the Magi.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 87.--Adoration of the Magi.]

In the accompanying engraving of a fresco in the cemetery of St.
Marcellinus the virgin mother is represented as seated in the calm
attitude and dress of a Roman matron, holding the infant Christ in her
arms, but not in the least suggesting the modern Madonna.[492] The
Magi bring their offerings as the first-fruits of the homage of the
world. Sometimes the number is increased to four or reduced to two, in
which case they are arranged on either side of the Virgin, to preserve
the balance and symmetry of the picture.[493] The figure of Joseph
sometimes completes the group, but generally as a young and beardless    307
man, in contradiction to the Romish tradition of his old age, derived
from the apocryphal gospels. These legends supply the theme of much of
the religious art of the fifth and following centuries; but Dr.
Northcote admits that “before that time Christian artists seem
strictly to have been kept within the limits of the canonical books of
the holy scripture.”[494]

A fresco in the Catacomb of Nereus and Achilles, attributed to the
second century, is supposed to be the oldest extant art-presentation
of the Virgin Mary. In these early pictures she is generally exhibited
as veiled, and expressing dignity and modesty in her attitude and        308
dress, and only in her historical relation to the divine child. Not
till later does she appear alone, or even as the principal figure. Dr.
Northcote, indeed, cites one example apparently of Joseph,[495] Mary,
and the infant Jesus, concerning which he says that the Virgin does
not enter into the composition as a secondary personage, but herself
supplies the motive to the whole painting.[496] In the engraving which
he gives, this indeed appears to be the case; but in the original, and
in the copy given by De Rossi,[497] which shows the entire painting,
the figure of the Virgin is only a very small and subordinate portion
of an elaborate decorative design, and its position is not upright, as
if it were the principal object, but horizontal, as being only
accessory to the main grouping. All these early presentations of the
Virgin Mary, says Mr. Marriott,[498] occur only in such connexion as
is directly suggested by holy scripture, and none of them would appear
out of place in an illustrated English Bible, so different are they
from the Madonnas of Roman Catholic art.

  [Illustration: Fig. 88.--Orante.]

There are numerous frescoes in the Catacombs of persons, both male and
female, in the attitude of prayer, hence called _Oranti_, (see
Fig. 82,) and the accompanying simpler example from the cemetery of
Sts. Peter and Marcellinus. These are frequently found on sepulchral
slabs, the sex and apparent age of the _Orante_ always corresponding
with that of the person named in the inscription. They are
generally regarded, therefore, as portraits of the departed, and         309
as probably indicating that they lived a life of prayer, and died in
the faith. Thus the _oranti_, in Fig. 82, are thought by Perret to
be intended for Priscilla, in whose cemetery it is found, and her
companion.[499] It is at least most likely that they represented the
deceased and not another, in the same manner as modern sepulchral
effigies, and as the pictures of fossors, vine-dressers, and
handicraftsmen in the Catacombs. Dr. Northcote at one time admitted
this explanation of these figures. “We can scarcely err,” he says, “in
supposing them to be the persons, whoever they were, who were buried
in these chambers.”[500] But in his later work on the Catacombs he
says, “Possibly this conjecture may sometimes be correct, but in the
majority of instances we feel certain that it is inadmissible;”[501]
and he claims them as representations of the Virgin Mary, or as
symbols of the Church, the Bride of Christ, whose life on earth is a
life of prayer. This is manifestly the intention, he asserts, when, as
is frequently the case, the figure is found as a companion to that of    310
the Good Shepherd; and he gives an engraving from Bosio of one such,
which is catalogued as the “Good Shepherd and the Blessed Virgin.”[502]
But in referring to Bosio this figure is found to be not the Virgin
Mary at all, but a Christian martyr, as is indicated by the attribute
of a _plumbata_, or leaden scourge, painted beside her, which is
omitted in Dr. Northcote’s engraving, (inadvertently, as he explains;)
and she is designated by Bosio, _Una Donna Orante_--a woman in the act
of prayer. And this figure is the only one out of all figured by Bosio
and Aringhi which at all agrees with Dr. Northcote’s description. The
others when associated with the Good Shepherd are either in groups of
two or more, or are mixed with male _oranti_, the existence of which
Dr. Northcote seems to ignore.

But even if the Virgin Mary were referred to in these paintings it
would prove nothing in favour of modern Mariolatry. Indeed, nothing
could be more striking than the contrast between these simple praying
figures, undistinguished by any attribute from others of the pious
dead, and the crowned Queen of Heaven receiving the homage of mankind,
of later Roman Catholic art. But that they are such is an entirely
gratuitous and unwarranted assumption; and with equal propriety, or
rather lack of it, they have been interpreted by the monkish ciceroni
of the Catacombs as symbols of martyrdom, as portraits of living
persons praying to the dead, and as saints in heaven praying for men
on earth.[503]

In the gilded glasses, to be hereafter described, which belong to a      311
period of very degraded art, probably from the fourth to the sixth
century, representations of the Virgin mother sometimes occur,
recognized by her name written above her head after the Byzantine
manner. She appears either alone, or between figures of the apostles
Peter and Paul. This honour, however, is shared by other female
saints, especially by Saint Agnes. In one example Mary wears a nimbus,
a proof of comparatively late date.

  [Illustration: Fig. 89.--Supposed Madonna.]

One fresco in the Catacomb of Sts. Thraso and Saturninus has been
supposed to have some reference to the Virgin Mary. It is figured in
the lunette of the vault in the accompanying engraving. (Fig.
89.)[504] It is interpreted, however, by Bottari, a distinguished        312
Romanist antiquary, as not a painting of the Madonna at all, but
simply of a family group.

  [Illustration: Fig. 90.--The Earliest Madonna.]

The first art-presentation of the Virgin Mary bearing any resemblance
to the conventional Madonna, which has been so endlessly reproduced
and so idolatrously honoured throughout Roman Catholic Christendom, is
one in an _arcosolium_ in the Catacomb of St. Agnes. (See Fig.
90.) The head of the Virgin is veiled, a necklace of pearls adorns her
person, and her hands are extended in prayer. The infant Christ is not
seated, but standing before her, as is common in a favourite type of
the Greek church, especially in Russia--an indication that this was
probably painted by a Byzantine artist, as was most of the later work
at Rome. But even in this picture the early Christians, unprescient of
the Mariolatry of the future, would see the expression only of a
loving regard for her who was pronounced the “blessed among women.”      313
The sacred monogram on either side assigns a date not earlier than the
fourth century to this painting; and Martigny, an eminent Romanist
authority, thinks it is later than the Council of Ephesus, in the
fifth century,--A. D. 431.

By this time a sad departure from primitive orthodoxy of belief had
already taken place. The blasphemous title Theotokos, Mother of God,
since so unhappily familiar,[505] had been applied to the Virgin Mary,
at first in protest against the Arian heresy which denied the divinity
of Our Lord, and not in exaltation of his virgin mother. Nestorius
strongly objected to the unwarranted and antiscriptural title, and
suggested that of the mother of Christ. An angry controversy resulted,
to appease which Theodosius the younger assembled the Council of
Ephesus. Nestorius was judged without being heard, degraded from the
episcopal dignity, and sent into exile; and the obnoxious epithet was
confirmed through the exercise of fraud and violence. Flavianus, a
member of the Council, actually died of wounds received in that
turbulent assembly; and amid these disgraceful scenes was first
formulated this dogma, which has been fraught with such perilous
consequences to both Greek and Latin Christianity.

The artistic embodiment of this doctrine underwent a rapid decline.
The sweet and tender grace of the virgin mother disappears, the modest
veil gives place to a crown, she becomes vulgarized in expression,
jewels bedizen her person, the attitude becomes stiff and lifeless,
the countenance darkens and assumes an expression of pain rather than    314
that of gentleness and peace, and the innocent smile of the Divine
Infant gives place to an unnatural severity and gloom. The beginning
of this decline is seen in the Madonna already described, (Fig. 90),
in which the person of Mary is adorned with a showy necklace of
jewels. This type passes by rapid gradations, during the gathering
gloom of the dark ages, into the anguished pictures of the _Mater
Dolorosa_, bowed down with sevenfold sorrows, and the gross images
of Our Lady of the Bleeding Heart, her bosom transpierced with a naked
sword.[506] But even in this is seen the striking moral contrast
between the spirit of Christian and that of pagan art. The loftiest
ideal of the latter is the expression of mere corporeal beauty, while
the former exhibits the noblest type of purity, sorrow, and love the
world has ever seen. With the Renaissance this ideal became the
inspiration of art, and gave birth to those triumphs of genius which
kindle admiration in the coldest nature, and invest with a spell of
pathos and power a dogma which the judgment rejects.

The silence of the primitive Fathers concerning the worship of Mary is
a striking evidence of its non-existence, and their language when they
do speak of her still more strongly demonstrates that fact. Tertullian
seems to infer her lack of faith in the mission of Our Lord, and
compares her unfavourably with Martha and Mary.[507] Prudentius
refuses to ascribe to her absolute sinlessness.[508] Augustine asserts   315
the natural depravity of her flesh.[509] Chrysostom boldly accuses her
of ambition and thoughtlessness,[510] and says, “She shall have no
benefit from being the mother of Christ unless in all things she doeth
what is right.”[511] Cyril of Alexandria, Basil of Cæsarea, and Hilary
of Poitiers, speak in similar unequivocal terms, which Petavius, the
Roman theologian, says are not fit to be uttered.[512] The Collyridian
heretics, indeed, rendered idolatrous homage to Mary;[513] but
Epiphanius vehemently denounces the practice as blasphemous and
dangerous to the soul. “Let Mary be held in honour,” he says, “but let
her not be worshipped.”[514] Irenæus first points out the fanciful
antithesis between Mary and Eve, which was afterward so remarkably
elaborated in Roman thought and diction.[515] Ephraem Syrus and          316
Gregory Nazianzen, indeed, speak of her invocation in prayer, but this
was an honour already bestowed on numerous other saints. The heathen
writers, moreover, who accused the Christians of worshipping a mere
man, as they considered Christ, would surely have brought a similar
accusation on account of the worship of Mary if it were known; but we
nowhere find that this was done. Indeed, it is probable that the
contumely and opprobrium with which the heathen spoke of the mother of
Our Lord may have intensified into superstitious veneration the loving
reverence with which she was regarded in the primitive ages.
Tertullian quotes the blasphemous pagan epithet, “the harlot’s son,”
applied to Christ in allusion to his miraculous birth.[516] It has
been reserved for a gifted modern poet, as pagan and skeptical in
sentiment as Lucretius, to parallel, or even surpass, this revolting

The testimony of the early Christian inscriptions is not less
strikingly opposed to the modern Mariolatry of the church of Rome. “In
the Lapidarian Gallery,” says Maitland, “the name of the Virgin Mary
does not once occur. Nor is it to be found in any truly ancient
inscription contained in the works of Aringhi, Boldetti, or
Bottari.”[518] No _Ave Maria_ or _Ora pro nobis_, no _Theotokos_ or
_Mater Dei_, occurs in any of the subterranean crypts or corridors of
the Catacombs. Even the name Maria, now so commonly applied in varying
forms to both males and females throughout Roman Catholic countries,     317
does not occur till the year 381, and only twice afterward, in 536 and
538--an evidence of the entire absence of that devotional regard now
lavished upon the Virgin Mary.[519]

This religious homage was only gradually developed to its present
full-blown idolatry. Its traces in early Christian art are extremely
infrequent and obscure. In the numerous mosaics of the fifth and sixth
century at Rome and Ravenna, the figure of Mary very rarely occurs,
and never but as accessory to the Divine Child in the Nativity or
Adoration of the Magi. In these there was no attempt at literal
portraiture, but only the expression of the virtues that adorned her
character; “that,” as Ambrose expresses it, “the face might be the
image of her mind, the model of uprightness.”[520] Indeed, Augustine
expressly asserts that we are ignorant of her appearance.[521]

During the seventh century, along with a progressive barbarism of
treatment may be observed a gradual exaltation of Mary in the Roman
mosaics to those places previously devoted to the image of
Christ.[522] In the eighth century, according to D’Agincourt, “the       318
homage paid to her was no longer distinguished from that rendered to
the Lord of all;”[523] and the Council of Constantinople decreed,
“that whoever would not avail himself of the intercession of Mary
should be accursed.”[524] In extant pictures of the ninth century she
is exhibited in bejewelled purple robes as the crowned Queen of
Heaven, receiving the homage of the four and twenty elders and of the
celestial hosts.[525] In this century also the legend of her bodily
assumption to the skies, which has since become such a prominent theme
in Roman Catholic art and doctrine, is first represented in the crypts
of St. Clement’s at Rome.[526]

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the apotheosis of Mary is        319
complete. In a fresco at Rome, of date 1154 A. D., Popes Callixtus II.
and Anastasius IV. are shown embracing her feet in adoration, and
transferring to the human mother the homage due alone to the Divine
Son. She is now worshipped co-ordinately with Christ, or, indeed,
almost to his exclusion, her name being substituted for his in many of
the collects of the church. Much of the language of Scripture was also
blasphemously perverted from its proper application to her. The
glowing images of the Song of Songs, addressed to the church as the
spouse of Christ, were also applied to Mary as her right; and one of
Rome’s most common and popular books of devotion of this period, the
psalter of her “Seraphic Doctor,” St. Bonaventura, has a shocking
parody on the book of Psalms, in which the name of God was every-where
expunged and that of Mary substituted instead.[527] The _Ave Maria_,
with its human additions, was regarded as of equal importance and
value with the Lord’s Prayer, and was made the basis of the vain
repetitions of the rosary. Mary now shares the government of heaven
and earth, “raised higher than cherubim and seraphim,”[528] throned in
glory, sitting on a rainbow, enveloped in an aureole, clothed with the
sun, the moon beneath her feet, a crown of stars upon her head,[529]
and radiating from her person beams of light, the proper attribute of    320
deity.[530] She is frequently represented, even in heaven, with the
infant Christ in her arms, a mere accessory to indicate her
personality, as if to show his relative inferiority.[531] She becomes,
too, herself the object of prayer, having a special litany and
numerous offices in the liturgy of the church; while her praises are
chanted in some of its noblest lyrics. She is addressed as the gate of
heaven,[532] the morning star,[533] and the refuge of sinners;[534]
and is exhorted to succor the wretched,[535] protect from enemies,
receive in the hour of death,[536] and intercede with God for
men.[537] She is endowed with the faculty of omniscience and ubiquity,
and is made almost to thrust the Eternal from his throne by her
usurpation of his divine prerogatives.[538]

But this impious blasphemy seems to have culminated in the Italian
frescoes of the fifteenth century, in which the infamous Giulia
Farnese is exhibited in the character of the Madonna, and Pope
Alexander VI., the execrable Borgia, kneeling as a votary at her feet.
The Florentine churches, too, were desecrated by portraits of
well-known harlots, flaunting their meretricious beauty as the           321
personations of the mother of Our Lord. For his denunciation of these
profanations and of other impieties Savonarola perished at the

The rapid development of Mariolatry, the great corruption of
Christianity, as Hallam has justly called it, may to some extent be
regarded as a reaction against the harsh and austere character which
was given to Our Lord both in art and dogma. He was enthroned in awful
majesty as the dreadful Judge of mankind. Removed from human sympathy,
inspiring only terror to the soul, he was no longer Christ the
Consoler, but Christ the Avenger.[540] Religion was darkened by dismal
bodings of endless doom, and embittered by the fierceness of polemic
strife; and the moral atmosphere seemed lurid with the hurtling
anathemas of rival sects. To the yearning hearts of mankind; to the
multitude of the weary and the heavy laden, to whom the Saviour’s
voice, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest,” was inaudible amid      322
the conflicts of the times; and especially to those bowed down with a
sense of sin and sorrow, and trembling at the thought of the severe,
inexorable Judge, the gentle gospel of Mary came with a sweet and
winning grace that found its way into their inmost souls. All images
of tenderness and ruth surrounded her. The blending

              Of mother’s love with maiden purity[541]

touched the hidden springs of feeling which exist in the rudest
natures, and made the worship of Mary a religion of hope and
consolation. She became the new Mediatrix between the sinful human
soul and the Father in heaven. Those who shrank from God fled for
succour to the virgin mother. The pitifulness of her human nature was
esteemed a stronger ground of confidence than that infinite compassion
and everlasting love which was manifested in the agony and bloody
sweat of Gethsemane and the cross and passion of Calvary. Hence Mary
has often been regarded as a sort of tutelar divinity by the ferocious
brigand who stained with blood the scapular which he wore as a sacred
talisman; and by the daughter of shame who, in strange blending
profligacy and devotion, cherished her image in the very lair of vice.

But, as there is a soul of goodness in things evil, so even the
antiscriptural perversions of Mariolatry were not without some moral
benefit to mankind. In a coarse, rude age a new ideal of excellence
was developed. A morose asceticism was spreading on every side,
denouncing the sweet and gentle charities of hearth and home, and
forbidding the love of wife and child to those who would attain to       323
the heights of holiness. Woman was degraded as a being of inferior
nature, regarded as “a necessary evil,” and forbidden, as unworthy, to
touch with her hand the sacred emblems of the passion of Christ. But
this cultus of Mary raised woman to a loftier plane of being, invested
her with a moral dignity and power infinitely superior to any thing
known to pagan times, and called forth a deeper reverence and more
chivalrous regard.

               This example of all womanhood,
         So mild, so merciful, so strong, so good,
         So patient, peaceful, loyal, loving, pure,[542]

ennobled and dignified the entire sex, and therefore raised and
purified the whole of society. The worship of sorrow softened savage
natures to more human gentleness, and ameliorated the horrors of long
dark centuries of cruelty and blood.

We have dwelt thus long on this development of Romanism on account of
the remarkable prominence and enhanced dignity it has received by the
bull of the Immaculate Conception, issued on the individual authority
of the present pontiff,[543] and by the decree of his personal
infallibility imposed on all Roman Catholic Christendom. We have seen
how alien it is to the entire spirit and teachings, both in art and
literature, of the primitive church, and have traced its growth with
the decline of Christianity, like a fungus on a dying tree, till it
has sapped its very life, and concealed its early beauty and strength
beneath deformity and decay.

The other groups of the New Testament cycle are chiefly scenes in the    324
life of Our Lord, together with representations of some of his
principal miracles and two or three illustrations of the parables.
This series, it must be confessed, is of exceedingly meagre character
and limited range, being remarkable as much for what it omits as for
what it contains. Out of the vast number of subjects which have been
treated in later religious art, a comparatively few have been
selected, which are over and over repeated with unvarying iteration of

  [Illustration: Fig. 91.--Christ with the Doctors.]

The accompanying bas relief, from the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus,
(A. D. 359,) is probably intended for Christ “sitting in the midst of
the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions.”[544] He is
here shown seated on a curule chair, wearing a Roman toga, and holding
a half open scroll in his hand. His feet rest on a scarf held by an
allegorical figure, probably a personification of the earth--a
conception borrowed from Pagan art.

Frescoes of the baptism of Our Lord occasionally occur;[545] but the
scenes of the temptation, the subject of such grotesque treatment in     325
mediæval art, nowhere appear in the Catacombs.

On a sarcophagus in the Lateran Museum is an illustration of Our
Lord’s first miracle at Cana of Galilee, in which he is touching the
water-pots with his rod of power and turning the water into wine.

  [Illustration: Fig. 92.--Christ and the Woman of Samaria.]

Christ talking with the woman of Samaria at the well of Sychar is a
subject that is frequently repeated in fresco and relief. In the
accompanying example from a sarcophagus in the Lateran, a windlass of
primitive construction, like those still common in the Campagna, is

  [Illustration: Fig. 93.--The Healing of the Paralytic.]

The healing of the paralytic has been regarded as a type of the
restoration of the soul paralyzed by sin. Ingenious Romanists have
discovered herein a symbol of “the Sacrament of Penance,” and also       326
of “Baptism and the Remission of Sins.” In the frescoes of the
Catacombs the man is represented in the act of obeying the command,
“Take up thy bed and walk.” Sometimes the bed is a mere reticulated
frame-work. It is also shown as in the foregoing example from the
Catacomb of Callixtus. See Fig. 93.

  [Illustration: Fig. 94.--Christ Healing the Woman with the Issue of

Our Lord healing the infirmity of the woman with the issue of blood,
who drew nigh and touched the hem of his garment, is a frequent
subject of both sarcophagal and mural presentation. In the
accompanying example from a bas relief of the fourth century the
Saviour is apparently uttering the words, “Daughter, be of good
comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole.” In the background is seen,
in confused perspective, a Christian basilica of the period, with its
semicircular _absis_ and detached baptistery. The doors are hung
with heavy curtains to exclude the noontide heat, as is still common
in Italian churches.[546]

  [Illustration: Fig. 95.--The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.]        327

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is a theme
of frequent treatment in early Christian painting and sculpture, and
was regarded in the writings of the Fathers as a eucharistic type of
Him who, as the true Bread from heaven, gave his body to be broken for
the life of the world. Sometimes, as on a sarcophagus in the Lateran,
Our Lord stands between two disciples blessing with either hand the
food which they hold. Occasionally, as in the foregoing fresco from
the cemetery of St. Priscilla, the scene is represented by a group of
disciples kneeling on the ground as if they had just received the food
so marvellously multiplied. At their feet are seen the loaves and
fishes, and in the foreground stand the seven baskets full of
fragments that remained.

  [Illustration: Fig. 96.--Christ Opening the Eyes of the Blind.]

The miracle of opening the eyes of the blind, which was at once a        328
fulfillment of the ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah and a
type of that moral illumination which he should impart, appropriately
found a place on the tombs of those who had been called from darkness
into God’s marvellous light. The preceding example is from the
Catacomb of Callixtus.

  [Illustration: Figure 97.--Our Lord blessing a little Child.]

Our Lord laying his hand in blessing on the head of a little child, or
probably teaching humility and rebuking the ambition of his disciples
by setting a child in their midst, is a frequently recurring subject
in this primitive cycle. It was a lesson which the early Christians of
Rome had often to learn: that he that would be greatest among them
must be the servant of all; that exaltation of office was only
pre-eminence of danger and of toil. The example above given is from
the Catacomb of Callixtus.

A bas relief in the Kircherian Museum, of the parable of the sower and
the seed, appropriately symbolized the sowing in the furrows of
society of the good seed of the kingdom, from which should spring a
harvest of righteousness. The frequent representations of fishing
scenes may refer to the occupation of several of the first disciples
of Our Lord, or to their spiritual vocation as fishers of men. In
these, however, Roman Catholic writers have fancied an allusion to the
sacrament of baptism. We have already seen in the ever-recurring
figure of the Good Shepherd an illustration of the beautiful parable
of the lost sheep, and a most appropriate symbol of the Shepherd and     329
Bishop of all souls. In the Catacomb of St. Agnes is a fresco of the
five wise virgins of the parable going forth to meet the bridegroom,
and it is so designated by Bosio.[547] Each of the virgins bears in
her hand the vessel of oil to replenish her lamp; the foremost holds a
torch or candle of wax, anciently much used in Roman marriage
processions,[548] as it still is; while the others bear branches of
palm in token of festivity. A distinguished Roman theologian has,
however, with perverted ingenuity, discovered in the vessels of oil
the modern ecclesiastical _situlæ_, or holy-water vases, and in
the radiant torch of the foremost figure the tufted aspergillum with
which the holy water is sprinkled.[549]

The story of Lazarus, as we may easily conceive, was an especial
favourite of the early Christian artists. It spoke to the deepest
feelings, and inspired the loftiest hopes of the primitive believers.
Rescued from the darkness and despair of paganism as to the future
state of the soul, they grasped with intensest fervour the glorious
doctrine of its immortal existence and of the resurrection of the
body. Amid the gloom of the Catacombs, and surrounded by the silent
congregation of the dead, they heard with joy the thrilling words, “I
am the Resurrection and the Life,” and laid their loved ones to their
rest, not with everlasting farewells and passionate complainings at
the gods, but exulting in the hope of a blessed immortality. Therefore
they engraved on the funeral slab, or painted on the tomb, this record
of Christ’s triumph over death, as a symbol of that hope which kept
their hearts strong in life’s trial hour. These representations are      330
of every degree of artistic merit, from the rudely scratched and
scarcely intelligible outline, to the elaborately sculptured bas
relief on the costly sarcophagus. Of the former the annexed is perhaps
the simplest example to be found. It is of date A. D. 400.

  [Illustration: Fig. 98.--Lazarus.]

Lazarus is generally exhibited as a mummy-like figure, “bound hand and
foot with grave-clothes,” standing in a temple-shaped tomb or
_ædicula_, like those which line the Appian Way. This figure Our Lord,
the Prince of Life, is touching with the rod of his power, as shown in
the accompanying fresco from the Catacomb of Sts. Peter and

  [Illustration: Fig. 99.--The Raising of Lazarus.]

The figure of Mary, frequently of very diminutive size, setting all
proportion at defiance, is often depicted as crouching at the feet of
Jesus, and sometimes as kissing his hand in gratitude for restoring
her brother to life. Sometimes, also, Martha is seen standing by the
tomb, and the disciples standing around Jesus. The following
engraving, from a sarcophagus in the Lateran, is a characteristic
example of the ordinary type.

A much less frequent subject of art-presentation was Mary Magdalene      331
holding in her hands the “alabaster box of very precious ointment,”
wherewith she anointed Our Lord.

  [Illustration: Fig. 100.--Raising of Lazarus.[550]]

  [Illustration: Fig. 101.--Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.]

Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the presage and symbol of
his final victory in the world and entrance as the King of Glory into
the New Jerusalem on high, occurs with great frequency and
considerable variety of treatment. Although dissociated from this
scene in the gospel narrative, Zacchæus is almost invariably connected
therewith in this primitive art, and generally appears mounted in a      332
a tree gazing at the procession. At times the scene is reduced to its
simplest elements; at others, as in Fig. 101, from a sarcophagus in
the Lateran, it is more elaborately treated, exhibiting the multitudes
spreading their garments, and strewing branches of palm before the
meek conqueror.

Peter’s denial of his Master is a theme that is frequently repeated.
The cock, whose crowing awoke the disciple’s late remorse, without
which it would sometimes be impossible to discriminate the scene, is
generally shown, as in the following sarcophagal example from the
Lateran Museum.

  [Illustration: Fig. 102.--Peter’s Denial of Christ.]

As we have already remarked, the tragic scenes of the passion of Our
Lord find no place in this primitive cycle. These were felt to be
subjects for devout meditation rather than for pictorial treatment.
The early Christians preferred to contemplate Christ rather as the
victor over death and hell, than as the victim of suffering and shame.
“The agony, the crown of thorns, the nails, the spear,” says a
distinguished critic of this primitive art,[551] “seem all forgotten
in the fullness of joy brought by his resurrection. This is the theme,
Christ’s resurrection, and that of the church in his person, on which,
in their peculiar language, the artists of the Catacombs seem never
weary of expatiating; death swallowed up in victory, and the victor      333
crowned with the amaranth wreath of immortality, is a vision ever
before their eyes, with a vividness of anticipation which we, who have
been born to this belief, can but feebly realize.”

  [Illustration: Fig. 103.--Pilate on the Judgment Seat Washing his

The only scenes connected with the passion, besides that of the
denial, already given, are those which occurred in the judgment-hall
of Pilate, and a unique example of Simon bearing the cross. One scene
in particular seems to have been selected rather as a testimony of
Christ’s innocence than of his sufferings. It is that in which Pilate
declares, “I have found no fault in this man;” and calling for water
washes his hands, as if to blot out the damning guilt of that judicial
murder. In the accompanying engraving, from a mutilated bas-relief in
the Lateran Museum, this scene is exhibited. In the original the face
of the irresolute governor seems to express compunction at this          334
perversion of justice to which he is yielding. In the background is
seen the profile of his wife, as though uttering her solemn admonition
against the impending crime. The servant with the ewer and empty basin
appears in conformity with the oriental ablutionary custom of pouring
water upon the hands.

In the last compartment to the right of the remarkable sarcophagus in
the Lateran, represented in Fig. 104, this scene is repeated.
Associated therewith in the next adjoining compartment are two figures
interpreted as Christ, guarded by a Roman soldier, witnessing a good
confession before Pontius Pilate. The crown above the head of the
latter, if not a mere architectural decoration, may indicate the
reward of those who confess Christ before men.

  [Illustration: Fig. 104.--Sarcophagus in the Lateran Museum.]

This sarcophagus exhibits, as Dr. Northcote admits, “the nearest
resemblance to the later representations of Our Saviour’s Passion to
be found in early Christian art.”[552] The Constantinian monogram in
the central compartment has been already described.[553] To the left
is seen the figure of Christ crowned, not with thorns, but, as if
symbolizing his crown of rejoicing on high, with a garland of flowers.
The last compartment exhibits Our Lord, or, more probably, Simon the     335
Cyrenian, bearing the cross under the guard of a Roman soldier. “But
there are none of the traces of suffering,” says Dr. Northcote, “with
which later artists have familiarized our imagination, and the crown
above points to the reward for bearing the cross after our suffering
Master.”[554] In one instance the Roman soldiers are shown smiting Our
Lord on the head with a reed;[555] but no nearer approach to the
consummation of the supreme sacrifice of Calvary is ever attempted.

Neither are the august themes of Christ’s resurrection and ascension
historically treated in this biblical cycle, but only under the Old
Testament types of Jonah and Elijah. One group, hypothetically
interpreted as the _Noli me tangere_, or Our Lord saying to Mary on
the morning of the resurrection, “Touch me not, for I am not yet
ascended to my Father,” more probably represents the gratitude of Mary
for the resurrection of her brother Lazarus. Numerous frescoes of
seven men eating a repast of bread and fish may refer to Our Lord’s
appearing to his disciples on the sea-shore, or to the celebration of
the Agape.

We find only one event subsequent to the ascension occasionally
represented on the early Christian sarcophagi, namely, the
apprehension of Peter,[556] which was probably regarded as a type of
his being finally bound for his crucifixion. He is to be discriminated
from Our Lord arrested by the Roman soldiers by his bearded face, and
by the Jewish caps, which mark the satellites of Herod Agrippa. It is    336
remarkable that so little reference is made to St. Peter in this early
Christian sculpture, and that little indicating no degree of
superiority over the other apostles; and the fact is inexplicable on
the Roman theory of his primacy in the so-called Apostolic College. In
the still earlier frescoes of the Catacombs he is nowhere especially
designated by name or attribute. The only apostle distinguished from
the rest of the twelve is St. Paul, who, in a fresco in the Catacomb
of St. Priscilla, is seen side by side with the Good Shepherd, and
indicated by the inscription--PAVLVS PASTOR APOSTOLVS.[557] Indeed,
this was the especial title of St. Paul as being “in labors more
abundant” than any of the apostles.[558] Even on the sarcophagi St.
Peter is only once or twice exhibited as bearing the symbolical rod of
power, and these examples may be of the fifth or sixth century. In
certain of the gilt glasses already mentioned he is allegorically
portrayed, instead of Moses, as smiting the rock, implying the opinion
that he was in some sense the representative of the latter in the New
Testament economy. But these glasses are of comparatively late date,
when the notion of the primacy of St. Peter was already partially
developed; and even in these St. Peter and St. Paul are often found
side by side, without any sign of the superiority of the former.

It is easy to discriminate in early Christian art between the two
apostles so highly honoured at Rome[559] by the strongly marked          337
conventional types to which their portraits almost invariably conform.
St. Paul is characterized by the nobler form of face, a high, bold
forehead, aquiline Jewish nose, dark hair and eyes, a flowing and
pointed beard, and a refined and thoughtful expression of countenance
as became one brought up at the feet of Gamaliel and instructed in all
the wisdom of Greek philosopher and Hebrew sage. The Galilæan
fisherman is represented with strongly-knit frame, broad rustic
features, short gray hair, a thick and closely curling beard,
generally of silvery white, and an expression of much force and energy
of character.[560] It is probable that these types were derived from
authentic tradition if not from actual portraits.[561] Eusebius,
Augustine, and others of the Fathers, claim to have seen
representations of these apostles preserved in painting; and the         338
reputed portraits alleged to have been sent by Pope Sylvester to the
Emperor Constantine are annually exhibited at St. Peter’s for the
veneration of the faithful.[562]

Nowhere in the Catacombs do we find the least support for the notion
that St. Peter is in any sense the founder of the church in Rome, much
less the rock on which the church universal is built. That honour is
assigned in early Christian art, as it is by the apostle himself, to
Jesus Christ, the “chief corner-stone, elect, precious.”[563]

  [Illustration: Fig. 105.--Painted Chamber in the Catacomb of St.       339

These biblical pictures, we may here remark, are not grouped
indiscriminately, but are often arranged in a regular order having
reference to their doctrinal signification. The walls and ceilings of
the _cubicula_ are frequently divided into compartments of
geometrical design, as shown in the preceding engraving of a chamber     340
in the Catacomb of St. Agnes. See also Figs. 82 and 89.

Sometimes the paintings of a chamber are as closely related as the
parts of a chapter in systematic theology. Thus on account of their
common reference, as he conceives, to the sacraments of baptism and
the eucharist, De Rossi designates as liturgical paintings certain
pictures in the Catacomb of Callixtus.[565] An allegorizing spirit,
however, will often discover a meaning in a fresco or relief
altogether unthought of by the original artist. Thus Dr. Northcote
interprets as personifications of the church or of the Virgin Mary,
certain praying figures nowise differing from the ordinary _oranti_.

The sarcophagi are almost exclusively occupied with scenes from the
biblical cycle, generally arranged in two rows in a continuous series,
like the figures on the frieze of a Grecian temple. Frequently ten or
twelve groups, embracing nearly forty figures, are found on the side
of a sarcophagus. Sometimes the separate groups occupy a rhythmical
arrangement of panel-like compartments, divided by columns of more or
less ornamental character. (See Figs. 102, 103, and 104.) The busts of
the deceased persons, man and wife, are often exhibited in bold relief
in a concave recess in the centre, like the half of a bivalve shell.
The table in the footnote on the following page exhibits the relative
frequency of occurrence of the different subjects already described,
as observed in fifty-five sarcophagi in the Lateran Museum by
Mr. Burgon, and as shown in forty-eight examples copied by Bosio.[566]   341

The massiveness of the sarcophagi would during the ages of persecution
prevent their use even for the wealthy, as their preparation and
conveyance from the city would involve an amount of publicity that
would imperil the safety of the living. After the time of Constantine
the increased riches and perfect immunity of the Christians permitted
the adoption of this costly entombment. The sarcophagi were no longer
hidden in the subterranean crypts, but were exposed to view in the
vestibules of the stately basilicas erected above ground.[567]

Hence, Chrysostom speaks of Constantine being buried in the fisherman’s
porch,[568] and of emperors occupying the place of porters at the
graves of the apostles. Numerous sarcophagi, however, have been
found in the Catacombs, some even reputed to be of the first century.    342
These were generally of simpler design, and adorned only with the
series of doubly curving lines known as wave ornaments. They were
frequently buried in the floor of the _cubicula_.[569]

The reader, in examining the foregoing representations of the person
of Our Lord,[570] must have been struck with their remarkably youthful
and joyous character in this primitive cycle, as contrasted with the
older aspect and more severe expression of the prevalent types of
later art. This difference is indicative of a corresponding change of
religious feeling, from the genial cheerfulness of the early centuries
to the gloomy asceticism of the Middle Ages. In the art of the
Catacombs Our Lord is represented, for the most part, in an ideal
manner, and not in an historical sense; or, to use the language of
Lord Lindsay, “as an abstraction, as the genius, so to speak, of
Christianity.”[571] He is almost invariably exhibited as a youthful,
beardless figure, to signify--say the ancient writers--“the
everlasting prime of eternity;” with, where any definite expression is
attempted, a countenance of sweet and tender grace, full of mildness
and benignity.

That there was in these primitive types no attempt at realistic
portraiture is evident from the opinion of many of the early Fathers     343
as to the personal appearance of Our Lord. This opinion was founded
upon an erroneous interpretation of certain passages of Scripture,
expressive of Christ’s voluntary humiliation and abasement. Thus
Justin Martyr speaks of his appearance as ignoble and uncomely.[572]
Tertullian, with his usual vehemence, asserts Christ to have been
devoid, not only of divine majesty, but even of human beauty,[573] to
have lacked grace and dignity beyond all men.[574] “But however mean
his aspect, however vulgar and dishonoured,” he exclaims, “he shall be
still _my_ Christ whom I adore.”[575] Clement of Alexandria, Origen,
and Basil agree in this opinion as to the outward appearance of Our
Lord; and Cyril of Alexandria audaciously declares that he was the
most ugly of the sons of men.[576]

But a juster interpretation of Scripture, and a more worthy conception
of the person of Christ, at length prevailed. The glowing imagery of
the Song of Songs and of the prophetic Psalms was applied by several
of the Fathers of the fourth century to the person, as well as to the
character, of Our Lord. Jerome conjectures that there must have been
something celestial in his countenance and look, or the apostles would
not immediately have followed him;[577] and that the effulgence and
majesty of the divinity within, which shone forth even in the human      344
countenance, could not but attract at first sight all beholders.[578]
Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa in the East adopted this nobler
conception, as also did Ambrose and Augustine in the West. The latter
exclaims, “He was beautiful on his mother’s bosom, beautiful in the
arms of his parents, beautiful upon the cross, and beautiful in the
sepulchre;” although he admits that the countenance of Christ was
entirely unknown, and was painted with innumerable diversities of

There was therefore, as M. Rochette remarks,[580] and as Dr. Northcote
admits,[581] no authentic portrait of Christ recognized by the early
church; nor was any strictly uniform type adopted. Eusebius, indeed,
mentions reputed portraits of Our Lord associated with those of St.
Peter and St. Paul;[582] but they were apparently objects of mere
local superstition, as was also the alleged statue of Christ at
Cæsarea Philippi, in which he was supposed to be represented as
healing the woman with the issue of blood.[583] The earliest
acknowledged images of Christ were attributed to the Gnostic heretics,   345
and were honoured with those of Homer, Pythagoras, Orpheus, and other
heroes and sages by the eclectic philosophers of Rome.[584]

The silence of early tradition, as well as of Scripture, concerning
the outward form of the Saviour of mankind, seems providentially
designed to turn the mind from a sensuous regard for his person to a
spiritual apprehension of his saving grace. The spurious epistle of
Publius Lentulus, an imaginary contemporary of Christ, which is of
uncertain and probably late date, contains the first written
portraiture of Our Lord, which already indicates a departure from the
generally youthful type of the Catacombs. “His countenance,” says this
account, “is severe and expressive, so as to inspire beholders at once
with love and fear.... In reproving or censuring, he is awe-inspiring;
in exhorting and teaching, his speech is gentle and caressing. His
expression is of wonderful sweetness and gravity. No one ever saw him
laugh, though he has been often seen to weep.”[585]

The oldest extant picture of the head of Christ treated separately is    346
a profile brought from the Catacomb of Callixtus, now in the Christian
Museum of the Vatican, and figured in the engraving on the following
page. It is in imitation of mosaic, about life-size, and of a different
type from the figure of Our Lord in composition in the frescoes and      347
sculptures of the Catacombs. He is portrayed as of adult age, his
calm, smooth brow shaded by long brown hair which is parted in the
middle and falls in masses on the shoulders. The eyes are large and
thoughtful, the nose long and narrow, the beard soft and flowing, and
the general expression of countenance serene and mild. This became the
hieratic type of many of the noblest pictures of later Italian art,
and, according to the Abbé Brivati, inspired the genius of Da Vinci,
Raphael, and Caracci.

  [Illustration: Fig. 106.--The Oldest Extant Picture of Our Lord.]

In the Catacomb of Sts. Nereus and Achilles the head and bust of
Christ form a medallion in the centre of a vaulted ceiling. The face
is of a noble and dignified expression, mingled with benevolence; but
it is older in aspect, and probably of considerably later date, than
that here given. Kugler, however, claims for it priority of origin.
Both of these were probably of the latter part of the fourth century,
and were executed not by the Christians of the purest ages of the
church, but by those who had begun to walk by sight and not by faith.
The primitive Christians, we have seen, had no professed portraits of
Christ, but only allegorical representations of the Good Shepherd, or
a youthful figure regarded as the abstractions or genius of              348
Christianity. “We must not,” says a Father of the second century,
“cling to the sensuous, but rise to the spiritual. The familiarity of
daily sight lowers the dignity of the divine, and to pretend to
worship a spiritual essence through earthly matter is to degrade that
essence to the world of sense.”[586]

On a terra cotta medallion, found not in the Catacombs themselves, but
in the rubbish near the mouth of the cemetery of St. Agnes, is a head
of Our Lord of the same general type as Fig. 106, but of much superior
execution. The face is of exquisite beauty, and is characterized by a
sweet and tender grace of expression. But with the decline of art and
the corruption of Christianity this beautiful type disappeared, and a
more austere and solemn aspect was given to pictures of Christ.
Although the technical means of execution were diminished, and the
rendering of form became more and more incorrect, yet for powerful
effect, strength of character, and depth of feeling, Christian art
exhibited resources beyond any thing to be found in the Catacombs. It
burst the narrow limits in which it was there confined, and found
ample scope in the frescoes and mosaics of the stately basilicas which
were everywhere rising. In those vast and shadowy interiors the
principal figure was that of Christ, surrounded by saints and angels,
looking down upon the worshippers with awe-inspiring power, holding in
his left hand the book of life, and raising his right in solemn menace
or warning.

The first example of the art-presentation of Christ under this stern
and sullen aspect, according to that accomplished critic, Mr. Hemans,    349
is a large mosaic composition of the fifth century in the Ostian
basilica of St. Paul. The colossal figure of the Saviour dominates
over every other object, with an effect at once startling and
repulsive. “Nor can we help,” says Mr. Hemans, “seeing in this
strangely unworthy conception the evidence of deterioration in the
religious ideal, even more than of decline in the technical treatment
peculiar to the age.”[587] Of this character is the head of Our Lord
in the crypt of St. Cecilia. The expression is grave, the eyes large
and solemn; the book of the gospels is in his hand, and his head is
surrounded by a nimbus in the form of a Greek cross.

This type became more and more rigid and austere as the gathering
shadows of the Dark Ages mantled on the minds of men. The gloomy
asceticism of the monastic orders also left its impress on the art of
the period, especially in the East, where the Basilian monks too
faithfully illustrated the stern, austere judgments of their founder
concerning the person of Christ. The rudeness of execution of this
Byzantine school was only equalled by the meanness of conception of      350
the harsh, stiff and blackened portraits of Our Lord, in which he was
exhibited as emphatically “a man of sorrows and acquainted with

Toward the close of the tenth century art sank into its deepest
degradation as the long night of the Dark Ages reached its densest
gloom. The year one thousand was regarded in popular apprehension as
the date of the end of time, and of the final conflagration of the
world so intensely realized in the sublime hymn,

              Dies iræ, dies illa,
              Solvet sæclum in favilla.

The excited imagination of mankind, brooding upon the approaching
terrors of the Last Day, found expression in the sombre character of
the art of the period. The tender grace of the Good Shepherd of the
Catacombs gave place to the stern inexorable Judge, blasting the
wicked with a glance and treading down the nations in his fury. Christ
was no longer the Divine Orpheus, charming with the music of his lyre
the souls of men, and breathing peace and benediction from his lips,
but the “Rex tremendæ majestatis,” a dread Avenger striking the
imagination with awe, and awakening alarm and remorse in the soul. All
the stern denunciations of the Hebrew prophets and the weird imagery
of the Apocalypse found intensely realistic treatment in art. Christ
smites the earth with a curse, and consumes the wicked like stubble.
“A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round
about.”[588] The great white throne is set, and from beneath it a
flame bursts forth devouring the guilty objects of his wrath. Like an
angry Jove,[589] he hurls the thunderbolts of his fury and blasts with   351
the lightning of his power. The angels tremble in terror at his frown,
and even the intercession of the Virgin Mother avails not to mitigate
the dread displeasure of her Divine Son. Down to the period of the
Renaissance the tragic scenes of the last judgment continue to be
favourite subjects of art treatment, and exhibit some of its most
remarkable achievements; but not all the genius of Orcagna or of
Michael Angelo can reconcile our minds to the savage sternness and
ferocity of the frescoes of the Campo Santo and the Sistine Chapel.

Christ is also frequently depicted in Mediæval art with his staff and
scrip, his “scallop hat and shoon,” setting out upon his weary, mortal
pilgrimage; returning to heaven as a toil-worn man leaning heavily
upon his staff,[590] or showing to the Father sitting on his throne
his wounded hands and side. He is also seen, as in the sublime vision
of St. John, riding in majesty on his white horse, accompanied by the    352
armies of the sky; as trampling beneath his feet the lion and dragon,
and as chaining death and hell. In Greek art, especially, he is
exhibited as a throned archbishop, arrayed in gorgeous vestments,
receiving the homage of saints and angels, or offering the sacrifice
of the mass as the great High Priest entered into the holiest of all.

One of the most striking contrasts between the art of the Catacombs
and that of later times is the entire absence in the former of those
gross anthropomorphic images of the persons of the Holy Trinity,
either together or separately--except Our Lord under his proper human
form--of which the latter, in striking offence against piety and good
taste, exhibits so many painful examples. In the earlier ages a solemn
reverence forbade the attempt to depict the Eternal Father or the Holy
Spirit except by means of symbolical types. The universal testimony of
Christian antiquity is opposed to this practice so common in Mediæval
art. Origen, Ambrose, and Augustine unite in prohibiting the
representation of the Deity by any material object. The latter
declares it to be impious for any Christian to set up such an image in
the church, and much more to do it in his heart,[591] or to conceive
it possible that the Divine Being may be circumscribed by the limits
of the human frame.[592] Paulinus of Nola, in his account of the
symbolism of the Holy Trinity in the church of St. Felix, describes
Christ as represented by a lamb, the Holy Spirit by a dove, but for
the Father nothing but a voice from heaven.[593] Gregory II., the        353
champion of image-worship, denies that it is lawful to make any
representation of the Divine nature, but only of Our Lord, his mother,
and the saints.[594] Such figures were also condemned by the second
Council of Nice.[595] John Damascenus, a zealous defender of the
images of Christ and the saints, yet declares it is as great impiety
as it is folly to make any image of the Divine nature, which is
incorporeal, invisible, without material or form, incomprehensible,
not to be circumscribed, nor to be figured by the art of man.[596]
Urban VIII. ordered all representations of the Trinity to be burnt,
and Benedict XIV. forbade the depicting of the Holy Ghost in human
form. Dupin asserts that the most zealous defenders of images have
condemned these;[597] and the learned and judicious Bingham declares
that “in all ancient history we never meet with any one instance of
picturing God the Father, because it was supposed that he never
appeared in any visible shape, but only by a voice from heaven.”[598]

Some recent Roman Catholic writers, however, assert the contrary of
this to be the case, and refer for proof of the assertion to one or      354
two sarcophagal bas reliefs of the fourth or fifth century. One of
these represents Cain and Abel bringing their gifts to an aged and
bearded figure sitting on a stone, who is interpreted by the Romanists
as the Omnipotent Jehovah. But that distinguished archæologist, Raoul
Rochette, himself a Romanist, opposes this view. “I doubt,” he says,
“the reality of this explanation, contrary to all that we know of the
Christian monuments of the first ages, where the intervention of the
Eternal Father is only indicated in the abridged and symbolic manner
proper to antiquity, by the image of a hand.”

The other alleged sculpture of the Godhead requires more careful
examination. “The Holy Trinity,” says Dr. Northcote, “is nowhere
represented, as far as I know, in the paintings of the Catacombs.”[599]
But he asserts that a sculptured example occurs on a sarcophagus of
the fifth century, from the Ostian basilica of St. Paul’s, now in the
Lateran Museum. The group referred to consists of three bearded
figures of advanced age, and of grave and strongly-marked features.
One of these, whom Dr. Northcote designates “the Eternal Father, the
source and fountain of Deity,”[600] is seated in a raised chair or
sort of throne. Behind the chair stands another described as
representing the Holy Ghost, and in front of it the third, identified
as the “Eternal Word.”[601] At the feet of the latter are two
diminutive figures, one standing, the other prostrate, said to
represent the creation of Eve from the side of the sleeping Adam.
Padre Garrucci, who has published a monograph on this subject,
identifies none of the adult figures in the same manner as Dr.           355
Northcote, but describes the one seated as the Son, the one behind him
as the Father, and the third as the Holy Ghost.[602]

We can accept neither of these explanations, both of which are so
strongly opposed to the entire spirit and character of early Christian
art. The formulization of the doctrine of the Trinity by the Council
of Nice, in that noble creed which still expresses the faith of
Christendom, left, it is true, its impress on Christian art and
literature. Both in pictorial representation, and, as we shall
hearafter see, in inscriptions, is there a recorded protest against
the Arian heresy which at this period convulsed and rent the church.
De Rossi cites eight examples in early Christian art which he
conceives to have reference to this doctrine; but in seven of these it
is indicated by the association of the sacred monogram with the
triangle, the symbol of tri-unity, and the eighth is the unique and
anomalous bas relief under discussion.

We have seen that Christ is uniformly exhibited in this primitive art
as youthful and beardless; and on this very sarcophagus, side by side
with this so-called sculpture of the Trinity, he is thus seen as the
representative of the Deity giving the wheat-sheaf to Adam and the
lamb to Eve. Yet we are asked to believe that in the very next group
he is shown, in defiance of the uniform practice, as heavily bearded
and of advanced age; and that the Almighty Father, who is
substitutionally represented by the Son in the adjoining scene, is
here exhibited, as well as the Eternal Spirit, in human form. Another
remarkable discrepancy also occurs. The so-called figures of Adam and
Eve are of most diminutive size, and not nearly as large as the infant   356
Christ in his mother’s arms in the scene of the adoration of the Magi
immediately below;[603] and of these the prostrate figure supposed to
represent the sleeping Adam is considerably the smaller of the two,
and of the more feminine aspect. This incongruity is the more striking
from the immediate proximity of the adult figures of Adam and Eve, to
which the smaller ones bear no resemblance. The whole group seems to
correspond better to Solomon’s celebrated judgment concerning the
living and the dead child than to the creation of Eve.

  [Illustration: Fig. 107.--God Symbolized by a Hand appearing to

So careful, indeed, were the early Christian artists to avoid any
representation of “the King eternal, immortal, invisible,” that in the
scenes where God spake from heaven to Abraham and to Moses he is only
symbolically indicated by a hand stretched out to stay the knife of
the patriarch, or surrounded by clouds, as if to show more strongly
its figurative character, giving the tables of the law to the leader
of Israel. The annexed suggestive example of this treatment, of which
many others might be adduced, is from a sarcophagus in the Lateran.
See also Fig. 71, p. 290.

Throughout the whole range of sacred mosaics at Rome from the fourth     357
to the fourteenth century, according to Mr. Hemans, the Supreme Being
is never represented except symbolically by means of a hand, usually
holding a crown over the head of Christ, the Virgin, or the saints. In
later art the hand is sometimes surrounded by a cruciform nimbus, to
indicate more clearly its divine character. It is also seen stretched
out from heaven in pictures of Christ’s baptism and transfiguration,
of the agony in the garden, the passion, and ascension.[604]

It was long before the most audacious hand dared to represent in
painting or sculpture the omnipotent Jehovah or the infinite Spirit,
who sustain and pervade the universe. M. Emeric David says that the
French artists of the ninth century had first the “happy
boldness”--_heureuse hardiesse_--to depict the Eternal Father
under human form.[605] M. Didron asserts that it was not till the
twelfth century that the Divine Being was personally represented,[606]
being previously invariably indicated by the symbol of a hand, or by
the divine name written in a triangle surrounded by a circle. Previous
at least to the earlier of these dates, the work of creation and other
acts popularly regarded as proper to the Father are always represented
as performed by the Son, “who is the image of the invisible God,” “by    358
whom also he made the worlds.”[607] Christ is also painted as
commanding Noah to build the ark, as conversing with Abraham, and as
speaking to Moses out of the burning bush. He is frequently
represented also in the gigantic frescoes of the Byzantine cupolas
clothed with awful majesty and bearing the title Ο ΠΑΝΤΟΚΡΑΤΩΡ, the
Almighty; but the addition of the letters |IC XC|, the contraction for
Jesus Christ, assure us that it is not the Father but the Son who is

But the literal conception of the age was not content with a
symbolical indication of the Deity. By degrees the arm as well as the
hand was portrayed, and art, gradually growing bolder, attempted the
representation of that face which inspiration declares no man can see
and live. But at first it is the face alone that is shown.[608] Then,
with progressive daring, the bust and upper part of the body are
painted as reaching forth from the clouds, and finally the entire
figure appears under various aspects and in different characters. The
Almighty is represented armed with sword and bow, as the God of
battles; as crowned, like a king or emperor;[609] and finally, as
Pope, wearing the pontifical tiara and vestments. In the following
example from a stained-glass window of the sixteenth century, at
Troyes, in France, the everlasting Father, throned in glory, crowned
with a quintuple tiara and robed in alb and tunic, supports a cross on   359
which hangs the lifeless body of the Divine Son.

  [Illustration: Fig. 108.--God the Father as Pope.]

The omnipotent Jehovah is sometimes portrayed as “the Ancient of
Days,” under the form of a feeble old man bowed down by the weight of
years, and fain to seek support by leaning heavily on a staff, or
reposing on a couch after the labours of creation.[610] The treatment
becomes more and more rude, even to the borders of the grotesque,[611]   360
and the conception becomes mean, coarse, and vulgar, till all the
Divine departs and only human feebleness and imbecility remain,
indicating at once the degradation of taste, decline of piety, and
corruption of doctrine.

But this grossness of treatment reaches its most offensive development
in the impious attempt to symbolize the sublime mystery of the Holy
Trinity by a grotesque figure with three heads, or a head with three
faces joined together, somewhat after the manner of the three-headed
image of Brahma in the Hindoo mythology.[612] In other examples the
Trinity is represented by three harsh stiff and aged figures,[613]
identified by the attributes of the tiara, cross, and dove, enveloped
in one common mantle, and jointly crowning the Virgin Mary in heaven,
whose flowing train the angels humbly bear. By this degradation of
Deity and exaltation of Mary we may mark the infinite divergence in      361
faith and practice of the modern church of Rome from the simplicity,
purity, and orthodoxy of the ancient church of the Catacombs, as
evidenced by that primitive art and symbolism whose priceless
monuments we have been examining.

     [477] In the bas reliefs of Chartres Cathedral and in other
     mediæval churches, a biblical cycle somewhat analogous in
     character to that of the Catacombs is represented. In the former
     case the whole drama of time from the creation of the world to
     the last judgment is set forth in a series of pictures in stone
     comprising 1,800 figures, often with a touching _naiveté_
     and simple grace.

     [478] _Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte._

     [479] _History of Christian Art_, vol. i, p. 47.

     [480] In an ivory diptych, probably of the fourth century, which
     is figured in Marriott’s _Testimony of the Catacombs_, is a
     very spirited bas relief of Adam in the garden giving the beasts
     their names.

     [481] Is there any allusion here to Noah as a “preacher of

     [482] 1 Pet. iii, 20, 21. The dove is the symbol, says
     Tertullian, of the Holy Spirit bringing the peace of God after
     the mystical lustration of the soul in baptism.--_De Baptismo_,

     [483] It is difficult to conceive how such a wide departure from
     historic truth took place in these representations. It has been
     suggested that they were copied from some pre-existing type, upon
     which this form was imposed by the conditions of space in which
     it was executed. Such a type occurs in the celebrated Apamean
     medals, of date A. D. 193-211. See Fig. 67. It probably
     commemorated the Deucalion deluge; and the design was apparently
     modified by the Christian artists to represent the preservation
     of Noah.

     [484] Hostia viva Deo tanquam puer offerar Isaac,
           Et mea ligna gerens, sequar almum sub cruce patrem.

     [485] _E. g._, Greg. Nazianz., _Orat._ 42.

     [486] 1 Cor. x, 4.

     [487] Paulinus of Nola, in the beginning of the fifth century,
     describes in spirited lines certain paintings analogous to those
     of which we have been speaking, but including some subjects not
     treated in the Catacombs. Among these are the passage of the Red
     Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh and his host, Joshua and the
     ark of God, Samson bearing away the gates of Gaza, the Israelites
     crossing Jordan, and the pathetic episode of Ruth and her
     sister-in-law, the one following and the other forsaking the
     stricken Naomi, the emblem, as the worthy bishop remarks, of
     mankind, part deserting, part adhering to the true faith:

          Ruth sequitur sanctam, quam deserit Orpa, parentem;
          Perfidiam nurus una, fidem nurus altera monstrat.
          Præfert una Deum patriæ, patriam altera vitæ.

     [488] Job xix, 17. This subject is also fantastically treated in
     Mediæval art. In a Byzantine MS. of the ninth or tenth century
     Job is exhibited as sitting in lugubrious melancholy amid the
     ruins of his house, while Satan is dancing before him in fiendish
     joy over the desolation he has caused, and is torturing his
     victim with a red-hot goad. Didron, _Iconog. Chrét._, p. 158.

     [489] _Roma Sotterranea_, i, 310. The newly elected pope
     receives the investiture with the words, “Receive the
     _pallium_, to wit, the fullness of the apostle’s office.”
     _Pallia_ are sent to foreign bishops from the tomb of St.
     Peter, and those who receive them keep them “_in obsequium
     Petri_”--in obedience and devotion to Peter.

     [490] Hom. ii. _In Ascens. Dom._

     [491] Several Romanist writers interpret, with doubtful
     propriety, a fresco in the cemetery of St. Priscilla as a
     representation of the Annunciation. True to its gentle genius,
     the art of the Catacombs passes over the tragical scenes of the
     Slaughter of the Innocents, whose horrors later art has delighted
     to portray.

     [492] In the church of the Ara Coeli, at Rome, is a miraculous
     image of the infant Christ, carved, it is said, out of wood from
     the Mount of Olives, and painted by St. Luke. It is known as the
     _Santissimo Bambino_, or Most Holy Babe, and is taken in its
     state-coach to visit the sick. At one time it received more fees
     than any physician in Rome. Its fête is celebrated by theatrical
     representations of the scenes of the Advent. The apocryphal
     Gospel of the Infancy tends to popularize this feature of

     [493] According to an ancient tradition mentioned by Origen and
     Leo the Great the number of the Magi was three. In the mediæval
     miracle plays they are called three gipsy kings, and their names
     are given as Gaspar, Melchior, and Belshazzar.

     The early Fathers all refer to the adoration of the Magi as a
     proof of the divinity of Our Lord, not as any homage to Mary. See
     Clem. Alex., _Pæd._, ii, 8; Origen, _c. Cels._, i, p. 46;
     Chrysos., in _Matt._; Jus. Mar., _Dial. cum Tryph._; Iren., _c.
     Hær._, iii, 2; Hieron., _in Esaiam_, vi, 19; Ambr., _in Luc._,
     ii; Aug., _Epiph. Serm._

     [494] _Rom. Sott._, p. 261.--One of these devout fictions, known
     as the _Proto-Evangelium_, and attributed to St. James, was the
     source of those legends of the early life of Mary which furnished
     so many subjects to Italian art. According to this tradition she
     was dedicated while yet an infant to a religious life, and
     remained till twelve years of age in the temple, where she was
     daily fed by angels. See an inscription in Provence: MARIA VIRGO
     MINISTER IN TEMPLO GEROSALE. Later legends assert the angelic
     pre-annunciation of her birth and her immaculate conception,
     which has at length become a formulated dogma of the church,
     though contrary to the opinion of the ancient Fathers. (Kayes’
     _Tertul._, p. 386 and _postea_.) St. Joachim and St. Anne, her
     parents, are invoked in the Missal, which also asserts her
     freedom from original sin, an exemption shared only by Our Lord,
     John the Baptist, and Jeremiah.

     In her youth, says the _Proto-Evangelium_, Mary was consigned to
     Joseph, not for marriage, but for parental guardianship. A number
     of suitors claimed her hand, but the apparition of a dove flying
     from the top of Joseph’s rod indicated the divinely chosen
     spouse. In course of time, in consequence of the growing superior
     regard for celibacy, the legends of her perpetual virginity were
     developed, although some, at least, of the Fathers held a
     contrary opinion. See Tertul., _De Monogamia_, c. 8, and _De
     Carne Christi_, c. 23; Neander’s _Antignostikus_, Whedon’s
     _Commentary_, Matt. xiii, 55. The word πρωτότοκον, _first-born_,
     applied to Jesus, Matt. i, 25, implies a second born afterward,
     as in Rom. viii, 29, “first born of many brethren;” otherwise the
     word μονογενής, _only born_, would be used, as in Luke vii, 12;
     ix, 38.

     [495] De Rossi and some other writers call this figure Isaiah
     without any good reason.

     [496] _Rom. Sott._, p. 260.

     [497] _Imagines Selectæ Deiparæ Virginis_, pl. iv. This picture
     is thought to be of the sixth century.

     [498] _Test. of Catacombs_, p. 27.

     [499] One of these has a saffron-coloured robe, and soft brown
     eyes and hair. The other wears a deep crimson robe with purple
     stripes. Both are richly embroidered and bejeweled.

     [500] Northcote’s _Catacombs_, p. 77.

     [501] _Rom. Sott._, p. 255.

     [502] _Rom. Sott._, pl. viii.

     [503] The circumstance above mentioned is another evidence that
     no logical nor historical difficulties are any obstacle to the
     devout credulity of Rome, in discovering proofs of its favourite
     dogmas where a rational criticism is unable to find them.

     [504] These figures are given in minute detail in Perret, tom.
     iii, planches 16 to 20. On the arch and on the other lunettes
     will be seen the “great fish” and the prophet Jonah, the Good
     Shepherd bearing a goat, not a lamb, on his shoulders, and the
     ever-recurring peacocks and doves.

     [505] In Byzantine art, pictures of the Virgin Mary are generally
     inscribed with the letters ΜΡ ΘΥ for ΜΗΤΗΡ ΘΕΟΥ--Mother of God.

     [506] A literal interpretation of the Scripture: “Yea, a sword
     shall pierce through thine own soul also.”--Luke ii, 35.

     [507] Mater æque non demonstratur adhæsisse illi, cum Marthæ et
     Mariæ aliæ in commercio ejus frequentantur. Hoc denique in loco
     (Luke viii, 20) apparet incredulitas eorum cum is doceret viam
     vitæ.--_De Carne Christi_, c. 7.

     [508] Solus labe caret peccati conditor orbis,
           Ingenitus genitusque Deus, Pater et Patre natus.
                                            --_Apotheosis_, 894.

     [509] Nec sumpsit [Christus] carnem peccati quamvis de materna
     carne peccati.--_De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione_, lib. i,
     c. 24. He further beautifully says: Solus unus est qui sine
     peccato natus est in similitudine carnis peccati, sine peccato
     vixit inter aliena peccata sine peccato mortuus est propter
     nostra peccata.--_Ibid._, c. 35.

     [510] Φιλοτιμία καὶ ἀπόνοια.--_Hom. in Matt._, xii, 47.

     [511] See the words of Our Lord on this very subject, Luke xi,
     28: “Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and
     keep it.”

     [512] “Infanda.”--_Theol. Dogmat. de Incarn._, lib. xiv,
     c. i.

     [513] These heretics receive their name from the κολλύρα, or
     cake, which they offered to the deified Virgin. Thus early was a
     new paganism substituted for that which was passing away. In
     modern Rome, cook-shops are dedicated to Mary under the title of
     “Our Lady of Cakes and Sugar-Plums,” thus literally “baking cakes
     to the Queen of heaven,” like the idolaters of Palestine
     denounced by the prophet. Madame de Staël has truly said, “The
     Catholic is the Pagan’s heir.”

     [514] Iren. _adv. Hæreses_, lib. iii, c. 33; lib. v, c. 19.

     [515] See the hymn in the office of the Virgin:

                   Quod Eva tristis abstulit
                   Tu reddis almo germine.

     Compare also the “Ave maris stella.”

     [516] _De Spectaculis_, c. 30.

     [517] See Shelley’s Notes to _Queen Mab_.

     [518] Maitland, p. 333.

     [519] The letters B. M., so frequently recurring in sepulchral
     inscriptions, have no reference to the Virgin Mary. They stand
     for _Bene Merenti_--To the well-deserving, or _Bonæ
     Memoriæ_--Of pious memory.

     [520] Ut ipsa corporis facies simulacrum fuerit mentis, figura
     probitatis.--_De Virgin._, lib. ii, c. 2.

     [521] Neque enim novimus faciem Virginis Mariæ.--_De Trin._,
     c. 8.

     [522] Aringhi (tom. ii, p. 195) copies a crucifixion from the
     Catacomb of “Julii Papæ,” in which Mary appears crowned with a
     nimbus, and bearing, after the Byzantine manner, the label
     DEI GENETRIX--Mother of God. It was probably painted by
     a Greek artist of late date. The miraculous images of Mary are
     too numerous to mention. Among these are the winking Madonna of
     Rimini; that of St. Peter’s, which shed blood when struck; that
     of Arezzo, which wept at the profanity of some drunkards;
     another at Rome, which shed tears at the invasion of the French;
     stranger still, one at Lucca, which transferred the infant Christ
     from one arm to the other to preserve him from danger; and one
     mentioned in the Fablieux of Le Grand, which, when a scaffold
     broke, stretched forth a painted arm to rescue from death the
     artist to whom she owed her existence! The practical and undevout
     curiosity of the Czar Peter of Russia exposed the fraud of one of
     the weeping Madonnas of the Greek church by the detection of a
     reservoir of water behind her eyes. In popular legend, also, Mary
     has often come down from her throne of glory, not to communicate
     lessons about sin and salvation, but to secure some trivial gain
     or to recover some lost money.

     [523] _Peinture_, tom. ii, p. 38.

     [524] Harduin, iv, 430, A. D. 712.

     [525] In the church of St. Cecilia at Rome. The homage of the
     Virgin was now called ὑπερδουλεία--the highest degree of

     [526] This legend is first mentioned by Gregory of Tours in the
     sixth century, (_De Gloria Mart._, lib. i, c. 4,) next by John
     Damascenus in the eighth century, but is most fully detailed in
     the _Legenda Aurea_ in the fourteenth. Some of the earlier
     paintings represent with touching _naiveté_ the translation of
     the soul of Mary as a new-born infant to heaven, where it is
     received in the arms of her Divine Son. In later art the
     assumption is more literally represented, and Mary is received
     and crowned by the three persons of the Holy Trinity, while
     angels bear her train. Bodily assumption was also attributed to
     John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene.

     [527] _E. g._, Psa. lxviii, 1: “Let Mary arise, and let her
     enemies be scattered.” On one of the principal churches of Rome
     may still be read the awful perversion of Scripture: “Let us
     therefore come boldly to the throne of Mary, that we may obtain
     mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

     [528] The expression of Modestus, patriarch of Jerusalem in the
     seventh century.

     [529] In allusion to the woman in the Apocalypse, xii, 1.

     [530] See a fresco in the _Campo Santo_, Pisa.

     [531] In the church of _Gesù e Maria_ at Rome.

     [532] Janua Coeli.

     [533] Stella matutina.

     [534] Refugium peccatorum.

     [535] Succurre miseris.

     [536] Tu nos ab hoste protege, et mortis hora suscipe.

     [537] Ora pro populo, interveni pro clero intercede pro devoto
     femineo sexu. See also in the “Ave Maris Stella,”

                   Salva vincla reis,
                   Profer lumen cæcis,
                   Mala nostra pelle,
                   Bona cuncta posce.

     See also the “Regina Coeli,” and the “Ave Regina Coelorum.”

     [538] She has been actually designated the Fourth Person of the
     Trinity. In Rome there are twenty-seven churches dedicated to
     Mary for one dedicated to Christ.

     “In dangers, in difficulties, in doubts,” says the Roman Breviary
     “in the abyss of sadness and despair, think of Mary, invoke Mary.”

     [539] In the church of S. Maria Maggiore at Rome may be seen a
     restored mosaic of the adoration of the Magi, in which Mary is
     represented, with a golden nimbus and tunic, as sitting on a
     chair of state higher than that of the Divine Child. But in
     copies of the original mosaic of the fifth century, made two
     centuries ago, (Ciampini, _Vet. Mon._, i, p. 200,) Mary is
     standing, without any nimbus or other sign of honour, by the side
     of Christ, who, attended by angels, occupies the throne. This was
     evidently a vindication of the divinity of the Son of Mary
     against the heresies of the Arians, which has been perverted by
     modern Romanists to an exaltation of the Virgin to co-equal
     honours with the Son of God.

     The figure of Mary as the Queen of heaven in the church of St.
     Nicholas at Rome is said by Papebrocius, a Roman authority, to
     have been originally intended for Our Lord, but afterward altered
     to the Madonna, a significant illustration of the substitution of
     her worship for that of her Divine Son.

     [540] See the wrathful image of Christ in the Last Judgment of
     the _Campo Santo_ and the Sistine Chapel.

     [541] Wordsworth’s _Eccles. Sonnets_, xxi.

     [542] Longfellow’s “_Golden Legend_.”

     [543] Dec., 1854. An inscription in St. Peter’s commemorates its

     [544] Luke ii, 46. Such is Didron’s opinion.

     [545] See Fig. 132.

     [546] Numerous references to these veils occur in the Fathers;
     _e. g._, Paulin., _Natal. Felic._, iii, 6: Aurea nunc niveis
     ornantur limina velis; Hieron., _Epitaph. Nepot._: Vela semper in
     ostiis; Epiphan., _ep. ad. Johan. Hierosol._: Inveni vela pendens
     in foribus. They were used also at the entrance of Pagan schools,
     “to conceal,” says Augustine, “the ignorance that took refuge

     [547] Prudentes quinque virgines olei vasa cum lampadibus
     deferentes.--_Roma Sotteranea_, tom. iii, p. 171.

     [548] Plutarch, _Quæst. Rom._

     [549] Rock’s _Hierurgia_, p. 463.

     [550] On an ivory diptych in the Educational Museum at Toronto,
     Ca., the raising of Lazarus appears exactly after this primitive

     [551] Lord Lindsay, _Christian Art_, vol. i, p. 51.

     [552] _Rom. Sott._, p. 307.

     [553] See Book II, chap. ii, p. 269.

     [554] _Rom. Sott._, p. 308.

     [555] According to Romish tradition, the Divine Sufferer received
     five thousand stripes during his scourging. This, as they would
     be inflicted by Roman soldiers, would be beyond human endurance,
     and was far beyond what Jewish or Roman law would allow.

     [556] Acts iv, 3.

     [557] Aringhi, _Roma Sotterranea_, tom. ii, p. 273.

     [558] Hence Augustine asserts that if the name of the apostle is
     not expressly mentioned, St. Paul is always understood by this
     title--Apostolus cum dicetur, si non exprimatur quis apostolus
     non intelligitur nisi Paulus.--_Contra duas Epis. Pelag._, lib.
     iii, c. 3. The apostles were sometimes represented by twelve men,
     but without any individual distinction.

     [559] O Roma felix, quæ duorum Principum
           Es consecrata glorioso sanguine;
           Horum cruore purpurata ceteras
           Excellis orbis una pulcritudines.
             --_Office for the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul._

     St. Paul is designated the illustrious doctor, the vase of
     election, the teacher of the nations, and preacher of truth
     throughout the world.--Egregie doctor Paule, vas electionis,
     doctor gentium, prædicator veritatis in universo

     [560] Of these types are the portraits on a bronze medal found in
     the Catacomb of St. Domitilla, in the so-called tomb of Sts.
     Peter and Paul at St. Sebastian’s, and in the early sculptures,
     mosaics, and paintings generally.

     [561] The scoffing Lucian, who may have conversed with some who
     witnessed the execution of St. Paul, describes him as “the
     bald-headed and long-nosed Galilæan, who mounted through the air
     into the third heaven.”--Γαλιλαῖος, ἀναφαλαντίας, ἐπίῤῥινος,
     ἐς τρίτον ουρανὸν ἀεροβατήσας.--_Philopatris._ Nicephorus and the
     Acts of Paul and Thecla describe him as bald--ψιλὸς τὴν
     κεφαλήν. The apocryphal Acts and Malalas add the epithets
     γλυκύς and χάριτος πλήρης, sweet, and full of grace.

     [562] The cultus of Peter, the result of the growing conception
     of his primacy, was developed to a degree second only to that of
     Mary. Its extent and character in the ninth century are indicated
     by a mosaic in the _triclinium_ of San Giovanni di Laterano at
     Rome, in which the apostle, seated on a lofty throne, with the
     keys of heaven and hell lying in his lap, is bestowing the
     _pallium_, or symbol of ecclesiastical power, on the most holy
     lord, Pope Leo--so he is designated--and the standard of battle
     on the Emperor Charlemagne, both of whom are kneeling at his
     feet. Beneath is the following prayer, addressed to Peter as to
     “Blessed Peter, give life to Pope Leo, and victory to King

     This religious cultus culminated in the erection of that noblest
     of all earthly temples, raised to the honour of a lowly
     fisherman, and in the idolatrous homage paid to the great bronze
     statue cast from that of Jupiter Capitolinus, if it be not indeed
     the identical statue of the heathen deity transformed into that
     of the Christian apostle and Romish saint.

     [563] We may here notice the precious Romish relic known as St.
     Peter’s chair. In June, 1867, the present pontiff ordered the
     bronze covering with which this object of veneration had been
     concealed for two hundred years to be removed, and the chair was
     found to be a solid oaken structure with iron rings, by which it
     could be carried like the _sella gestatoria_, in which the
     popes are borne in religious processions, and covered in part
     with ivory plates on which are engraved the labours of Hercules
     and other scenes. This chair, which is commemorated in one of the
     festivals of the church, Romish tradition asserts to be that in
     which St. Peter sat while exercising episcopal authority at Rome,
     and in which it is presumed he was borne in state, like those
     haughty pontiffs who claimed to be his successors. It is supposed
     to have been preserved during the ages of persecution in the
     crypts of the Catacombs; indeed, tradition identifies the
     Catacomb of Ostrianus on the Appian Way as the scene where this
     relic was venerated in the early centuries. Those who regard the
     fact of Peter’s presence in Rome as exceedingly hypothetical, and
     who altogether reject the notion of his episcopal authority, will
     regard any refutation of this legend as superfluous.

     An inscription is shown said to have been engraved by St. Peter
     himself, also the font at which he baptized! (See Fig. 131.)

     [564] It will be observed that in this chamber the Good Shepherd
     occupies the position of prominence and dignity in the
     compartment over the _arcosolium_, balanced by Daniel in the
     lions’ den and the three Hebrews in the furnace. On the left hand
     is a shelf for lamps, magnified in Romish imagination into a
     credence table for supporting the elements of the eucharist. In
     the ceiling are _oranti_ and lambs.

     [565] _Rom. Sott._, p. 268.

     [566]                         Burgon.  Bosio.
          History of Jonas              23   11
          The Smitten Rock              21   16
          Apprehension of Peter         20   14
          Miracle of the Loaves         20   14
          Giving Sight to the Blind     19   11
          Change of Water into Wine     16    8
          Raising of Lazarus            16   14
          Peter’s Denial                14    8
          Daniel in the Lions’ Den      14    7
          Paralytic Healed              12    7
          Creation of Eve               11    2
          Sacrifice of Isaac            11    9
          Adoration of the Magi         11    8
          Fall of Adam and Eve          14   10
          Woman with Issue of Blood      8    9
          Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem  6    8
          The Good Shepherd              6    9
          Noah in the Ark                5    6
          Christ before Pilate           5    6
          Giving of the Law              4    6
          The Three Hebrew Children      4    3
          Moses Taking Off his Shoes     2    2
          Elias Taken Up to Heaven       2    3
          Nativity, with Ox and Ass      1    4
          Christ Crowned with Thorns     1    1

     It will be seen that there is only one example of Christ crowned
     with thorns, and in that the harshness is removed by the
     substitution of a garland of flowers. How different from modern
     Roman Catholic art, in which the scenes of the passion are
     endlessly repeated! In pagan sarcophagi we find, instead of these
     sacred themes, crowded battle-pieces, with processions of
     warriors, chariots, horses, maskers, mythological groups, vintage
     scenes, etc. See the sarcophagi of the Empress Helena and of
     Constantia in the Vatican Museum, and before described.

     [567] In ecclesia nullatenus sepeliantur, sed in atrio, aut
     porticu, aut in exedris ecclesiæ.--_Council of Nantes_, can. 6.

     [568] Chrys., _Hom._ 26, _in_ 2 _Cor._

     [569] Numerous Christian sarcophagi have also been found at
     Arles, Saragossa, Ravenna, Milan, and elsewhere.

     The name sarcophagus, _flesh-eating_, from σάρξ and φάγω, it is
     well known, was derived from the supposed quality of the _Lapis
     Assius_, a stone of Assos in Asia Minor of which they were
     originally made, of corroding and consuming dead bodies, as
     ascribed to it by Theophrastus and Pliny.

     [570] See especially Figs. 47, 48, 63, 91, 92, 96, 97, and postea

     [571] _Christian Art_, vol. i, p. 42.

     [572] Τὸν ἀειδῆ καὶ ἄτιμον φανέντα.--_Dial. cum Tryph._, 85.

     [573] Adeo nec humanæ honestatis corpus fuit, nedum coelestis
     claritatis.--_De Carn. Christi._, c. 9.

     [574] Sed species ejus inhonorata, deficiens ultra omnes
     homines.--_Contra Marc._, iii, 17.

     [575] Si inglorius, si ignobilis, si inhonorabilis; meus erit

     [576] Ἀλλὰ τὸ εἶδος αὐτοῦ ἄτιμον ἔκλιπον παρὰ πάντας τοὺς υἱοὺς
     τῶν ἀνθρώπων.--_De Nudatione Noe_, lib. ii, vol. i, p. 13.

     [577] Nisi enim habuisset et in vultu quiddam et in oculis
     sidereum, nunquam eum statim secuti fuissent apostoli.--_Epis. ad
     Princip. Virginem._

     [578] Certe fulgor ipsa et majestas divinitatis occultæ, quæ
     etiam in humanâ facie relucebat, ex primo ad se venientes trahere
     poterat aspectu.--_Hieronym. in Matth._, ix, 9.

     [579] Qua fuerit ille facie nos penitus ignoramus: nam et ipsius
     Dominicæ facies carnis innumerabilium cogitationum diversitate
     variatur et fingitur, quæ tamen una erat, quæcunque erat.--_De
     Trin._, lib. vii, c. 4, 5.

     [580] _Tableau des Catacombes_, p. 164.

     [581] _Rom. Sott._, p. 252.

     [582] _Hist. Eccl._, vii, 18. From this frequent association
     St. Paul as well as St. Peter was frequently regarded as being
     both among the original disciples. “Justly do they deserve to
     err,” says Augustine, speaking of this mistake, “who seek Christ
     and his apostles, not in the holy volumes, but on painted
     walls.”--_De Consens. Evang._, lib. i, cx.

     [583] This statue, it has been suggested, probably represented
     the philosopher Apollonius or the Emperor Vespasian, and the
     suppliant female figure a personified city or province. Gibbon
     thinks it impossible that it could be intended for the _poor_
     woman mentioned in the gospel. Eusebius mentions the belief as a
     mere popular tradition. “_They say_ that this statue bears the
     likeness of Jesus”--Τοῦτον δὲ τὸν ἀνδριάντα εἰκόνα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ
     φέρειν ἔλεγον.--_Hist. Eccl._, viii, 18.

     [584] Iren., _adv. Hæres._, i, 25. Aug., _De Hærisib._, c. viii.
     The Emperor Alex. Severus, we have seen, had one of these images
     of Christ in his _Lararium_, with those of Abraham and
     Orpheus.--Æl. Lamprid. _in Vit. Alex. Sev._, c. 29.

     [585] Conspectus vultus ejus cum severitate et plenus efficacia,
     ut spectatores amare eum possint et rursus timere.... In
     reprehendendo et objurgando formidabilis; in docendo et
     exhortando blandæ linguæ et amabilis. Gratia miranda vultus cum
     gravitate. Vel semel eum ridentem nemo vidit sed flentem
     imo.--Fabricius, _Codex. Apoc. Nov. Teste._, 1e., pars. 301.

     Père Mabillon tells us that one of Christ’s tears has been
     preserved and peculiarly honoured at Vendôme.

     John Damascenus, in the eighth century, records the legend of a
     miraculous contemporary portrait of Christ which healed Agbarus,
     King of Edessa, of a mortal disease. It was till recently
     honoured in the church of St. Silvester at Rome.

     The miraculous image known as the Veronica is claimed to be the
     actual impression of the Saviour’s features made on the veil or
     handkerchief of a devout Jewess, who piously wiped his brow as he
     toiled along the way to Calvary. This image she brought to Rome,
     where it cured Tiberius Cæsar of the leprosy, and was afterwards
     presented to the Emperor Charlemagne. It is now publicly
     worshipped in St. Peter’s with the utmost devotion and splendor.
     The name is probably derived from the label _vera icon_ or
     _icona_--a true image--commonly attached to pictures of Our
     Lord. It was also given to the pious Jewess, who is identified as
     the niece of Herod. A colossal statue of St. Veronica adorns St.
     Peter’s fane, and the event is celebrated in sacred art and pious
     verse. The following, from a MS. in St. George’s Library,
     Windsor, is a favourable specimen of the latter:

               Salve, Sancta facies
               Mei Redemptoris,
               In qua nitet species
               Divini splendoris.
               Impressa panniculo
               Nivei candoris,
               Dataque Veronicæ,
               Signum ob Amoris.

     Of equally apocryphal character are the _Volto Santo_, exhibited
     during Holy Week at St. Peter’s, and the portraits attributed to
     Nicodemus, Pilate, St. Luke, or to celestial artists. One of the
     _Acheiropoietes_, or pictures made without hands, almost
     blackened with age, and of the Byzantine type, is thrice a year
     exhibited at the Lateran palace at Rome.

     [586] Clem. Alex., _Strom._, v.

     [587] _Sacred Art in Italy_, p. 212. The Mosaics of this century
     in the adoration of the Magi at S. Maria Maggiore, before
     mentioned, is the earliest example of the appearance in art of
     the figures of angels, those sublime creations that glorify the
     canvas of the artists of the Renaissance. The winged genii in the
     Catacombs are rather an imitation of classic types than of a
     Christian significance.

     The symbols of the four evangelists--the angel, lion, ox, and
     eagle--are unknown in the Catacombs, and first appear in the
     fourth century. Sometimes these symbols have reference to the
     four historic aspects of redemption through Christ--the
     Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, as explained
     in the following monkish rhyme:

          Quatuor haec Dominum signant animalia Christum:
          Est homo nascendo, Vitulusque sacer moriendo,
          Et Leo surgendo, coelos Aquilaque petendo.

     [588] Psa. xcvii, 3.

     [589] In the austere drama of Dante Christ receives the title of
     Sovereign Jove:
                               O summo Giove,
     Che fosti ’n terra per noi crocifisso.--_Purgat._, canto vi.

     In Mediæval art Christ is frequently modeled after the pagan
     _Jupiter Tonans_.

     [590] In some quaint French verses accompanying one of these
     pictures Our Lord, in giving an account of his journey, in
     characteristic accord with the erroneous theology of the times,
     is made to intimate that he would fain have avoided the unwelcome

         “Père,” dist Jhésus, “retourné
          Suis á toy, et ai consummé
          Ce que faire me commandas
          Quant jus ou monde m’envoyas,
         _Dont bien je m’en feusse passé_.”
            --_Romant des Trois Pélerinages_, A. D. 1358.

     [591] Tale simulacrum nefas est Christiano in templo collocare,
     multo magis is corde nefarium est.--_De Fide et Symbolo_, c. 7.

     [592] Nefas habent docti ejus (ecclesiæ Catholicæ) credere Deum
     figurâ humani corporis terminatum.--_Confess._, vi, 11. See also
     Orig. _Cont. Cels._, 6, and Ambr. in Psa. cxviii.

     [593] Pleno coruscat Trinitas mysterio;
           Stat Christus in agno; vox Patris coelo tonat;
           Et per columbam Spiritus Sanctus fluit.

     See a valuable note on the doctrine of a Trinity in Classic and
     Hindoo mythology in Whedon’s Commentary, vol. ii, p. 77.

     [594] Greg. II., Ep. i, _ad Leon._

     [595] Act 4. Concil. Nicen., 2.

     [596] Παραφροσύνης ἄκρας καὶ ἀσεβείας τὸ σχηματίζειν τὸ
     θεῖον. κ. τ. λ.--_De Fide Orthodox._, l. iv, c. 17.

     Dei qui est incorporeus, invisibilis, a materia remotissimus,
     figuræ expers, incircumscriptus, et incomprehensibilis, imago
     nulla fieri potest.... In errore quidem versaremur ... impie
     rursum ageremus ... si vel invisibilis Dei conficeremus
     imaginem.--_Orat. 1 et 2 de Imaginibus._

     [597] Les défenseurs les plus zelés des images ayant condamné
     celles-ci _i. e._, de la Trinité ou de la Divinité.--Dupin:
     _Bibli. Eccles._, t. vi, p. 154.

     [598] _Orig. Eccles._, bk. vi, chap. viii, § 10.

     [599] Northcote’s _Catacombs_, p. 116.

     [600] _Rom. Sott._, p. 300.

     [601] _Ibid._, 301.

     [602] _Dissertazioni Archeologiche di Raffaelle Garrucci_, (Roma,
     4to., 1865,) vol. ii, p. 1.

     [603] Dr. Northcote describes a bearded figure standing behind
     the chair of Mary as a representation of the Holy Ghost. Surely
     the more natural interpretation is that it is intended for Joseph.

     [604] Ezekiel speaks of the manifestation of God by a “hand sent
     unto him.” Ezek. ii, 9. The inspiration of Isaiah, and the divine
     judgments inflicted on Ananias and Sapphira, are thus indicated.
     In a Greek painting at Salamis, executed as late as the
     eighteenth century, the souls of the righteous in a state of
     beatitude are represented by five infant figures held in a
     gigantic hand projecting from the clouds.

     [605] _Discours Sur les Anciens Monumens_, pp. 43, 46. The
     instance he refers to occurs in a Latin Bible presented to
     Charles the Bold in A. D. 850. The interpretation, however, is
     not certain.

     [606] _Iconog. Chrét._, pp. 55, 205.

     [607] In a Greek painting of as late date as the twelfth or
     thirteenth century, Christ, indicated by the letters |IC XC|, is
     represented as stretching out his hand over a prostrate figure
     labeled ΑΔΑΜ Ο ΠΡΩΤΟΠΛΑϹΤΟϹ--“Adam, the first-born,” or rather
     “the first-formed.”

     [608] In one of these a winged head with cruciform nimbus,
     surrounded by a chaos of stars and planets, utters the word FIAT,
     and the earth with its inhabitants are called into being.

     [609] In France the Supreme Being was generally represented as
     King, in Germany as Emperor, and in Italy as Pope.

     [610] As in an example at the Madeleine at Paris.

     [611] We have seen a picture of the creation in which the
     Almighty was represented as a feeble old man dressed in
     ecclesiastical robes, _with a lantern in his hand_.

     [612] See a fresco by Andrea del Sarto at St. Salvi, Florence,
     two of the fifteenth century at Perugia, and an engraving in a
     copy of Dante printed at Florence in A. D. 1491. In an example
     given in Ames’ Typography, a triangular jewel is appended to the
     three-faced head, the inscription on which attempts to explain
     mathematically the mysterious doctrine of the unity in trinity.
     This mystery was also symbolized by the shape of some of the
     ancient monasteries, by the number of their cloistered inmates,
     by the genuflections of the service and the parts of the liturgy;
     and even the bell and

             “The rope with its twisted cordage three
              Denoted the scriptural Trinity.”

     Sometimes the Holy Spirit is represented by a dove proceeding
     from the mouths of the Father and the Son, or even nailed to the
     cross with Christ.

     [613] See on the carved stalls of the Amiens Cathedral, and at
     Vierrières in the Department de l’Aube, both of the sixteenth

                            CHAPTER IV.                                  362


Ever since the re-discovery and exploration of the Catacombs in the
sixteenth century they have been a vast treasury from which, as from
an inexhaustible mine, have been derived innumerable relics of
Christian antiquity, many of them of inestimable value. Among these
are a number of gilt glasses of curious design and remarkable
interest, lamps, vases, rings, seals, toys, trinkets, and various
objects of domestic use or ornament. Collections of these relics are
found in most of the great museums of Europe, especially in those of
the city of Rome. An account of the more important of them will be
given in the present chapter.

Reference has already been made to the numerous fragments of gilt
glass found in the Catacombs, which so remarkably illustrate Christian
life in the primitive ages. In the last century, Buonarotti described
all the specimens then known. The distinguished archæologist, Padre
Garrucci, has recently exhaustively treated these remains of ancient
art in his elaborate monograph on this subject.[614] They are also
profusely illustrated in the magnificent pages of Perret.[615]

These glasses are generally mutilated fragments, apparently the          363
bottoms of drinking-cups, and occasionally of the dish-like shape of
the classic _patera_. They vary in size from about one to four or five
inches in diameter. The design is executed in gold leaf on the bottom
of the cup, so as to appear through the glass on the inside, and is
occasionally beautifully relieved by a dark purple background. It is
protected by a plate of glass, fused upon the lower surface so as to
become a solid mass, like the glass paper-weights with enclosed
ornamental designs which are so common. The pictures thus hermetically
sealed are indestructible so long as the glass is not fractured. These
vessels were apparently affixed at the time of burial to the soft
plaster of the grave; but the thinner portion, standing out from the
cement, has almost invariably been broken, while the thick part,
imbedded in the plaster, has been preserved. Sometimes even the solid
bottoms of these vessels were fractured in the effort to detach them
from the walls, and frequently impressions in the cement indicate
where they were affixed. They are rarely found _in situ_, having been
destroyed or carried off by successive generations of explorers or
plunderers. The most important collection is in the Vatican Library.
In the British Museum are some thirty specimens; in the museums of
Paris, Florence, and Naples, a less number; and a few others in
various private collections. The entire number extant is only three
hundred and forty. In the course of a quarter of a century De Rossi
discovered but two fragments of these glasses. This extreme rarity is
doubtless owing to their excessive fragility, and probably also to
their being destroyed in large quantities to procure the gold they
contain. In some of the extant examples portions of this gold has been
removed by inserting a knife between the plates of glass. Perhaps
the ingenious avarice of the Jewish “dealers in broken glass,”           364
notorious even in the days of Martial,[616] may have largely
contributed to the destruction of these curious remains of Christian

It was thought that the manufacture of these glasses was known only at
Rome; but in the year 1864 a fragment of a glass plate, with a number
of small gilt medallions bearing scriptural representations imbedded
in it, was discovered beneath the surface of the ground near the
church of St. Severin at Cologne; and in 1866 another of similar
character was found, accompanied by some charred bones, in a stone
chest near the same place.

Buonarotti regarded these fragments as having all formed part of
sacramental vessels; but the character of the designs seems frequently
to preclude that idea. Several of these are derived from the fables of
pagan mythology, and seem to indicate, if not heathen origin, at least
the influence of pagan types. Among them are found the figures of
Achilles, Hercules, Dædalus, Minerva, Mercury, the Three Graces, Cupid
and Pysche, and other groups still less congruous with Christian
thought. Other scenes represent various industries, as men sawing,
planing, and carving wood; a ship-builder with his men at work; a
tailor, druggist, and money-coiner, in their respective shops. Hunting
scenes, men boxing, and charioteers encouraging their horses, also
occur. A more numerous series represent domestic groups, portraits of
husband and wife, frequently accompanied by their children, groups of
children playing, or sometimes a lady in rich costume, with cupids
holding her mirror and other toilet adjuncts. Frequently occurs what     365
seems to be a marriage scene, with the bride and bridegroom joining
hands over an altar, above which Christ is often depicted as placing
crowns on their heads. Sometimes is expressed in gilt letters the
beautiful wish VIVATIS IN DEO--“May you live in God.” In one
instance it is a winged cupid that bestows the crown.

The majority of the scenes, however, are of a distinctively Christian
character, comprising most of the subjects in the symbolical and
biblical cycles already described; but from the conditions of space,
which are often exceedingly limited, the design is frequently of a
very rudimentary type. In the large _patera_ of Cologne the medallions
contain the separate parts of different groups, which are only
intelligible as a whole. Besides the ordinary scenes from Old and New
Testament history there is a unique example of the triumph of Christ,
in which he appears in fulness of glory holding the globe of
sovereignty; while opposite to him stands a figure, interpreted by
Garrucci as Isaiah prophesying the advent of the Light of the World.
Perret also figures one example of Christ on the cross, with Mary and
John beside it, which he thinks is later than the sixth century.

Another class exhibits representations of the Virgin Mary, generally
in the attitude of prayer, either alone, or standing between St. Peter
and St. Paul, which position is also often occupied by St. Agnes or
some other female saint. More frequently recurring than any other
figures are those of St. Peter and St. Paul. They are found on eighty
out of three hundred and forty specimens figured by Garrucci, or
nearly one fourth of the whole. They appear generally as busts side by
side, without the slightest indication of the superiority of one over    366
the other, Peter being often on the left instead of the right, which,
according to the Romish theory of his primacy, he should always
occupy. Indeed, their perfect parity in dignity and honour is implied
in the single crown sometimes suspended over their heads, or by their
simultaneous crowning by Christ, who appears between or above them.
Other saints are also represented, who are discriminated by labels
bearing their names, as Lawrence, Vincent, Sixtus, Callixtus,
Hippolytus, etc. There are also five or six specimens exhibiting
Jewish symbols, the ark of the covenant and the rolls of the law. From
the technical difficulties in the employment of a rather intractable
material, as well as from the general decline of art, the execution is
often uncouth and stiff. “The faithful,” says Buonarotti, “desiring to
adorn these vases with pious symbols, were forced to avail themselves
of inexpert workmen, or even those who pursued other trades.”[617] The
accompanying is a characteristic example, from this author, of the
domestic class. It exhibits a husband, wife, and child, with the motto   367
in Latin characters, PIE ZESES--“Drink and live.” Between the faces is
an object like an ancient lachrymatory.

  [Illustration: Fig. 109.--Domestic Group in Gilt Glass.]

It is probable that these vessels were designed not for sacramental
solemnities, but for occasions of domestic and social rejoicing, as
nuptial, baptismal, and anniversary festivals; and for the celebration
of the Agape, or love-feast, after it had lost the religious character
it possessed in early times. Hence the selection of a comparatively
gay and mundane class of subjects; some derived from pagan art, and
others implying a conformity to the fashionable follies and amusements
of the world, and indicating a decline of piety and corruption of

Garrucci thinks, from the large proportion of glasses bearing the
effigies of St. Peter and St. Paul, that those at least were used in
connexion with the feast in honour of these saints, which in the
fourth and fifth centuries was celebrated in Rome as a public holiday,
with much of the vulgar merriment with which the peasants of the
Campagna keep their _festa_ to-day. Mr. Brownlow hints the
possibility that the “idea of restraining the potations of the Roman
Christians, by depicting figures which could only be seen to advantage
when the glass was empty, suggested the use of these gilded

The festive purpose for which many of these vessels was designed is
indicated by the convivial character of the inscriptions they bear.
Mr. Brownlow has translated the following examples in this sense:[619]
of friendship; drink, and (long) life to thee, with all thine; drink,
and propose a toast;” CVM TVIS FELICITER ZESES--“Mayest thou live        368
happily with thine own;” or, more freely, “Life and happiness to thee
and thine;” ΠΙΕ ΖΕΣΕΣ ΕΝ ΑΓΑΘΟΙΣ--“Drink and live among the good.”

Sometimes these inscriptions breathe a spirit of pious congratulation
and good-will, as the following from Perret: HILARIS VIVAS CVM
thou live with all thine; happily mayest thou live forever in the
peace of God.” Augustine, describing in his Confessions the devout
celebration of the anniversaries of the saints by his mother, Monica,
says she used to bring to the festivals “a small cup of wine diluted
according to her own abstemious habits, which for courtesy she would

Although it is impossible that _all_ these vessels were designed for
sacramental purposes, yet it is not improbable that some of them were
used as patens and chalices in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
Tertullian speaks of the representation of the Good Shepherd on the
sacred cup in a manner which seems to imply similarity of material and
ornamentation.[621] The _Liber Pontificalis_ states that glass patens
were in use in the third century. When these were superseded by gold
and silver vessels they would not improbably be placed as memorials on
the tombs of departed saints.[622]

It is difficult to determine even the proximate date of these glasses.   369
From the degraded character of their art they are evidently of a
comparatively late period. Garrucci and some other writers, indeed,
assign them to the third or fourth century; but from the occurrence of
the nimbus, and for other technical reasons, Marriott attributes many
of them to the fifth or sixth century.[623] Other peculiarities of
execution are characteristic of Byzantine art, and a writer in the
_Revue Chrétienne_ asserts that there is not a single example of this
mode of treatment known to belong to the Roman period. The striking
corruption of doctrine and practice indicated is also an evidence of
late origin.

Numerous small cups or flasks, known as _ampullæ_, have been
found affixed to the walls or imbedded in the plaster of the tombs,
frequently containing in the bottom a reddish deposit. This Bosio
concluded was dried blood, and therefore asserted that these cups were
irrefragable proofs of the martyrdom of the persons to whose graves
they were attached. The Roman ecclesiastical authorities received this
theory with enthusiasm, and in the year 1688 issued a decree that,
“The Holy Congregation of Relics, having carefully examined the
matter, decides that the palm and vessel tinged with blood are to be
considered most certain signs of martyrdom.” Eminent Romanist writers
have unflinchingly asserted, without the least corroboration of their
theory from contemporary evidence, that these cups were filled with
the martyr’s blood and affixed to his grave;[624]--another example of
the fatal mistake of Rome in fortifying truth with the bulwark of        370
falsehood, and thus shaking our confidence even in that which is real.
The Acts of the Martyrs, indeed, mention the collecting of their blood
in napkins, sponges, or veils, to keep as a talisman and heirloom at
home; but never of its preservation in a cup, or burial beside their
graves. This symbol does not occur on the tombs of some who were
unquestionably martyrs;[625] and some who have it, from their extreme
youth, or from some other reason indicated by the inscription, cannot
have belonged to that honoured class.[626] Moreover, as Mr. Seymour
remarks, some of these alleged martyr blood-cups are of a form and
exhibit designs unknown till long after the age of persecution.[627]
In the example on the following page, given by Aringhi, the
inscription is unwarrantably translated by Romanist epigraphists, “the
blood of Saturnius;” instead of, in analogy with numerous other
inscriptions, “the place [_locus_] of holy Saturnius.”

The chemist Leibnitz analyzed the red deposit in these vessels, and
found that it was composed of organic matter, but does not hazard the
assertion that it is blood. It has been suggested by Röstell, with whom
Rochette agrees, that these cups were sacramental vessels, and that      371
the sediment was the lees of wine, which would yield a similar organic
residuum. The desire to express fellowship with the departed in the
celebration of the Agape, or the Eucharist, which often took place
beside their graves, may have led to the custom of affixing these
vessels to the tombs and replenishing them with wine. We know that
this yearning of the human heart led in course of time to the offering
of the sacrament to the dead, and the burying it in their graves.[628]

  [Illustration: Fig. 110. Reputed Martyr Relic from the Catacombs.]

The occurrence of the palm branch engraved or painted on the tomb was    372
also, as we have seen, declared by the Congregation of Relics to be a
certain sign of a martyr’s tomb. But this was a common symbol of
victory both among the pagans and Jews, and therefore was naturally
adopted by the Christians in token of their being “more than
conquerors” through Christ, without any reference to martyrdom. It is
found, moreover, on graves posterior to the times of persecution, on
those of children, and even on a tomb which a man had prepared for
himself while yet alive. Muratori, who gives this example, though a
devout Romanist, says the palm was by no means a sign of
martyrdom.[629] Other criteria of martyrdom were also adopted, as the
occurrence of the laurel and the olive crown, and the appearance of
_oranti_ on the tombs; but the former are also common to paganism, and
in Christian epigraphy adorn the graves of very young children, and
the latter frequently occur on the sarcophagi after the age of
persecution had passed.

It is remarkable that so few allusions to martyrdom occur in the
Catacombs. In the whole range of the inscriptions, as before observed,
only five, some of which may be spurious, commemorate martyrs, or less
than one in two thousand. The pictorial representations of this event
are less frequent still. In the cemetery of St. Priscilla was
discovered a terra cotta bas relief of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian,
but evidently of late date: the soldiers are armed with cross-bows,
and are clad apparently in mediæval plate armour. This subject has at
all times been a favourite theme of Italian art, and this relief may
have been left at the shrine of the saints by some pious pilgrim of      373
the Middle Ages. In the Catacomb of Callixtus is a painting of two
Christians standing before the tribunal of a Roman magistrate. This is
probably of the early centuries, but how different from the gross and
bloody martyr-pictures in the church of _S. Steffano in Rotondo_ in
Rome. On one of the gilt glasses, executed long after the days of
persecution, is a group supposed to represent Isaiah sawn asunder, and
in one of the Catacombs is a scene thought to indicate the martyrdom
of Hippolytus. The pictures of Daniel and the three Hebrews indicate
rather the triumph than the trial of God’s saints.

The martyrs left no outward memorial of their sufferings, nor was any
needed, for their intrepid spirit animated the whole Christian
community. D’Agincourt says he found in thirty years’ exploration only
one picture, and that of late and barbarian design, portraying
martyrdom.[630] Those who themselves stood in jeopardy every hour did
not magnify the merit of the faithful confession of Christ, whom they
considered alone deserving of the title of “Faithful and True
Witness.” No sacred litany entreated St. Stephen, St. Lawrence, St.
Vincent, and all holy martyrs, to pray for them; nor is any such
inscription found in the whole range of the epigraphy of the

In the following rude representation, from a slab in the Lapidarian
Gallery, Romish imagination has discovered the outline of a furnace,
or of a caldron of boiling oil in which Victorina was immersed. A        374
comparison with other similar figures indicates that it is intended
for a corn measure filled with grain, the sign of the trade of an
ancient meal merchant.

  [Illustration: “Victorina in peace and in Christ.”
             Fig. 111.--A Reputed Symbol of Martyrdom.]

In the Vatican Museum are certain truculent-looking objects, said by
the Roman custodians to be instruments of torture taken from the
graves of the martyrs.[632] But the locality in which they were found
is seldom recorded, which deprives them of much of their historic
value; and many of them are probably fictitious. Dr. Northcote admits
that they are often “of doubtful authenticity,” and that “many look
more like domestic utensils, and seem to be of Etruscan workmanship.”
“These,” he adds, “were probably never taken from the Catacombs at
all.”[633] Others have too modern an appearance to admit such a
supposition, and look rather, as Maitland suggests, as if “taken from
the chambers of the Holy Inquisition.”[634] Among the most formidable
of these alleged instruments of martyrdom, as well as the most
probably genuine, are the terrible _plumbatæ_ and _ungulæ_. The former
were scourges of small chains loaded with bronze or lead, with which,    375
it is recorded, the martyrs were often beaten to death.[635] Aringhi
and others have affected to discover on the mouldering skeletons of
the early Christians, after the lapse of fifteen hundred years, the
marks made by these _plumbatæ_. In one exceptional instance given by
Bosio,[636] an _orante_ is represented with this dreadful instrument
of torture lying beside her. The _ungulæ_, as the name implies, are
iron claws or hooks, described in the Acts of the Martyrs as employed
for lacerating their flesh. The dreadful wounds they inflict are
referred to by Prudentius in his account of the martyrdom of St.
Vincent: “One covers with kisses the double furrows of the _ungulæ_;
another is glad to wipe the purple stream from the body.”

In the Catacomb of Calepodius was discovered an iron-toothed comb
considered to have been similarly employed in torturing the martyrs;
in the crypts of St. Alexander, among other iron instruments, was
found a long narrow ladle, which it is thought was used in pouring
molten lead down their throats; and in the cemetery of St. Agnes an
iron hook, designed, as Aringhi conceived, for dragging their bodies
after death. In the Vatican Museum is also a pair of iron forceps,
with horrid trenchant teeth and the remains of wooden handles,
probably employed in pinching and tearing the flesh of the helpless
victims of heathen rage. A similar forceps is sometimes engraved on a
funeral slab, where, in accordance with analogous examples, it
probably indicated the trade of the deceased as a smith. The genius of
primitive Christianity was averse to recording the circumstances of
the believer’s death, and made slight allusion to the sufferings of
the martyrs. Although it is possible that some of these relics of        376
persecution may be genuine, yet it is difficult to conceive how the
Christians could obtain from the pagan authorities these instruments
of torture, or why they should bury them with the martyred dead; and
these considerations will account for the extreme rarity of their
authentic occurrence.

Vast numbers of lamps have been found in the Catacombs, and specimens
abound in almost every antiquarian museum. They must have been
absolutely necessary to dispel the darkness of these gloomy crypts, so
as to render them safe for the solemnizing of funeral rites, for
worship, or for sanctuary from oppression. They are of varying
material and design, but are for the most part of terra cotta of the
ordinary antique pattern and of common workmanship. Many, however,
were executed in bronze or iron, often with considerable taste and
skill. Some of these had bronze chains by which to suspend them from
the ceiling of the chambers or corridors. Those in terra cotta had
frequently handles by which they could be carried; most, however, were
without either, and were placed in niches in the _tufa_ near the
stairways, at the entrances of the principal galleries, at the angles
of the corridors, and in the _cubicula_ used for purposes of worship.

These lamps generally bore some Christian symbol, as the sacred
monogram, the Good Shepherd, the palm, fish, or dove, and not
unfrequently the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul. Sometimes the lamp
itself was made in the shape of a boat, the emblem of the church
voyaging through a stormy sea to the shores of eternity; of the mystic
fish, whose representation entered so largely into primitive art; of a
dove, the symbol of the believer’s guilelessness and purity; or of a
cock, the emblem of vigilance, a monition that he should watch and be    377
sober. They frequently bear inscriptions referring to the five
virgins, or to the source of true spiritual illumination, the divine
word, which is a lamp unto the feet and a light unto the path. On one
LOCO--“As a light shining in a dark place,” a sentiment peculiarly
appropriate to those gloomy chambers of death, which were nevertheless
illumined by the glorious hope of a blissful immortality.

  [Illustration: Fig. 112.--Early Christian Symbolical Lamp.]

The accompanying example of a symbolical lamp in the form of a boat,
furnished with chains and ring for suspension, is a characteristic
type.[637] The figures in the little bark are interpreted by Roman
archæologists as Peter and Paul--the pilot of the Galilean lake as the
chief of the apostles holding the rudder and guiding the fortunes of     378
the church. The tablet on the mast bears the inscription--DOMINVS
word. To Valerius Severus Eutropius. May you live.”

Fig. 113 exhibits a lamp from the Catacombs, on the upper part of
which the ever-recurring ichthyic symbol is repeated, and on the
handle the sacred monogram of the name of Our Lord. The lamp is
replenished at the central opening. They sometimes burn with two or
three lights. See also the terra cotta lamp with handle and medallion
in Fig. 114, and the hanging lamps shown in Figs. 23 and 24.

  [Illustration: Fig. 113.--Symbolical Lamp from the Catacombs.]

A lamp figured by Perret has the sacred monogram surrounded by the
heads of the twelve apostles. On another found in the Jewish Catacomb
is a representation of the seven-branched candlestick. This also
occurs in Christian symbolism, and probably is emblematic, as has been
suggested by Dr. McCaul, of the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit of
divine illumination.

The necessary use of lights in the funeral solemnities of the church
in the Catacombs was probably the origin of the Romish usage of
burying the dead with the accompaniment of burning tapers even amid      379
the blaze of day. It was also a heathen custom, in the adoption of
which, as in so many other things, the Catholic became the pagan’s
heir.[638] Jerome mentions its observance in his day at the funeral of
the famous Lady Paula.[639] Several others of the later Fathers
mention the same practice.

From the illumination of the subterranean chapels was also derived the
custom of burning altar lights, which early became prevalent, and
which is so striking a feature of modern Romanism.[640] The first step
in this direction seems to have been the practice of burning tapers
before the shrines of the martyrs in the Catacombs, probably for the
convenience of pilgrims to their tombs, which practice was continued
in the churches erected over their remains. The Council of Elvira
forbade the custom,[641] which Vigilantius vehemently denounced as an
imitation of the pagan superstition of lighting lamps at the graves
of the dead.[642] “We almost see,” he says, “the ceremonial of           380
the heathen introduced into the churches under the guise of
religion--piles of candles lighted while the sun is shining.... Great
honour do such persons as do this,” he adds, “render to the blessed
martyrs, thinking with miserable tapers to illumine those whom the
Lamb in the midst of the throne shines upon with the splendour of his
glory.”[643] In the fifth century, however, the custom of thus
striving to do “vain honour to the Father of lights” had become

Numerous terra cotta vases of varying size and shape have been found
in the Catacombs. Some of these were quite large, and were probably
used for holding water or wine for the fossors, or perhaps for the
refugees from persecution. The first vase in the engraving on the
following page, which is exactly the shape of the classic
amphora,[644] is over three feet high. The acute termination at the
bottom was set in a stand or stuck in the ground, so that the vessel
stood upright. Many amphoræ have been found in this position in the
cellars of Pompeii. The upper right hand object is furnished with a
spout, and an opening for replenishing the vessel. That in the lower
right hand corner is a lamp with a handle for carrying it, ornamented
by medallion heads of St. Peter and St. Paul. The small flasks in the
centre of the engraving are of enamel and purple glass, about an inch
high, probably for holding precious unguents. These miniature vases
were sometimes made of agate, and were occasionally in the shape of a
bee-hive, probably emblematic of the milk and honey given at baptism,    381
to signify the sincere milk of the word and the sweets of salvation
imparted to new-born babes of Christ.[645]

  [Illustration: Fig. 114.--Earthen Vessels from the Catacombs.]

Some of these vessels are shallow basins rather than vases, (see
above, and also Fig. 116,) which have been interpreted by Roman
Catholic writers as _benitiers_, or holy-water vessels employed
in the services of the Romish ritual. They were more probably            382
ablutionary basins for the use of the fossors, summoned from their
grimy labour to assist in the funeral solemnities; or, possibly, for
the symbolical washing of the hands by the primitive bishops and
presbyters before the consecration of the eucharist, which is
mentioned by several of the Fathers as a fulfilment of that Scripture,
“I will wash mine hands in innocency; so will I compass thine altar, O
Lord.”[646] They have also been regarded as baptismal vases.

Generally this primitive pottery, except the fictile lamps, bears no
distinctive Christian symbol; yet sometimes it does, as the
accompanying amphora, the bottom of which has been broken off. Around
the vessel runs the inscription, VINCENTI PIE ZESE--“Vincent,
drink and live.” On the lower part are three conquering horses,
probably in allusion to the name Vincent. Above the horses is the
inscription, AEGIS OIKOYMENE ZEP, written backwards.

  [Illustration: Fig. 115.--An Amphora.]

The tall vessels shown in Fig. 116, which are of silver with gold
coating, are described by Perret as designed for holding the holy
chrism,[647] or sacred anointing oil. They were more probably used for
containing the wine for the eucharist, for which they were of
sufficient size, as the subterranean assemblies could not be very
numerous. On the large medallion is a bust of St. Paul, and on the       383
reverse that of St. Peter. On the other vessel, besides the busts of
these saints, is that of Our Lord wearing a nimbus, together with the
sacred symbols of the cross, doves, and lambs. The nimbus, the form of
the cross, the material, and the style of execution, indicate a
comparatively late date. Some of the vessels we have described were
doubtless employed also in the celebration of the Agape.

  [Illustration: Fig. 116.--Metal and Earthen Vessels from the

Among the most interesting objects found in the Catacombs are the
rings and seals of the early Christians, which are frequently combined
in one. Tertullian speaks of the _annulus pronubus_, or ring of
espousal, the wearing of which was the only use of gold known to the
Roman women in the days of primitive simplicity;[648] and St. Agnes
declares her betrothal to Christ by the ring of his faith.[649] A        384
signet ring was also considered an essential part of the bridal outfit
of a newly wedded wife, and that not for ostentation, says Clement of
Alexandria, but that, being entrusted with the care of domestic
concerns, she may seal up those household treasures which might
otherwise be insecure.[650] But these rings must be freed from every
trace of idolatrous superstition, and bear only Christian symbols. “On
our signet rings,” says the writer just mentioned,[651] “let there be
seen only a dove, or a fish, or a ship sailing toward heaven, or a
lyre, or an anchor; for those men ought not to engrave idolatrous
forms to whom the use of them is forbidden; those can engrave no sword
and bow who seek for peace; the friends of temperance cannot engrave
drinking cups.”

Signet rings, being ancient symbols of authority,[652] were also worn
by bishops as a sort of badge of office, and as a pledge of their
spiritual espousal to the church of Christ. A curious episcopal ring
worn by St. Arnulf, bishop of Metz, in the sixth century, exhibits the
well-known ichthyic symbol.[653]

The ring shown in Fig. 117 bears the sacred monogram accompanied by
the significant Alpha and Omega. In the seal, or intaglio, copied in
Fig. 118, the ship of the church is represented as borne by the
symbolical fish, while doves, the emblem of the faithful, perch upon
the mast and stern. In naive blending of the literal with the
figurative, Our Lord in bodily presence is seen approaching the
vessel and supporting Peter by the hand, doubtless in allusion to the    385
trial of his faith on the Sea of Galilee. The identity of both figures
is indicated by the names written overhead. Two other apostles row the
vessel, and a third lifts up his hands in prayer. It was doubtless a
seal of this character to which Clement of Alexandria alludes as
bearing the ναῦς οὐρανοδραμοῦσα--“the ship in full sail for heaven.”

  [Illustration: Fig. 117.--A Ring from the Catacombs.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 118.--A Seal from the Catacombs.]

On some signet rings in the Museum of Naples, found in the ruins of
Pompeii, are the Christian symbols of the mystical fish, palms, and
the anchor of hope, or the synonymous word ΕΛΠΙϹ. These are almost the
sole indications of the existence of any Christian element in that
gay, luxurious city. Other Pompeian rings bear light Epicurean
mottoes, as: ΕΥΤΥΧΙ ΠΑΝΟΙΚΙ Ο ΦΕΡΩΝ--“Good luck to thee, O wearer,
say what they will; let them say, I care not.” Another has an
engraving of a finger holding an ear, with the word, ΜΝΗΜΟΝΕΥΕ--“Remember.”
Other Roman rings bear such mottoes as, AMO TE AMA ME--“I love thee,
love thou me;” PIGNVS AMORIS--“A pledge of love;” VNI AMBROSIA VENENVM
CAETERIS--“To one nectar, to others poison.”

More frequently than the seal itself occurs its impression in the        386
plaster of the graves, either to express some Christian sentiment, or
as a means of recognizing a tomb which bore no other mark. The stamp
of coins, or even shells, stuck into the plaster, were used apparently
for the same purpose. In the following engraving are represented
impressions of two of these seals. In the first is the confession of
faith in the divinity of Our Lord by some orthodox Christian, probably
in the time of the Arian heresy. In the second a devout believer
declares his hope in Christ.


       Christ is God.           Hope in Him,
                             _i. e._, in Christ.

         Fig. 119.--Impressions of Early Christian Seals.]

Other seals bear such pious mottoes as DEVS DEDIT--“God gave;” VIVAS
IN DEO--“May you live in God;” SPES IN DEO--“Hope in God;” PEDE
SECVNDO--“May you succeed happily.” Vast numbers of tiles bearing
impressions of the die upon them are found, but these are merely the
stamps of the imperial brick kilns, with the names of the reigning

Affecting memorials of domestic affection are found in the toys and
trinkets of little children enclosed in their graves or affixed to the
plaster without. The dolls in the following engraving strikingly
resemble those with which children amuse themselves to-day. They are
made of ivory, and some are furnished with wires, by which the joints
can be worked after the manner of the modern marionettes. The object     387
in the upper left hand corner is a terra cotta vase with a narrow slit
for receiving money, like the common children’s savings banks. Beneath
it is an ivory ring. The other objects are small bronze bells, forming
part of a child’s rattle. In the Catacomb of St. Sebastian was also
found a small terra cotta horse of rude design, dappled with coloured

  [Illustration: Fig. 120.--Children’s Toys found in the Catacombs.]

The human affections are the same in every age. These simple objects
speak more directly to the heart than “storied urn or animated bust.”
As we gaze upon these childish toys in the Vatican Museum the
centuries vanish, and busy fancy pictures the weeping Roman mother
placing these cherished relics of her dead babe in its waxen hands or
by its side, as it is laid from her loving arms in the cold embrace of
the rocky grave, and then, with tear-dimmed eyes, taking a last, long,
lingering farewell of the loved form about to be closed from her sight

Numerous toilet articles have also been found in the Catacombs,
generally in the graves of the dead or cemented by the plaster to the
tombs. Many of these have been plundered and lost; but still a very
interesting collection exists in the Vatican Library. Among its          388
contents are long silver or ivory bodkins for the hair, combs of box
or ivory, scent-bottles and boxes of perfume, broaches, earrings,
bracelets, sometimes with keys to unlock the clasps, and other
ornaments in bronze, silver, or gold.[654] The simpler manners of the
Christian women, as compared with those of pagan faith around them, is
indicated by the conspicuous absence of the rouge pots and jars of
cosmetics, and many other articles of luxury, which formed so
important a part of the toilet requisites of Rome’s proud dames, and
which are so frequently found in the ruins of Pompeii. The Christian
ornaments, moreover, even after the departure from the primitive
simplicity of manners, were of a very different character from those
of the corrupt civilization of paganism. Instead of the abominable
representations of heathen art, suggesting every evil thought and
stimulating every vile passion, of which so many examples occur in the
Museum of Naples, only chaste and modest figures are found; and even
the articles of the toilet are frequently adorned with pious mottoes.
Thus, on a bodkin for a lady’s hair, probably a love-gift to a wife or
betrothed bride, is engraved the beautiful sentiment, ROMVLA
SEMPER VIVAS IN DEO--“Romula, may you ever live in God.” Such a
religious art seems an anticipation of the day when “Holiness to the
Lord” shall be written upon the bells of the horses.

Small caskets of gold or other metal for containing a portion of the
gospels, generally part of the first chapter of John, which were worn    389
on the neck, have also been found. They seem to have been introduced
in the decline of primitive piety in imitation of the Jewish
phylactery or pagan amulet, and were probably worn for the same
superstitious purpose, to avert danger or to cure disease. They were
condemned by Irenæus, Augustine, Chrysostom, and by the Council of
Laodicea, as a relic of heathenism.[655] On a carved figure of a fish,
with a hole drilled through it for suspending it from the neck, and
probably intended for an amulet, is engraved the word, ϹΩϹΑΙϹ--“Mayest
thou save us.” Medals, coins, and what are described as tessaræ of
hospitality, by which the early Christians recognized travelling
members of distant churches as sharers of the same faith, and admitted
them to their assemblies and their homes, have likewise been found. So
also have articles of domestic economy, as spoons, knives, keys,
drinking-cups and shells used as such, and even a metallic kettle for
cooking. Certain articles employed in religious service, as a
baptismal font, altars, chairs, etc., will be hereafter described.

This practice of burying with the dead the objects which they had
employed in life was common to the pagans from the earliest Etruscan
times to the most recent heathen sepulture. They interred in the tombs
of the departed every kind of utensil and implement of trade, and even
articles of food. M. Rochette perceives herein a notion, confused and
gross though it may be, of the immortality of the soul, and a proof of
that instinct of man which recoils from the thought of annihilation.[656]
In like manner, the Christians, although animated by a loftier hope,     390
and inspired with an assurance of eternal deathlessness, long followed
this ancient custom, even to the extent sometimes of putting the piece
of money in the mouth of the deceased, intended by the heathen for the
payment of Charon.[657] This was most probably, in many instances a
mere unthinking conformity to ancient use and wont. Milman asserts
that the practice of burying money, often large sums, with the dead,
was the cause of the very severe Roman laws against the violations of
the tombs, inasmuch as the government wished to reserve to itself that
source of revenue.[658]

  [Illustration: Fig. 121.--Statue of the Good Shepherd.]

In the Christian Museum of the Vatican is a marble statue of the Good
Shepherd, figured in the accompanying engraving, which is believed to
be from the Catacombs. Although the execution is coarse, yet from the
general style Rumohr thinks it probably the oldest extant specimen of    391
Christian statuary.[659] Sculpture seems to have bowed less willingly
than painting to the new religion, and was much more tardy in laying
its offerings on the altar of Christianity. It retained also much of
the spirit of paganism, and never became thoroughly imbued with
Christian sentiment. The colossal figure of the Galilean fisherman
beneath the mighty dome of his proud mausoleum--that stateliest fane
in Christendom--if not indeed the identical statue of the Capitoline
Jove, is copied from a heathen model. The majestic Moses of Michael
Angelo seems rather the embodied conception of the cloud-compelling
Phidian Zeus than of the Hebrew patriarch, described as the meekest of
men. Even Thorwaldsen’s sublime figures of Christ and the apostles
exhibit more of the majesty of antique pagan art than of the meek and
tender grace of Christianity. Sculpture, as M. Rochette well remarks,
struck its roots deeply into the soil of heathenism, and was with the
utmost difficulty transplanted therefrom. It is essentially pagan in
its character, and is especially adapted for the expression of the
severer virtues. Painting is more instinct with Christian spirit, and
is the better fitted for the representation of the softer graces.

Moreover, the profession of the sculptor was held in abhorrence on
account of its connexion with idolatry. Tertullian stigmatizes the
makers of images as the foster-fathers of devils and the procurers       392
of idols.[660] Prudentius calls Mentor and Phidias the makers and
parents of the heathen gods.[661] All who were in any wise connected
with this unhallowed craft were rejected from the ordinance of baptism
and denied the holy eucharist.[662] “The ancient Christians,”
Buonarotti truly remarks, “always kept aloof from these arts, by which
they might have run a risk of polluting themselves with idolatry; and
hence it arose that few or none of them devoted themselves to painting
or to sculpture, which had as their principal object the
representations of the gods or the myths of the heathen.”[663] Hence
the almost entire absence of Christian statuary from the Catacombs.
Even the sculptured bas reliefs of the sarcophagi before described
were for the most part the product of that later period, when
Christianity, coming forth from these subterranean crypts, walked in
the light of day and basked in the favour of princes.

This brief notice of early Christian sculpture would be incomplete
without some reference to the statue of the celebrated Hippolytus,
bishop of Portus, the most remarkable known specimen of that class. It
was discovered by some workmen digging near the church of _San
Lorenzo fuori le mura_ in the year 1551, and probably originally
stood in the adjacent Catacomb of Hippolytus. The martyr bishop is       393
represented as seated in a sort of episcopal chair. The figure is
modelled with a classic grace and dignity superior to any examples of
the Constantinian period. Indeed, the distinguished art critic,
Winckelmann, declares it to be the finest specimen of early Christian
sculpture extant. It was considerably mutilated, but has been
skilfully restored, and now stands in the Lateran Museum. On the base
of the chair is engraved a list of the published writings of
Hippolytus,[664] and also the table which he constructed for
determining the true period of the Easter festival. The discovery of
an error in this table deprived it of much of its value; and the date
of this monument is probably prior to that discovery, or the early
part of the third century.

Passing allusion should also be here made to the early Christian
diptychs, specimens of which are found in almost every antiquarian
museum. These were formed after the model of the imperial and consular
diptychs, or registers of the public officers of Rome. They consisted
of tablets of ivory, wood, or metal, folded together,[665] and bore      394
the names of the bishops, officers, or distinguished patrons of the
church, and memorials of the martyrs and holy dead. These memorials
were frequently read in the religious assemblies of the primitive
church, especially on the anniversaries of the martyrs’ death. This
practice led in course of time to the invocation of their aid in the
Litany of the Saints, and to other errors of Romanism. The diptychs
had also frequently elaborate bas reliefs of scenes from the biblical
cycle, and in the age of image-worship bore the figures of the saints
to whom a corrupt Christianity had begun to pay an idolatrous
veneration. They became thus the prototype of the illuminated missal
of the Middle Ages.

     [614] _Vetri ornati di figure in oro trovati nei cimiteri dei
     Cristiani primitivi di Roma raccolti e spiegati da Raffaele
     Garrucci._--Roma, 1858.

     [615] _Osservazioni sopra alcuni frammenti di vasi antichi di
     vetro ornati di figure trovati nei cimiteri di
     Roma._--Firenze, 1716.

     [616] Transtyberinus ambulator,
           Qui pallentia sulphurata fractis
           Permutat vitreis.--_Epig._, i, 42.

     [617] Sicche volendo i fedeli adornar con simboli devoti i loro
     vasi, erano forzati per lo più a valersi di artefici inesperti, e
     che professavano altre mestieri.--_De’ Vetri Cemeteriali._

     [618] _Rom. Sott._, p. 283.

     [619] _Ibid._

     [620] “Unde dignationem sumeret.”--_Conf._, vi, 2. Compare with
     the expression DIGNITAS in the previous inscription.

     [621] Pastor quem in calice depingis.--_De Pudicit._, c. 7.
     Ipsæ picturæ calicum vestrorum, si vel in illis _perlucebit_
     interpretatio,... et ego ejus pastoris scripturam haurio _qui
     non potest frangi_.--_Ibid._, 10.

     [622] Glass chalices are common, indeed it is said universal, at
     the present day in the Coptic churches of Egypt. The _San
     Greal_, or reputed vessel of the institution of the Lord’s
     Supper, preserved in the Cathedral of Genoa, is, curiously
     enough, of glass, of a hexagonal form.

     [623] P. 16, first foot note. Both Christ and Mary have the
     nimbus. The legend _Christus et Istafanus_ on one example,
     indicating a transition into modern Italian, implies a late date.

     [624] Rock’s _Hierurgia_, p. 269.

     [625] See the epitaphs of Lannus and Gordianus, p. 98.

     [626] Muratori gives the epitaph of a girl of the age of two
     years and twenty days, on whose tombstone this cup was found, and
     feeling the absurdity of this theory, but unwilling to controvert
     the decree of the Congregation of Relics, he adds ironically, “In
     these sacred cemeteries you especially wonder at two things,
     namely, that when so many glass or figured vases occur no mention
     is made in the inscriptions of martyrdom; and especially that
     _infants_ suffered death on account of faith in Christ”--In
     sacris iis coemeteriis duo potissimum mireris, Nempe quum tot
     Vasa vitrea aut figulina occurrant, nullam tamen in ipsis
     inscriptionibus mortis pro Christo toleratæ mentionem haberi, et
     praeterea Infantes ob Fidem Christi morti datos fuisse.--_Nov.
     Thesaur. Vet. Inscrip._, p. 1958, No. 8.

     [627] _Mornings with the Jesuits_, p. 222.

     [628] The Third Council of Carthage in the year 397 forbade this
     practice, because Christ said, “Take and eat,” whereas a dead
     body can neither take nor eat--Placuit ut corporibus defunctorum
     eucharistia non detur. Dictum est enim a Domino Accipite et
     edite: cadavera autem nec accipere possunt, nec edere.--_Conc.
     Cath._, 3, can. 6. Chrysostom also denounces the practice because
     the words were spoken to the living and not to the dead.--_Hom._,
     40, in 1 Cor. Gregory the Great speaks of the burial of the
     Eucharist with the dead, “Jussit communionem Dominici corporis in
     pectus defuncti reponi atque sic tumulari.”--_Greg. Dial._, lib.
     ii, c. 24. Maitland thinks that these cups were probably
     depositories for aromatic gums much used in the interment of the

     [629] “Ergo palma indicium minime Martyri fuit.”--The
     inscription, which bears two palms, reads thus--LEOPARDVS SE

     [630] Il n’a rencontré lui même dans ces souterrains aucun trace
     de nul autre tableau représentant une martyre.--_Hist. de l’Art._

     [631] A fresco of the martyrdom of Felicitas and her seven sons,
     in an ancient chapel within the Baths of Titus, is not later,
     according to M. Rochette, (_Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscr._,
     tom. xiii, p. 165,) than the seventh century.

     [632] Aringhi has given an entire chapter on this subject,
     entitled “Martyriorum instrumenta unà cum martyrum corporibus
     tumulo reponuntur.”--_Rom. Sott._, i, 29.

     [633] _Catacombs of Rome_, pp. 111, 112.

     [634] _Ibid._, p. 187.

     [635] “Flagellum quoddam ad corpus excruciandum,” is the phrase
     of Aringhi.

     [636] _Rom. Sott._, p. 387.

     [637] _Perret_, tom. iv, planche 2. The ship was a favourite
     type of the church during the Middle Ages. In the church of St.
     Etienne-du-Mont, at Paris, is a representation of a vessel
     crowded with passengers, among whom the portrait of Francis I.
     has been recognized. In an ancient Merovingian MS. missal the
     same idea is repeated, only the Holy Spirit is substituted as
     pilot--Bene gubernatus est Spiritus Sanctus.

     [638] _La Corinne._

     [639] Translata episcoporum manibus, cum alii pontifices lampadas
     cereosque præferrent.--Hieron., Ep. 27, _ad Eustach., in
     Epitaph. Paulæ_.

     [640] Sometimes a single candelabrum bears three hundred and
     sixty-five lights, emblematic of the days of the year. More
     impressive is a solitary lamp ever burning at some lowly shrine,
     the type of the flame of love burning in perpetual adoration on
     the altar of the heart.

     [641] Canon., 34.

     [642] The following inscription from Gruter indicates this

                       QVISQVE · HVIC · TVMVLO
                    POSVIT · ARDENTEM · LVCERNAM

     “Who ever places a burning lamp before this tomb, may a golden
     soil cover his ashes.”

     Lactantius accuses the pagans of burning lights to God as to one
     living in darkness, (_Institut. Divin._, lib. vi, cap. 2,) and
     the Theodosian Code forbids the custom.

     [643] Prope ritum gentilium videmus sub prætextu religionis
     introductum in ecclesias, sole adhuc fulgente moles cereorum
     accendi, etc.--_Adv. Vigil._, ii.

     [644] From ἀμφί and φέρω--on account of the handles on each
     side of the neck. They were also called _diota_, or two-eared,
     from διώτη.

     [645] Lac significat innocentiam parvulorum.--Hieron., in
     _Esai_. lv, 1. Deinde egressos lactis et mellis prægustare
     concordiam ad infantiæ significationem.--_Ibid._, _Contr.
     Lucif._, c. 4. See also Tertul., _de Coron. Mil._, c. 3;
     Clem. Alex., _Pædagog._, lib. i, c. 6.

     [646] Nam utique et altare portarent et vasa ejus, et aquam in
     manus funderent sarcerdoti, sicut videmus per omnes
     ecclesias.--Aug., _Quæst. Vet. et Nov. Test._, qu. 101. See
     also Cyril, _Catech. Myst._, 5, n. 1.

     [647] “_Renfermer le Saint-chrême._” Tom. i, p. 266.

     [648] Cum aurum nulla norat præter unico digito, quem sponsus
     oppignerasset annulo pronubo.--_Apol._, c. 6.

     [649] Et annulo fidei suæ subarravit me.--In Ambr. _Ep._ 31.

     [650] Clem. Alex., _Pædagog._, iii, 2.

     [651] _Ibid._

     [652] See the example of Pharaoh, Gen. xli, 42; and Ahasuerus,
     Esther iii, 10, and viii, 2.

     [653] Pitra, _Spicil. Solesm._, tom. iii, tab. iii, n. 4.

     [654] When the tomb of the Empress Maria, wife of Honorius, was
     opened in 1544, a profusion of ornaments and trinkets were found,
     from which, it is said, not less than thirty-six pounds of gold
     were taken. The Empress Placidia was also interred in similar
     gorgeous funeral pomp, which was, however, consumed in 1577 by
     the accidental ignition of her gold-embroidered robes.

     [655] Iren., lib. ii, c. 57. Aug., tract 7, _in Joan._; serm.
     215, _de Tempore_. Chrysos., hom. vi, _Contr. Judæos_.
     Conc. Laodic., can. 36.

     [656] Il y avait là une notion confuse et grossière sans doute de
     l’immortalité de l’âme, mais il s’y trouvait aussi la preuve
     sensible et palpable de cet instinct de l’homme, qui repugne à
     l’idée de la destruction de son être.--_Mém. de l’Acad. des
     Inscr._, tom. xiii, p. 689.

     [657] Rochette says that this practice continued down to the time
     of Thomas Aquinas, who wrote against it.

     [658] “Gold may justly be taken from the sepulture which no
     longer contains its original owner,” says the minister of
     Theodoric to a provincial governor; “indeed, it is a sort of
     fault to leave idly hidden with the dead that which might support
     the living.”--Aurum enim justè sepulcro detrahitur, ubi dominus
     non habetur; imo culpæ genus est inutiliter abdita relinquere
     mortuorum, unde se vita potest sustentare viventium.--Cassiod.,
     _Var._, iv, 34.

     [659] _Italienische Forschungen_, vol. i, p. 168.--The subject of
     early Christian sculpture is fully treated in a recent work by
     Dr. Wilhelm Lübke, entitled _Geschichte der Plastik_. Two vols.
     Leipzig: Seeman, 1870.

     [660] Qua constantia exorcizabit _alumnos suos_, quibus
     domum suam cellariam præstat ... quid aliud quam procurator
     idolorum demonstraris?--_De Idol._, c. 11.

     [661] Fabri deorum, vel parentes numinum.--_Peristeph._, x, 293.

     [662] _Constit. Apostol._, lib. viii, c. 32.

     [663] Stettero sempre lontane di quelle arti, colle quali
     avessero potuto correr pericolo di contaminarsi colla idolatria,
     e da ciò avvenne, che pochi, o niuno di essi si diede alla
     pittura e alla scultura, le quali aveano per oggetto principale
     di rappresentare le deità, e le favole de’ gentili.--Buonarotti,
     _De’ Vetri Cemeteriali_.

     [664] These were exceedingly voluminous, and although several of
     them have perished, those which remain throw great light on one
     of the most obscure periods in the history of the church, and
     vindicate the title of Origen of the West, bestowed on Hippolytus
     by Pressensé. Among his most important works were a commentary on
     the greater part of the Old and New Testament, treatises on
     Antichrist, on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, on Good and the
     Origin of Evil, on God and the Resurrection. He was especially
     noted, moreover, as a vigorous and skilful polemic, and wrote
     against Platonism and Judaism, and, as we have seen, (page 173,)
     against Callixtus, bishop of Rome, for his pantheistic heresy.
     His great work, however, is that entitled the _Philosophoumena_.
     “It is a vast repertory,” says Pressensé, “reviewing all the
     doctrinal controversies of the church from the earliest ages and
     most obscure beginnings of Gnosticism. Christian antiquity has
     left us no more valuable monument than the treatise “On all the
     Heresies” of Hippolytus, discovered a few years since among the
     dusty treasures of a convent of Mount Athos.”

     [665] Whence the name, from δίπτυχον, twofold; when several
     tablets were used they were called πολύπτυχον, or manifold.

                            BOOK THIRD.                                  395


                             CHAPTER I.


Few places in Rome are more attractive to the student of Christian
archæology than the Lapidarian Gallery in the palace of the Vatican.
In this long corridor[666] are preserved a multitude of epigraphic
remains of the venerable past, shattered wrecks of antiquity, which
have floated down the stream of time, and have here, as in a quiet
haven, at length found shelter. The walls on either side are
completely covered with inscribed slabs affixed to their surface. On
the right hand are arranged the pagan monuments collected from the
neighbourhood of the city--sepulchral and votive tablets, altar
dedications, fragments of imperial rescripts and edicts, and other
evidences of the power and splendour of the palmy days of Rome. On the
left are the humble epitaphs of the early Christians, rudely carved in
stone or scratched in plaster, and brought hither chiefly from the
crypts of the Catacombs. Of greater interest to him who would
rehabilitate the early ages of the church, and

         To the sessions of sweet silent thought
     Would summon up remembrance of things past,[667]

is this long corridor of inscriptions than any of the four thousand      396
apartments of that vast palace of the popes, with their priceless
bronzes, marbles, gems, frescoes, and other remains of classic art. He
will turn away from the noble galleries where the Laocoon forever
writhes in stone, and Apollo--lord of the unerring bow--watches his
arrow hurtling toward its mark, to the plain marble slabs that line
these walls. In the rude inscriptions here recorded he will discover
some of the strongest evidences of revealed religion and most striking
proofs of the purity of the faith, simplicity of worship, and
uncorrupted doctrines of the early church. Thus primitive Christianity
lifts its solemn protest in these halls of wealth and power, in the
very palace of the popes, against the anti-Christian system of which
they are the representatives.

Here the monuments of pagan and of Christian Rome confront each other.
The spectator stands between two worlds of widest divergence, and
cannot but be struck with the immense contrast between them. “I have
spent,” says M. Rochette, “many entire days in this sanctuary of
antiquity, where the sacred and profane stand face to face in the
written monuments preserved to us, as in the days when paganism and
Christianity, striving with all their powers, were engaged in mortal
conflict.”[668] On the one side are recorded the pride and pomp of
worldly rank, the lofty titles and manifold distinctions of every
class, from divinities to slaves. The undying historic names of Rome’s
mighty conquerors, the leaders of her cohorts and legions, mingle with
those of the proud patrician citizens, and alike display on their
sepulchral slabs the august array of prænomen, nomen, and cognomen,
which attest their lofty social position or civil power.[669] The        397
costly carving and elaborate bas reliefs of many of these monuments
indicate the wealth of him whom they commemorate. The elegantly turned
classic epitaph--with its elegiac hexameters breathing the stern and
cold philosophy of the Stoa, or an utter blankness of despair
concerning the future, or, perchance, a querulous and passionate
complaining against the gods--shows how the races without the
knowledge of the true God met the awful mystery of death. The numerous
altars to all the fabled deities of the Pantheon, the vaunting
inscriptions and lofty attributes ascribed to the shadowy brood of
Olympus--“unconquered, greatest, and best”--read, by the light of
to-day, like an unconscious satire on the high pretensions of those
vanished powers. The fragmentary edicts of the emperors, the numerous
military trophies, and the records of complicated political orders,
indicate the might and majesty of the Empire in the days of its utmost
power and splendour.

On the other side of the corridor are the humble epitaphs of the
despised and persecuted Christians, many of which, by their rudeness,
their brevity, and often their marks of ignorance and haste, confirm
the truth of the Scripture, that “not many mighty, not many noble, are
called.” Yet these “short and simple annals of the poor” speak to the
heart with a power and pathos compared with which the loftiest classic
eloquence seems cold and empty. It is a fascinating task to spell out
the sculptured legends of the Catacombs--the vast graveyard of the
primitive church, which seems to give up its dead at our questioning,
to bear witness concerning the faith and hope of the Golden Age of
Christianity. As we muse upon these half-effaced inscriptions--          398

         Rudely written, but each letter
         Full of hope, and yet of heart-break,
         Full of all the tender pathos
         Of the Here and the Hereafter--

we are brought face to face with the church of the early centuries,
and are enabled to comprehend its spirit better than by means of any
other evidence extant. These simple epitaphs speak no conventional
language like the edicts of the emperors, the monuments of the mighty,
or even the writings of the Fathers; they utter the cry of the human
heart in the hours of its deepest emotion; they bridge the gulf of
time, and make us feel ourselves akin with the suffering, sorrowing,
yet triumphant Christians of the primitive ages.

These inscriptions were found _in situ_ in the explorations of the
Catacombs, or were dug up in vineyards in the vicinity of the city.
They have been diligently collected by antiquarians for the last three
hundred years. Before the year 1578 there were not a thousand
Christian inscriptions extant in all Italy. Of these not one was
derived from the Catacombs, and the earliest date was the year 533.
With all its boasted veneration for the past, and professed devotion
to the antiquities of primitive Christianity, the Church of Rome
allowed the memory of the Catacombs, the shrine and sanctuary of the
faith in the early centuries, to be as completely forgotten as the
site of Troy; and even after their rediscovery many of their principal
records of the past were wantonly destroyed or recklessly lost through
the ignorance or carelessness of their self-constituted guardians and
preservers. Numerous invaluable inscriptions have perished from the
effects of time; many have been scattered throughout the public and      399
private collections of Europe; and many more have been defaced or
ruined by the feet of generations of worshippers in the churches of
whose pavements they form a part. Bosio describes many monuments
extant in his day of which De Rossi saw only the fragments, and the
latter pathetically deplores the destruction and devastation of those
precious relics of Christian antiquity.[670]

Christian epigraphy, however, was not altogether neglected during the
Middle Ages. A manuscript collection of epitaphs found at Einsiedlen,
and attributed to the ninth century, is partly Christian; and another,
found at Kloster Newburg, is exclusively so. A manuscript in St.
Mark’s Library at Venice contains about a hundred and fifty early
Christian epitaphs. The first collection after the revival of letters
was made by Pietro Sabini, and another was published by Onofrio
Panvini. Leo X. commanded Raphael, the _capo architetto_ of St.
Peter’s, to preserve from injury the inscriptions--_res lapidaria_--of
the older structure; but no systematic attempt at their preservation
was made till Benedict XIV. appointed Francesco Brambini to that task.
He collected a large number in the long gallery of the Vatican; but
they were not arranged till the close of the last century, when they
were classified by the distinguished archæologist Geatano Marini at      400
the command of Pius VI. A new collection was begun in the Lateran
Museum by Padre Marchi, which has been greatly enlarged and admirably
classified and arranged by Cavaliere De Rossi. There are also other
collections in the Collegio Romano, and in the Kircherian and other
Museums. Many sepulchral slabs are also affixed to the walls or
inserted in the pavement of the churches of St. Paul, St. Gregory, St.
Laurence, St. Mark, St. Maria in Trastevere, and in a few others in

That distinguished scholar and epigraphist, De Rossi, has passed
through the crucible of his critical examination all the extant
inscriptions of the first six centuries found in the neighbourhood of
Rome. In the first volume of his _Inscriptiones Christianæ_ he gives
all those with consular dates, thirteen hundred and seventy-four in
number. He designs giving in future volumes the remainder of the
series, classified according to their doctrinal, historical, or other
characteristics. He treats the subject with the utmost candour and
moderation, and illustrates these frequently obscure topics with
exhaustive and various scholarship. There are now over eleven thousand
of these epitaphs extant, which number is being continually increased
by the progressive exploration of the Catacombs. From an analysis of
their general characteristics and appearance the following results are

The inscriptions are generally engraved on marble slabs from one to
three feet long and one foot high, which are used to close the graves
of the dead; many, however, are mere scratches on the soft surface of
the plaster, hardened in drying; and some are written with red or        401
black paint, or, more rarely, with charcoal. The letters vary from
half an inch to four inches in height, and the incised surface is
frequently coloured with a reddish pigment. Prudentius, alluding to
this practice of chiseling the letters in stone, calls upon the
faithful to “wash with their tears the furrows of those marble

The epitaphs are for the most part written in uncial characters,
frequently without any separation of the words,[673] although
sometimes they are divided by spaces, points, or leaves. They
frequently abound also in contractions and monogrammatic
abbreviations, imposed by limit of space or economy of labour, as in
the following figure:

  [Illustration: Fig. 122.--“Gemella sleeps in peace.”]

Although sometimes well cut, the inscriptions are often wretchedly       402
executed, presenting a straggling and scarce legible scrawl, as in the
following examples, the second of which indicates a transition into
the later cursive character.

  [Illustration: Fig. 123.--“Ligurius Successus, in peace.”]

  [Illustration:             DOMITI
                            IN PACE
                           LEA FECIT.

      Fig. 124.--“Domitius in peace. Lea erected this.”[674]]

This ancient epigraphy often betrays extreme ignorance, and sets at
defiance all the laws of grammatical construction. The spelling is
frequently atrocious, and the general style and character utterly
barbarous, rendering the meaning extremely obscure or altogether
undecipherable. The language was much corrupted by the foreigners and
slaves who formed so large a portion of the population. The later
examples are often marked by the absence of terminal inflexions and
the use of prepositions instead, and by other indications of the
falling to pieces of the stately Latin tongue, which had been the
vehicle of such a noble literature and such lofty eloquence, and of
its degeneracy from the purity of the Augustan era into the mixed        403
dialect of the Middle Ages, from which the modern Italian has

The barbarous Latinity of the following indicates the degradation into
which the language had fallen:

                  IIBER QVI VIXI QVAI QVO
                  PARE IVA ANOIVE I ANORV
                  M PLVI MINVI XXX I PACE.

     Read: _Liber, qui vixit cum compare sua annum I. Annorum plus
     minus XXX. In pace._

     Liber, who lived with his wife one year. He lived thirty years,
     more or less. In peace.

Sometimes the inscription is found upside down, being probably thus
placed by one unable to read. In the following example, from the
Catacomb of St. Priscilla, a dove was afterward added, to correct in
part the mistake of the ignorant fossor. Probably the epitaph may
have been scratched on the stone by the dim light struggling through a   404
_luminare_, but when brought to the grave it was too dark to see
which side was uppermost.

  [Illustration: Fig. 125.--Inscription upside down.]

In one example in the Lapidarian Gallery, represented in Fig. 126, the
inscription is actually written backwards, like Hebrew text. Probably,
as Maitland suggests, the stonecutter took the impression on marble
from a written copy, and was too ignorant to perceive that it was, of
course, reversed.

  [Illustration: Fig. 126.--Reversed Inscription.]

     Read: _Elia Vincentia. qui vixit an ... et mesis II, cum
     Virginis que vixit annu diem._

     Elia Vincentia, who lived ... years and two months, and lived
     with Virginius a year and a day.

Most of the early epitaphs are of touching brevity and simplicity.
Frequently only a single word, the name given in baptism, is recorded
on the tomb, as in Fig. 127, which exhibits also the Christian symbols
of the monogram, cross, and palm.

  [Illustration: Fig. 127.--“Cassta.” (_sic._)]                          405

In Fig. 128 the names of three individuals appear on the same slab,
which is recognizable as Christian only by the symbol of the Good

  [Illustration: Fig. 128.--“Septimina, Aurelius, Galymedes.”]

Frequently the phrase IN PACE, or DORMIT IN PACE, is added, in
attestation of the Christian faith of the deceased, (see Figs.
122-124;) or, more briefly still, the word LOCVS is prefixed, as LOCVS
PRIMI--“The place of Primus,”[676] as if descriptive of the last long
home, the house appointed for all living.

The later inscriptions are frequently far removed from this naive
simplicity, being inflated in style and elaborate in execution,
attesting the increased wealth and growing pride of the Christian
community. Of these we shall hereafter have frequent examples. One
very remarkable series is that executed, under the direction of
Pope Damasus, in the latter part of the fourth century. He composed      406
numerous metrical epitaphs in honour of the martyrs, which were
engraved in marble in a singularly elegant decorated character,
designed by his secretary, Furius Dionysius Filocalus, who was also an
accomplished artist. Hence the letters of these Damasine inscriptions
are as distinct a characteristic in early Christian epigraphy as the
celebrated Aldine type in the bibliography of the revival of learning.
There are few of the Catacombs where these inscriptions have not been
found; and De Rossi has been enabled thereby to reconstruct some
valuable historical monuments from a few fragments, just as a skilful
anatomist will reconstruct a skeleton from a portion of the vertebræ.
Some of the most important of these have already been given; others
will hereafter occur. The Latinity is often of a school-boy
mediocrity; but they are of great value as determining the identity
and elucidating the history of many important Christian tombs.

Most of the epitaphs, as we might naturally expect, were written in
Latin. Nevertheless, a considerable proportion are in Greek, to which
circumstance several causes conduced. Although Latin was the language
of the mass of the Roman population, yet Greek was also spoken largely
by the educated classes. We know, too, from the pages of Juvenal[677]
and contemporary writers, that Rome swarmed with numbers of slaves and
others from Greece and Asia Minor, who, although they might be able to
speak Latin, would find it very difficult to write it. Moreover, Greek
seems to have been in the early centuries a sort of ecclesiastical
language at Rome, just as Latin is now throughout Roman Catholic
Christendom. It was in this language that the glad tidings of the new    407
evangel were first declared, and in it St. Paul wrote his epistle to
the Roman church. The new wine of the gospel flowed from that classic
chalice which so long had poured libations to the gods. Probably a
religious sentiment led to the adoption, even by those to whom it was
unfamiliar, of the language in which their holiest teachings and
highest hopes had been originally conveyed, and in which the Apostolic
Fathers and the greatest apologists, theologians, and historians of
the early church had fought the battles of the faith. The responses of
the Roman liturgy long continued to be uttered in this tongue, and
traces of this practice still remain in the _Kyrie, eleeson! Christe,
eleeson!_ of the Order of the Mass. This primitive Greek influence has
also left its indelible impression on our language in such words as
church, bishop, presbyter, eucharist, baptism, catechism, liturgy,
psalm, and hymn.

Sometimes the humble mourner had to be content with recording the
Latin words in Greek characters, as in the following examples: ΛΕΙΒΕΡΕ
conjugi amantissimæ, vixit in pace_--“To Libera Maximilla, a most
loving wife. She lived in peace.” ΒΕΝΕ ΜΕΡΕΝΤΙ ΦΙΛΙΕ ΘΕΟΔΩΡΕ ΚΥΕ ΒΙΞΙΤ
ΜΗϹΙϹ ΧΙ ΔΙΕΣ ΧVΙΙΙ. Read: _Bene merenti filiæ Theodoræ, qui vixit
menses XI, dies XVIII_--“To our well-deserving daughter Theodora, who
lived eleven months and eighteen days.”[678]

In copying Latin inscriptions many errors arose from the mason
mistaking the Roman characters for similar Greek ones, as A for          408
Λ, T for Γ, and the Latin H and P for the Greek _Eta_ and _Rho_. The
Greek influence is also seen in the altered inflexion of Latin words,
as _maritous_ for _maritos_, _filies_ for _filias_, and the like. The
proportion of Greek inscriptions among those before the time of
Constantine is estimated at one eighth.[679] After that period it is
less, indicating the gradual decline of Greek influence. In Gaul and
the western provinces the proportion is not so great. At Autun there
is only one Greek epitaph.

Of the eleven thousand extant inscriptions only thirteen hundred and
seventy-four bear dates. The period of the others can be only
approximately determined by a comparison with those whose ages are
known; by a careful examination of the execution, language, and
general sentiment, those of earlier date being less florid and more
classical in style; by the presence or absence of certain symbols, as
the sacred monogram, of which no example is known before the period of
Constantine; and by the position in the Catacombs, those in the lower
_piani_ being of later date.

Judging by these criteria, De Rossi has arrived at the following
conclusions: About six thousand of the epitaphs belong to the first
four centuries, and are from the Catacombs; the rest were found above
ground. Of these six thousand, about four thousand are before the year
324 A. D., when Constantine became sole emperor.

Only one of the _dated_ inscriptions belongs to the first century,
(A. D. 71,) two are of the second, (A. D. 107 and 111,) and              409
twenty-three of the third; the fourth century is represented by over
five hundred; the fifth by nearly as many; the sixth by about three
hundred, principally in its earlier half; and the seventh by only

Of these dated inscriptions, all before the year 313 A. D., when the
edict of Milan gave peace to the church, are from the Catacombs. After
that event subterranean sepulture rapidly decreased. Of the epitaphs
bearing dates between the years 313 A. D. and 337 A. D., two thirds
are from the Catacombs, and one third from the basilicas and other
places of burial above ground. From A. D. 337 to the time of Julian
the proportion of each was about equal. Of the dated inscriptions of
the last quarter of this century, about one fourth are subterranean.
Of those between the years A. D. 400 and A. D. 410, not one in ten is
from the Catacombs, and after that period not one subterranean example
occurs.[680] Sometimes, in epitaphs of late date, the name of the
church and the position of the tomb are mentioned, as in the
ARCV IVXTA FENESTRA, (A. D. 404,)--“Buried in the basilica of Sts.
Nasarius and Nabor, in the second arch near the window;” DEPOSITA IN
CONTRA COLONNA VII, (A. D. 452,)--“Buried in the space opposite the
seventh column.”

The Christian era was not adopted as a note of time till after the
sixth century. The dates of the Roman inscriptions were therefore
indicated by the names of the consuls for the year, generally written
in an abbreviated form.[681] Frequently the addition VC., for _Vir       410
Clarissimus_--“An illustrious man”--or, in the case of imperial
consuls, DN., for _Dominus Noster_--“Our Lord”--also occurs.[682]
In one instance the epithet DIVVS--“Divine”--assumed by the emperors, is
employed in a Christian epitaph, in unthinking imitation of a heathen

This mode of indicating dates, to which the name hypatic (from ὕπατος,
consul) has been applied, continued in vogue till the latter part of
the sixth century, and is the last recognition of that venerable
institution, the Roman consulate. The year of the emperor, which was
enjoined by Justinian, A. D. 537, for the dating of all public acts,
appears after that time.

Towards the close of the fourth century the date is sometimes
indicated by the name of the presiding bishop of the church at Rome,
INNOCENTII, the last expression used probably after the death of the
pope named. The names of the bishops of other dioceses than that of
Rome are also used, an indication of the parity of episcopal rank in
the primitive ages. Thus we have in the year A. D. 397 the name
PASCASIO EPISCOPO, according to De Rossi, probably the bishop of an
ancient diocese in the immediate vicinity of the city. In the sixth
century the names of certain priests, and even deacons, were used as
local marks of time.

In a large number of inscriptions the day of the month is mentioned,
although the year is not. Cardinal Wiseman attributes this to the        411
custom of commemorating the anniversary of the death of the departed
as that of his birth into a higher life.[683] But a similar usage is
observed also in pagan epitaphs; and Dr. McCaul has well remarked[684]
that it is the day of burial that is mentioned more frequently than
that of death. The date of birth is seldom given,[685] but the length
of life is almost invariably indicated, frequently with great
minuteness. Not only are the number of years, months, and days
mentioned, but often, with loving exactness, the hours, half-hours,
and even the “scruples” or twenty-fourths of an hour, as in the
ANN. XXI. MENS. III. HOR. IV. SCRVPLOS VI.--“To the well-deserving
Silvana, who sleeps here in peace. She lived twenty-one years, three
months, four hours, and six scruples.” Six scruples are a quarter of
an hour.

When the exact number of years was unknown, the expressions PLVS
MINVS, ΠΛΕΟΝ ΕΛΑΤΤΟΝ--“more or less”--were used.[686] Frequently the
duration of married life is also mentioned with extreme definiteness,    412
well-deserving husband Niciatis, with whom she lived three years, two
months, eleven hours.”

The day of the month is generally indicated in the ordinary way with
reference to the divisions of Calends, Nones, and Ides.[688] The days
of the week are mentioned by their usual classical names, as _Dies
Solis_, Sunday; _Dies Lunæ_, Monday; _Dies Martis_, Tuesday; _Dies
Mercurii_, Wednesday; _Dies Jovis_, Thursday; _Dies Veneris_, Friday;
and _Dies Saturni_, Saturday. Sometimes, however, the first and last
days of the week are indicated by the Christian designations _Dies
Dominica_, the day of the Lord, and _Dies Sabbati_, the day of rest.

The Christian inscriptions also habitually ignore all mention of the
birth-place or country of the deceased, as if in recognition that the
Christian’s true country is beyond the grave.[689] As if, also, in
obedience to the injunction to forsake father and mother in order to
follow after Christ, details of family or descent, which are so
conspicuous in some heathen inscriptions, almost never occur.            413

Mr. Burgon has briefly expressed the principal points of contrast
between modern epitaphs and those of the early Christians, as follows:
“They never mention the date of birth,[690] we seldom omit it. They
constantly record the day of burial, we never. They seldom mention the
year of death, we never omit it. We never allude to burial, they
always. They frequently record the years of married life, we never. In
theirs the survivors appear prominently, even by name, and are
sometimes mentioned exclusively. With us the dead are always named,
the living seldom.”[691]

There are among these inscriptions several examples of _opisthographæ_,
as they are called,[692] that is, Christian epitaphs written on slabs
that had originally borne one of pagan character. The latter are
generally defaced or obliterated, filled with cement or turned to the
wall, or placed upside down or sideways, so as to indicate their
rejection by the Christian artist. Sometimes, however, they are still
legible, but they have manifestly no connection with Christian
sepulture whatever. Some are not funeral epitaphs at all, and some
which are commemorate an entire family, though affixed to a single
Christian grave. The appropriation of heathen monuments for the
reception of Christian inscriptions will appear less strange when we
reflect that the very temples of the gods have been the quarries from
which many of the churches and palaces of later times were built.

Sometimes, as in the example given in Fig. 59, the heathen formula of
consecration to the “Divine Spirits”--D. M., for _Dis Manibus_--is       414
obliterated, and the sacred monogram gives the slab a Christian
character. Occasionally, however, these letters appear in manifestly
Christian inscriptions, in which case Fabretti and others have
maintained that they were capable of the interpretation _Deo Magno_ or
_Deo Maximo_--“To the Supreme God.” With still less probability M.
Rochette renders them _Divis Martyribus_--“To the divine martyrs,” for
which expression no countenance is to be found in the entire range of
the Catacombs. Both interpretations are entirely gratuitous
suppositions, for which Christian epigraphy furnishes absolutely no
warrant. It is more probable that they were careless or conventional
imitations of a common heathen formula, which was occasionally adopted
by the Christians without thought, or perhaps in ignorance of its
meaning, just as they also imitated the winged genii and other classic
accessories of pagan art in the ornamentation of the Catacombs. Dr.
McCaul has suggested that the Roman mortuary sculptors probably kept
sepulchral slabs on sale, as is often done now, with the common
formulæ already engraved, which were purchased without regard to their
appropriateness, and that in filling up the inscription the Christians
sometimes neglected to obliterate the letters of pagan significance.
Possibly, also, some lingering remnants of heathen superstition may
sometimes be indicated by their use.

The letters BM., which frequently occur in these inscriptions, have
been erroneously interpreted as standing for _Beatus_ or _Beata
Martyr_, for which there is no authority whatever. They unquestionably
indicate the ever-recurring phrase, both in pagan and Christian
epigraphy, _Bene Merenti_--“To the well-deserving,” or _Bonæ
Memoriæ_--“Of happy memory.”

     [666] It is eight hundred feet in extent, and contains about
     three thousand inscriptions.

     [667] Shakspeare’s _Sonnets_, No. XXX.

     [668] _Tableau des Catacombes_, p. x.

     [669] Cf. Juv., “Gaudent prænomine molles auriculæ.” These are
     very rare in Christian inscriptions. See _postea_.

     [670] Demolita et horrendum in modum vastata.--_Prolegomena_ to
     _Inscr. Christ._ He has often to complain that he is unable to
     read part of the inscription:--Reliqua legere haud potui.
     Marangoni tells us that thousands of epigraphs were taken from
     the Catacombs to the church of St. Maria in Trastevere; seven
     cartloads to St. Giovanni de Fiorentini; two cartloads to another
     church of St. Giovanni in Rome; yet there are at present only
     about twenty in the portico of the former and not _one_ in either
     of the two latter churches. See Heman’s _Sac. Art. in Italy_,
     pp. 58, 59.

     [671] The latter works of Fabretti, Muratori, Orelli, Martigny,
     Cardinal Mai, and Perret contain numerous examples. These have
     all been laid under tribute in preparing these pages.

     [672] Nos pio fletu, date, perluamus
           Marmorum sulcos.--_Peristeph._, hymn vii.

     [673] We append the following examples by way of illustration:


     Calevius sold to Avinius a place for three bodies, where both
     Cavilius and Lucius had (already) been placed in peace.--De
     Rossi, _Inscr. Christ._, No. 489.


     Here lies Hypatia, thirty-five years of age, daughter of
     Antonius, a native of Constantinople.--De Rossi, No. 583.

     The originals are more difficult to decipher, but with a little
     practice it becomes comparatively easy. Sometimes the letters are
     of greatly varying sizes, as in the following:

          The place of Augustus, the Reader.

     [674] See, also, the uncouthness of the epitaph of Martyrus, Fig.
     19, and of Tesaris, Fig. 58.

     [675] The distinctions of case gradually disappear, the
     accusative and genitive are often used indiscriminately, and the
     former is frequently substituted for the ablative, as in the
     following phrases, _cum uxorem_, _cum fratrem_, _sine aliquam_,
     _pro caritatem_, _decessit de seculum_, etc. The transition into
     Italian is indicated by the prefixing the letter _i_, as in the
     words _ispiritus_, _iscribet_; by affixing _e_, as _posuete_ for
     _posuit_, and by the general softening of the pronunciation, as
     _santa_ for _sancta_, _meses_ for _menses_, and _sesies_ for
     _sexies_. The names _Stefano_ and _Filipo_ have also a very
     modern appearance.

     The misplacing of the aspirate is seen to be by no means a
     cockney peculiarity, as in the following examples:--_Hossa_,
     _hordine_, _Hosiris_, _helephantus_, _post hobitum_, _Hoctobris_,
     _heterna_, etc. In the following the _h_ is omitted: _Onorius_,
     _ora_, _omo_, _ilaris_, _ospitium_, _onestus_, _oc_, and _ic_.
     The permutation of the letters _t_ and _d_, and _v_ and _b_, is
     also common, as _adque_ for _atque_, and _bibit_ for _vivit_. We
     also find such forms as _vicxit_, _visit_, _bissit_, or _visse_,
     for _vixit_; _michi_ for _mihi_; _pake_ or _pache_ for _pace_;
     _opsequia_ for _obsequia_; _quisquenti_ for _quiescenti_;
     _depossio_ for _depositio_; _vocitus_ for _vocatus_; _pulla_ for
     _puella_; _omniorum_ for _omnium_; _restutus_ for _restitutus_;
     _pride_ for _pridie_; _que_ or _qae_ for _quæ_, and the like.
     Many of these peculiarities, however, are common to later pagan
     as well as to Christian inscriptions.

     [676] See Fig. 45.

     [677] See his “Græculus esuriens,” (_Sat._, iii, 78,) and the
     expression, “In Tiberem defluxit Orontes.”--_Ib._, 62.

     [678] Sometimes the two languages are strangely blended in the
     same epitaph; and occasionally we find a Greek inscription in
     Latin characters, as in the following: PRIMA IRENE SOI.
     Read: Πρῖμα εἰρήνη σοι--“Prima, peace to thee.”

     [679] In the dated inscriptions the proportion is less, as the
     Latin-speaking Christians would be the more likely to employ the
     consular dates as indications of time.

     [680] Of the four hundred Gaulish inscriptions in Le Blant few
     bear dates, and of these none are earlier than the time of
     Constantine. The first is of the year A. D. 334; the next, at
     Autun, of the year A. D. 374. They are also more artificial and
     rhetorical in style than those of Rome.

     [681] For example, POL · II · ET · APR · II · COS, which,
     expanded, reads thus: _Pollione iterum et Apro iterum
     Consulibus_, that is, 176 A. D.

     L · FAB · CIL · M · ANN · LIB · COS--_Lucio Fabio Cilone, Marco
     Annio Libone Consulibus_, that is, 204 A. D. To save space we
     have generally omitted the names of the consuls, giving merely
     the date.

     [682] Sometimes we have the forms VVCC., _Viri Clarissimi_;
     DD. NN., _Domini Nostri_; and AVGG., or AAVVGG.,

     [683] _Fabiola_, p. 146.

     [684] _Christian Epitaphs_, Introd., p. xxii, note ✝. We are
     indebted to this masterly prolegomena for several of the
     illustrations cited.

     [685] In one example it is minutely indicated thus: _Ora noctis_
     · IIII. ··· VIII _Idus Madias die Saturnis luna vigesima Signo
     Apiorno_,--“In the fourth hour of the night, the eighth day
     before the Ides of May, the twentieth day of the Moon, in the
     sign of Capricorn.” De Rossi regards this as an astrological
     horoscope--a relic of heathen superstition.

     [686] The greatest age we have observed in Christian epitaphs is
     ninety-one years. See Fig. 19. The youngest is three
     months--_Mens. III_. We have noticed in Muratori (p. 382, No. 5)
     the following remarkable instance of longevity: _M. Flavius
     Secundus filius fecit Flavio Secundo patri q. vixit ann. CXII, et
     Flaviæ Urbanæ matri piæ vixit ann. CV_.--“M. Flavius Secundus,
     the son, made this to Flavius Secundus, his father, who lived one
     hundred and twelve years, and to his pious mother, (who) lived
     one hundred and five years.” Kenrick quotes an epitaph of a child
     of three and his mother (_mammula_) of eighty; and another of a
     man of one hundred and two years, ninety of which were passed
     without disease. The average duration of life, according to
     Ulpian, was thirty years.

     [687] The relationship is generally expressed by such phrases as
     _vixit mecum_, _duravit mecum_,_ vixit in conjugio_, _fecit
     mecum_, _fecit cum compare_. McCaul, _Christ. Epitaphs_,
     Introd. xv.

     [688] _Ib._, xxvii.

     [689] Of 5,000 epitaphs in Squier’s Index, only forty-five
     mention the country of the deceased. See one example, page 401,
     second footnote, and also the following, of date A. D. 388:
     _Rapetiga, medicus, civis Hispanus, qui vixit in pace annos
     plus minus XXV_,--“Rapetiga, a physician, a citizen of Spain,
     who lived in peace twenty-five years, more or less.”

     [690] This is not quite correct.

     [691] _Letters from Rome_, pp. 202, 203.

     [692] From ὀπίσθιος and γράφω, _to write again_.

                            CHAPTER II.                                  415


“What insight into the familiar feelings and thoughts of the primitive
ages of the church,” remarks the learned and eloquent Dean
Stanley,[693] “can be compared with that afforded by the Roman
Catacombs! Hardly noticed by Gibbon or Mosheim, they yet give us a
likeness of those early times beyond that derived from any of the
written authorities on which Gibbon and Mosheim repose.... The
subjects of the painting and sculpture place before us the exact ideas
with which the first Christians were familiar; they remind us, by what
they do not contain, of the ideas with which the first Christians were
not familiar.... He who is thoroughly steeped in the imagery of the
Catacombs will be nearer to the thought of the early church than he
who has learned by heart the most elaborate treatise even of
Tertullian or of Origen.”

By the study of the inscriptions, paintings, and sculpture of this
subterranean city of the dead, we may follow the development of
Christian thought from century to century; we may trace the successive
changes of doctrine and discipline; we may read the irrefragable
testimony, written with a pen of iron in the rock forever, of the
purity of the primitive faith, and of the gradual corruption which it
has undergone.

In this era of critical investigation of the very foundations of the
faith it will be well to examine this vast body of Christian evidences   416
as to the doctrinal teachings of the primitive times, which has been
handed down from the believers living in or near the apostolic age,
and thus providentially preserved in these subterranean excavations,
as a perpetual memorial of the faith and practice of the golden prime
of Christianity.

While we should not expect to find in these inscriptions a complete
system of theology, we would certainly look for some definite
expression regarding the religious belief of those who wrote these
memorials of the dead. We would expect some reference to the lives of
the departed, to the virtues of their character, and to the hopes of
the survivors as to their future condition in the spirit-world. In
this expectation we are not disappointed. We find in these epitaphs a
body of evidence on the doctrines and discipline of the primitive
church, whose value it is scarcely possible to overestimate. We are
struck with the infinite contrast of their sentiment to that of the
pagan sepulchral monuments, and also by the conspicuous absence, in
those of the early centuries and purer period of Christianity, of the
doctrines by which the church of Rome is characterized. We shall also
find references to some of the heresies, which, like plague spots,
alas! so soon began to infect the church,[694] and some of which even
found distinguished ecclesiastical patronage.[695]

The Church of Rome lays especial claim to the traditions of the early
ages and the antiquities of the Catacombs as proofs of the apostolic
character of her peculiar dogmas and usages. But these ancient records   417
are a palimpsest which she has written all over with her own glosses
and interpretations; and when the ordeal of modern criticism revives
the real documents and removes the accumulation of error, the
testimony of the past is strikingly opposed to the pretensions of the
Roman See and the teachings of Romish doctrine. The distinguished
scholarship, laborious research, and archæological skill of such
eminent authorities as De Rossi, Pitra, Garrucci, and other Roman
_savants_, only furnish the weapons for the refutation of many of
Rome’s most cherished beliefs. There are those, indeed, who carry to
these investigations the faculty of seeing what they wish to see, and
what no others can perceive. It not unfrequently happens, also, that
extreme credulity and superstition are found united with great
learning and high scientific attainments. The effect, however, of the
honest examination of this testimony by a candid mind is seen in the
case of Mr. Hemans, the learned author of “Ancient Christianity and
Sacred Art in Italy.” This gentleman, although a pervert from the
Anglican communion to that of Rome, and in strong sympathy with many
of its institutions, as is apparent from his interesting volume, felt
compelled by the historical and monumental testimony of the Catacombs,
and of early Christian art and literature, to retrace his steps, and,
however reluctantly to condemn and abandon the faith he had espoused.

Protestantism, therefore, has nothing to fear from the closest
investigation of these evidences of primitive Christianity. They offer
no warrant whatever for the characteristic doctrines and practice of
the modern Church of Rome. There is not a single inscription, nor
painting, nor sculpture, before the middle of the fourth century, that
lends the least countenance to her arrogant assumptions and erroneous    418
dogmas. All previous to this date are remarkable for their evangelical
character; and it is only after that period that the distinctive
peculiarities of Romanism begin to appear. The wholesome breath of
persecution and the “sweet uses of adversity” in the early ages tended
to preserve the moral purity of the church; but the enervating
influence of imperial favour and the influx of wealth and luxury, led
to corruptions of practice and errors of doctrine. Her trappings of
worldly pomp and power were a Nessus garment which empoisoned her
spiritual life. Hence the Catacombs, the rude cradle of the early
faith, became also the grave of much of its simplicity and purity.

In the investigation of early Christian epigraphy, therefore, the
determination of dates is of the utmost importance, as it is only
inscriptions of the earlier and acknowledged purer period of the
church which can bear authoritative testimony as to primitive
doctrine. We shall, therefore, first examine in chronological order
_all_ those bearing dates earlier than the fourth century which have
any doctrinal significance, and then glean the evidence of later
examples as to the antiquity of Romanist teachings. We will take the
inscriptions as given in his great work,[696] by De Rossi, the most
eminent authority on this subject; but while accepting his facts, and
acknowledging his candour and honesty of research, which qualities we
will seek to imitate, we cannot in all cases accept his conclusions.

The first dated inscription possessing any doctrinal character occurs
in the year 217.[697] It is taken from a large sarcophagus found in
the _Via Labicana_, and is of great interest as indicating the lofty     419
social position and honourable offices of the deceased as a
member of the imperial household, as well as the devout confidence of
his pious freedmen in his spiritual beatification. The upper portion
of the following inscription, that in larger type, is engraved on the
front of the sarcophagus, and that in smaller characters on the back.
The use of a sarcophagus is an indication of the wealth of the

                M · AVRELIO · AVGG  ·  LIB  ·  PROSENETI
                    A   C V B I C V L O · A V G ·
                P  R  O  C    ·    T H E S A V R O R V M
                P R O C · P A T R I M O N I  ·  P R O C ·
                M V N E R V M  ·  P R O C · V I N O R V M
                O R D I N A T O A D I V O   C O M M O D O
                I N   KASTRENSE   P A T R O N O  PIISSIMO
                L I B E R T I   ·   B E N E M E R E N T I
                S A R C O P H A G V M     D E     S V O ·
                        A D O R N A V E R V N T ·

                                                 [ET · EXTRICATO · II
                                         --_Inscrip. Christ._, No. 5.

     To Marcus Aurelius Prosenes, freedman of the two Augusti, of the
     bed-chamber of Augustus, Procurator of the Treasures, Procurator
     of the Patrimony, Procurator of the Presents, Procurator of the
     Wines, appointed by the deified Commodus to duty in the camp, a
     most affectionate Patron. For him, well-deserving, his freedmen
     provided (this) sarcophagus at their own cost.

     Prosenes received to God, on the fifth day before the Nones of--
     Præsens and Extricatus (being consuls) for the second time.

     Ampelius his freedman, returning to the city from the wars, wrote
     (this inscription.)

We have here the earliest indication of doctrinal belief as to the       420
condition of the departed. It is not, however, a dark and gloomy
apprehension of purgatorial fires, but, on the contrary, the joyous
confidence of immediate reception into the presence of God.[698] The
retention of the pagan title of the emperor, “the deified Commodus,”
is an anomalous feature in a Christian monument, although doubtless it
is merely the unthinking imitation of a common epigraphic formula.

Accompanying an inscription of date A. D. 234, is the first example of
the symbols, afterward so common, the fish and the anchor, but no
other distinctively Christian feature. In the next year, A. D. 235,
occurs the following epitaph, in which there is possibly an intimation
of immortality in the expression _de sæculo recessit_--“retired
from the world,” or “from the age.”[699] AVRELIA DVLCISSIMA FILIA
COSS,--“Aurelia, our very sweet daughter, who retired from the
world, Severus and Quintinus being consuls. She lived fifteen years
and four months.” The epithet “very sweet daughter” is peculiarly
appropriate to the Christian character, although common also on pagan

In the year A. D. 238, on a sarcophagus which bears the first dated
representation of the Good Shepherd, we find the following touching
inscription. It conveys nothing doctrinal beyond the phrase “most
devout,” or “God-loving,” expressive of the youthful piety of the
deceased. ΗΡΑΚΛΙΤΟϹ Ο ΘΕΟΦΙΛΕϹΤΑΤΟϹ ΕΖΗϹΕΝ ΕΤ(η) Η ΠΑΡΑ Η(μέρας)           421
ΖΩΗϹ--“The very devout Heraclitus lived eight years and thirteen days.
He was ill twelve days.... Xanthias his father, to his son, sweeter
than light and life.” The mention of the duration of the illness is
very rare in these epitaphs. The yearning affection of the bereaved
father is beautifully expressed in the last clause.

The next example merely gives the consular date, A. D. 249, and the
assurance that the deceased sleeps, DORMIT--a distinctively Christian
synonym for death. In the year A. D. 268 occurs a fragment on which
one may with difficulty decipher the inscription by the parents “to
their well-deserving son, who lived twelve years and eleven months.”
The chief interest attaches to the last line: VIBAS INTER SANCTIS
(_sic_) IHA--“May you live among the holy ones.”

The meaning of the last three letters is unknown. They have been
interpreted as standing for _in pace_ or _et have_; but the last
rarely, if ever, occurs in Christian epigraphy. Dr. McCaul ingeniously
conjectures that the last word is intended for _sanctissimas_, or
“most holy ones,” the H being an ill cut M. This natural ejaculation
of the sorrowing friends, of which we shall find occasional examples,
is certainly no indication of the later Romish practice of prayers for
the dead, or of the intercession of the saints. On this slab are also
the first known examples of the dove, olive branch, and vase.

The next dated inscription, of the year 269, A. D., is of a very
barbarous character--Latin words in Greek letters, not engraved, but
merely painted on the slab. It is evidently, as is indicated by its
wretched grammar and orthography, the production of extreme ignorance.   422
It requires a strong dogmatic prepossession to detect in its
incoherent language any meaning beyond the attestation of the sanctity
of character of the deceased. After giving the date, it reads thus:
ϹΑΝΚΤΩ · ΤΟΥΩ · Read, _Leuces filiæ Severæ carissimæ posuit et
spiritui sancto tuo_,--“Leuces erected this (memorial) to her very
dear daughter, and to thy (_sic_) holy spirit.”

Nothing further of a doctrinal character occurs till the year 291,
when we find the following barbarous example. The grammar and spelling
are atrocious, and the division of the words quite arbitrary: EX
mecum vixisti libens in conjuga innocentissima Macervonia Silvana.
Refrigera cum spiritis sanctis_--“Macervonia Silvana, thou didst live
well with me from thy maidenhood, rejoicing in most innocent wedlock.
Refresh (thyself) among the holy spirits.”

No candid interpretation can discover in the closing acclamation any
thing beyond the natural expression of a desire for the happiness of
the departed among the sanctified.

There is nothing, therefore, in any of the inscriptions of the first
three centuries--the ages of the purity of the faith--which can in the
least degree support the assumptions of Roman controversialists as to
the antiquity of Romish dogmas. Nor is there any indication of those
dogmas till the latter part of the fourth century, as will be evident
from a brief examination of the principal inscriptions having any
reference to doctrine before that period. In the year A. D. 302 we       423
find the following beautiful tribute of conjugal and filial affection,
which only, however, attests the high Christian character of the
PRO PIETATE POSVERVNT--“To the highly venerable, most devout, and very
sweet father, Secundus. His wife and sons in expression of their
dutifulness have placed this slab.”

In the year A. D. 310, in the epitaph of a youth twenty-two years of
age, we find the beautiful euphemism for death, ACCERSITVS AB
ANGELIS--“Called away (literally, sent for) by angels.” There is
no doctrine of purgatory here. The Christian soul, like Lazarus, is
borne by angels to Abraham’s bosom, and not, like Dives, to tormenting
flames, albeit called of purgatorial efficacy to supplement the work
of Christ. In A. D. 329 occurs the still nobler expression, NATVS
was born into eternity in the twentieth year of his age. He sleeps in

Sometimes the word _natus_ refers to the new birth of spiritual
regeneration, and admission to the church by the rite of baptism.
Thus, in an example of date A. D. 338, a youth of twenty-four years of
age is said to have been born and died in the same year, though at the
interval of a few months. In A. D. 377 we find the expression COELESTI
RENATVS AQVA--“Born again of heavenly water.”

In the year A. D. 335 the chaste and modest character of a Christian
matron is commended, without any suggestion of the Romish notion of
the superior merit of virginity, as follows:

     ANN · XXIII · D · XIIII--“To one well-deserving. The                424
     sleeping-place of Aurelia Martina, a most chaste and modest
     woman, who passed in wedlock twenty-three years, fourteen days.”

The primitive Christians had no doubt of the immediate happiness of
those who died in the faith. They were incapable of the blasphemous
thought that the atoning blood of Christ was insufficient to wash away
their guilt and that therefore they were doomed to penal fires,

         Till the foul crimes done in their days of nature
         Were burned and purged away.

All the expressions applied to the death of the righteous indicate the
assurance of their spirits’ peace and happiness. Thus, in addition to
the examples already given, we have, A. D. 339, BENE QVESQVENTI
(_sic_) IN PACE--“Resting well in peace;” A. D. 339, IN PACE DECESSIT,
A. D. 349, and A. D. 360, IBIT and EXIBIT IN PACE--“Departed in
peace;” A. D. 348, REQVIEVIT--“Entered into rest;” A. D. 353,
PAVSABIT--“Will repose;” A. D. 355, QVIESCIT--“He rests,” not
REQVIESCAT--“May he rest,” as the Romanists write, but the joyful
assurance of present repose in the peace of God; A. D. 359, IVIT AD
DEVM--“He went to God;” A. D. 363, SEMPER QVIESCIS SECVRA--“Thou dost
repose forever free from care;” A. D. 368, QVIENCIS (_sic_) IN PACE
CONIVX INCOMPARABILIS--“Thou restest in peace, incomparable wife;” A.
D. 369, VOCITVS (_sic_) IIT IN PACE--“Called away, he went in peace;”
in A. D. 380, we find AETERNA REQVIES FELICITATIS--“Everlasting rest
of happiness.” The Christians, as is asserted in the following,
sorrowed not as those without hope: IVLIAE INNOCENTISSIMAE ET
DVLCISSIMAE, MATER SVA SPERANS--“To the most sweet and innocent Julia,
her mother hoping.” The loved ones were “not lost, but gone before:”
PRAECESSIT NOS IN PACE--“He went before us in peace;” ΠΡΟΑΠΕΛΘΩΝ ΤΟΥ     425
ΚΑΘ ΗΜΑϹ ΒΙΟΥ--“Having gone before from our life.” Sometimes the body
seems to be regarded as the clog and fetter of the soul, binding it to
earth, as in the following: ABSOLVTVS DE CORPORE--“Set free from the
of the body, he rejoices in the stars,” that is, in heaven.

The entire inscriptions from which extracts are thus given may be
found in De Rossi’s _Inscriptiones Christianæ_, under the respective

The following, of date A. D. 381, rises to loftier poetical flights,
though ignoring the metrical divisions, which are indicated in the
copy by parallels:


     Theodora, who lived twenty-one years, seven months, twenty-three
     days. In peace. Whilst following an exalted life, a chaste Venus,
     she pursued her way to the stars. Now she rejoices in the court
     of Christ. She resisted the world, ever following heavenly
     things. A devout observer of the law, and mistress of honour, she
     applied an illustrious mind to holy things while here in this
     world. Hence she reigns (amid) the choice odours of paradise,
     where the herbage is forever green beside the streams of
     heaven,[700] and awaits God, in order that she may rise to the
     upper air. She laid her body in this tomb, forsaking mortal
     things, and Evacrius, her husband, built the monument,
     superintending the work.

The first inscription at all favourable to Romish doctrine is the
following barbarous example, (A. D. 380:)

               HIC QVIESCIT ANCILLA DEI OVEDE                            426

     Read: _Hic quiescit ancilla Dei quæ de suis omnibus pependit
     domum istam, quam amicæ deflent solaciumque requirunt. Pro hac
     una ora subole quam superstitem reliquisti. Eterna requie
     felicitatis causa manebis._

     Here rests a handmaid of God[701] who, of all her riches,
     possesses but this one house: whom her friends bewail, and seek
     for consolation. O pray for this thine only child whom thou hast
     left behind. Thou wilt remain in the eternal repose of happiness.

The yearning cry of an orphaned heart for the prayers of a departed
mother is, however, a slight foundation for the Romish practice of the
invocation of the saints.

Previous to this date we have found not the slightest indication of
Romish doctrine; and if those doctrines have been transmitted, as
their advocates assert, from the very earliest ages, it is incredible
that they should have left no trace in the dated inscriptions for
nearly four centuries. After this time, it is true, we find occasional
epitaphs which, rigidly interpreted according to the canons of
theological criticism, contain sentiments unwarranted by Scripture;
but these may be the result of carelessness of expression, or of the
corruptions of doctrine which had already taken place in the church.

If then those inscriptions which apparently favour Romish dogmas, of
which we know the date, are all of a late period, we may assume that
those of a similar character which are undated are of the same
relative age, and therefore valueless as evidence of the antiquity of
such dogmas. Dr. Northcote admits the fact, but objects to this
conclusion as founded upon negative evidence; yet he himself adopts      427
the same line of argument concerning the absence of military rank
among the primitive Christians. But we are not left to negative
evidence. We have the amplest testimony of a positive character, which
we shall proceed to examine, showing that even in the fifth and sixth
century the vast proportion of the inscriptions are of a highly
evangelical character, and are entirely antagonistic to the most
cherished doctrines of the Church of Rome.

The Christian’s view of death is always, in striking contrast to the
sullen resignation or blank despair of paganism, full of cheerfulness
and hope. Its rugged front is veiled under softest synonyms. The grave
was considered merely as the temporary resting place of the body,
while the freed spirit was regarded as already rejoicing in the
presence of God in a broader day, and brighter light, and fairer
fields than those of earth. The following examples will illustrate the
pious orthodoxy of these early Christian epitaphs.


     She departed, desiring to ascend to the ethereal light of heaven.

                        LIMINA MORTIS ADIIT

     Eutuchius, wise, pious, and kind, believing in Christ, entered
     the portals of death, (and) has the rewards of the light (of


     Here sleeps in the sleep of peace the sweet and innocent
     Severianus, whose spirit is received into the light of the Lord.

                AEVVM QVIESCIT SECVRA. (A. D. 397.)

     Here lies Urbica, agreeable and ever modest. She lived a speaker
     of truth. She rests free from care throughout endless time.

     NEC REOR HVNC LACRIMIS FAS SIT DEFLERE                              428

     Nor do I think it right to lament with tears him, who, freed from
     the fetters of the body, rejoices among the stars, nor feels the
     evil contagion of earthly sense.

                 PAVSABET (_sic_) PRAETIOSA ANNORVM

     Pretiosa went to her rest, a maiden of only twelve years of age,
     a handmaid of God and of Christ. (A. D. 401.)


     Nevertheless she occupies not the doleful seats behind the
     threshold, but inhabits the lofty stars, next to Christ.

         ACCEPTA APVT (_sic_) DEVM. (A. D. 432.)

     Here rests in the sleep of peace Mala ... Received into the
     presence of God.


     This (life) without end which remains is bestowed for his pious

In the following epitaph of date A. D. 472, the departed is
represented as comforting the survivors with the thought of the
felicity of the blest:


     I, Petronia, the wife of a deacon, the type of modesty, lay down
     my bones in this resting place. Refrain from tears, my sweet
     daughters and husband, and believe that it is forbidden to weep
     for one who lives in God.

The early Christians confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims
in the earth, and that they desired a better country, even a heavenly.
They felt that, in the language of Cyprian, the soul’s true Fatherland
is on high. This sentiment is expressed as follows, in an epitaph of
date A. D. 493, MIGRAVIT DE HOC SAECVLO--“He migrated from this          429
world.” Similar is the idea in the following: FELIX VITA FVIT FELIX ET
TRANSITVS IPSE--“Happy was the life, and happy also the death,”
literally, “the transit;” HIC REQIESCIT .. QVAE A DEO INTER EXORDIA
MERERETVR--“Here rests ... who was snatched away by God in the very
beginning of life from the light of earth, that she might be worthy to
live in the more glorious light (of heaven).”

The following is a striking protest against the heathen notions of the
future state.


     Since vigour of mind and more serene enjoyment of the light
     return to the dead in Christ, she feels not (the pains of)
     Tartarus, nor the Cimmerian lakes, by her deserts surviving after
     death and destroying that law of the grave, (which is) imposed on
     the sepulchres of earth, she occupies the stars, and knows not
     death, having in this manner left the light.

We find also such expressions as follow: DEPOSTVS (_sic_) IN PACE
FIDEI CATHOLICE, (_sic_)--“Buried in the peace of the Catholic faith,”
A. D. 462; HIC. REQ. IN PACE DEVS, (_sic_)--“Here rests in the peace
of God,” A. D. 500; IN PACE ECCLESIAE--“In the peace of the church,”
A. D. 523; IN PACE ET BENEDICTIONE--“In peace and benediction;” SEMPER
FIDELIS MANEBIT APVD DEVM--“Ever faithful, he shall remain with God,”
(_circ. 590_); FATVM FECIT--“She fulfilled her destiny;”[702] REDDIDI
NVNC DIVO RERVM DEBITVM COMMVNE OMNIBVS--“I have rendered now to the     430
Lord of the universe the debt common to all,” A. D. 483; ZOTICVS HIC
AD DORMIENDVM--“Zoticus here laid to sleep;” DORMITIO ELPIDIS--“The
sleeping place of Elpis;” DORMIVIT ET REQVIESCIT--“He has slept and is
at rest;” DORMIT SED VIVIT--“He sleeps but lives;” QVIESCIT IN DOMINO
IESV--“He reposes in the Lord Jesus;” IVIT AD DEVM--“He went to God;”
EVOCATVS A DOMINO--“Called by God;” ACCEPTA APVD DEVM--“Accepted with
God;” ΕΤΕΛΕΙΩΘΗ--“He finished his life;” ΕΚΟΙΜΗΘΗ--“He fell asleep;”
DAMALIS HIC SIC · V · D--“Here lies Damalis, for so God wills.”

Many of these undated inscriptions are full of Christian thought, and
breathe the strongest assurance of the happiness of the departed, as
the following from the Lateran Museum:


     Macus, innocent boy, thou hast already begun to be among the
     innocent. Unto thee how sure is thy present life. Thee how gladly
     thy mother, the church, (on high,) received returning from this
     world. Hushed be this bosom’s groaning, dried be these weeping

Of similar character are also the following: SALONICE ISPIRITVS TVVS
IN BONIS--“Salonice, thy spirit is among the good;” REFRIGERAS
SPIRITVS TVVS IN BONIS--“Thou refreshest thy spirit among the good;”
earth has the body, celestial realms the soul;” ΓΛΥΚΕΡΟΝ ΦΑΟϹ ΟΥ
ΚΑΤΕΔΕΨΑΣ (_sic_) ΕΣΧΕΣ ΓΑΡ ΜΕΤΑ ϹΟΥ ΠΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΤΟΝ--“Thou didst not        431
leave the sweet light, for thou hadst with thee Him who knows not
death,” literally, “the all-deathless one;” AGAPE VIBIS IN
ETERNVM--“Agape, thou livest forever;” DORMIT ET VIVIT IN PACE XO,
(_sic_)--“He sleeps and lives in the peace of Christ;” MENS NESCIA
unknowing of death, and consciously rejoices in the vision of Christ;”
livest in the glory of God, and in the peace of Christ, Our Lord.”[704]

The glorious doctrine of the resurrection, which is peculiarly the
characteristic of our holy religion as distinguished from all the
faiths of antiquity, was everywhere recorded throughout the Catacombs.
It was symbolized in the ever-recurring representations of the story
of Jonah and of the raising of Lazarus, and was strongly asserted in
numerous inscriptions. As the early Christians laid the remains of the
departed saint in their last long rest, the sacred words of the
Gospel, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” must have echoed with a
strange power through the long corridors of that silent city of the
dead, and have filled the hearts of the believers, though surrounded
by the evidences of their mortality, with an exultant thrill of
triumph over death and the grave. This was a recompense for all their
pains. Of this not even the malignant ingenuity of persecution could
deprive them. Although the body were consumed and its ashes strewn
upon the waters, or sown upon the wandering winds, still, still the
Lord knoweth them that are his, and keeps the dust of his chosen.        432
Tertullian ridicules the heathen for believing the doctrine of
metempsychosis and rejecting that of the resurrection.[705] “God
forbid that he should abandon to everlasting destruction,” he
exclaims, “the labour of his hands, the care of his own thoughts, the
receptacle of his own Spirit!”[706]

The hope of the resurrection is often strongly expressed, as in the
following examples:


     Here rests my flesh; but at the last day, through Christ, I
     believe it will be raised from the dead.


     You, well-deserving one, having left your (relations), lie asleep
     in peace--you will arise--a temporary rest is granted you.

In an epitaph of the year 449 we read, RECEPTA CAELO MERVIT
DIGNA--“Received into heaven, she deserved to meet Christ at the
resurrection, worthy to receive an everlasting reward.” In the
following example from the Catacomb of Naples, Christian confidence
adopts the sublime language of Job:


     I believe, because that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day
     shall raise me from the earth, that in my flesh I shall see the

More briefly is this cardinal doctrine asserted in the following:
IVSTVS CVM |SCIS| XPO MEDIANTE RESVRGET--“Justus, who will arise with
the saints through Christ.” HIC IN PACE REQVIESCIT LAVRENTIA QVAE        433
CREDIDIT RESVRRECTIONEM--“Here reposes in peace Laurentia, who
believed in the resurrection.”[707]

The very idea of death seems to have been repudiated by the primitive
Christians. “_Non mortua sed data somno_,” sings Prudentius
in paraphrase of the words of Our Lord, “She is not dead
but sleepeth.”[708] Hence the Catacomb was designated the
_coemeterium_,[709] or place of sleeping, and the funeral vault the
_cubiculum_, or sleeping chamber. The dead were not “buried,” as the
pagan expressions _conditus_, _compositus_, _situs_, indicate; but
_depositus_, “laid down” in their lowly beds till the everlasting morn
should come, and the angel’s trump awake them; consigned as a precious
trust to the tender keeping of mother earth, and “lying in wait for
the resurrection.”[710] The saints were “fallen asleep” in Jesus, and
on the bridal morning of the soul they should awake with his likeness
and be satisfied. The primitive Christians believed that the power
which called a Lazarus from the tomb could wake to life again the
slumbering millions of this valley of dry bones, vaster far than that    434
of Ezekiel’s vision, till they should stand up upon their feet an
exceeding great army.

But this sleep was a sleep of the body only, not of the soul. The
ancient Christians were assured, as we have seen, of the immediate
happiness of those that died in the faith. They believed that being
absent from the body they were present with the Lord; that as soon as
they passed from earth’s living death they entered into the undying
life and unfading bliss of heaven. Though surrounded by the mouldering
bodies of the saints in Christ, the eye of faith beheld their
glorified spirits, starry-crowned and palm-bearing, among the
white-robed multitude before the throne of God. They admitted no
thought of a long and dreary period of forgetfulness, nor probation of
purgatorial fires, before the soul could enter into joy and peace.

The sublime reflections with which Cyprian concludes his treatise
_De Mortalitate_ nobly express the grand consoling thoughts which
sustained the primitive Christians, and which sustain God’s saints in
every age. “We are but pilgrims and strangers here below,” he
exclaims, “let us then welcome the day that gives to us the joys of
heaven. What exile longs not for his native land? Our true native land
is paradise. A large and loving company expects us there. O the bliss
of those celestial realms where no fear of dying enters! There the
glorious choir of the apostles, the exulting company of the prophets,
the countless army of the martyrs, await us. To them let us eagerly
hasten. Let us long to be with them the sooner, that we may the sooner
be with CHRIST.”

What a striking contrast to these holy hopes is the pagans’ blankness
of despair concerning the future. Compared with this assurance of a
blissful immortality, how cold and cheerless is their shadowy elysium,   435
their unsubstantial visions of the spirit-world; how terrible the
gloomy Acherontian lake, dark Lethe’s stream, and Styx, and fiery
Phlegethon. Like a gleam of heaven’s sunshine in a benighted age are
these rude inscriptions of the early Christians. Sublimer is their
lofty hope, reaching forward beyond this world, and laying hands of
faith upon the eternal verities of the world to come, than the
imperishable renown of classic sages, or the Roman poet’s vaunting
boast of earthly immortality--_Non omnis moriar_.

Even the high philosophy of Greece and the noble stoicism of the Roman
mind afford no consolation to the soul brought face to face with the
solemn mystery of death. A forced and sullen submission to the
inevitable is all that they can teach. They shed no light upon the
world beyond the grave, DOMVS AETERNA--“An eternal home,”[711] and
SOMNO AETERNALI--“In eternal sleep,” are written on their tombs,
frequently accompanied by an inverted torch, the emblem of despair. To
them death is an unsolved and insoluble problem. Their loftiest
reasonings lack authority to satisfy the mind. It is the gospel of
Christ alone which dispels the awful shadows of the tomb, plants the
flower of hope in the very ashes of the grave, and brings life and
immortality to light; which appeases the soul-hunger of mankind, and
meets the yearning cry of the human heart.

Even the thoughtful mind of Pliny could extract no comfort from the      436
various theories concerning the future state, but looked forward to
annihilation as the universal doom. “To all,” he says, “from the last
day of life is there the same lot that there was before the first; nor
is there any more consciousness after death than there was before
birth.”[712] Of Agricola, the wise and good, the philosophic Tacitus
could only say with an incredulous sigh, “Doubtless if there be a
place for the departed spirits of the just, if great souls perish not
with the body, thou dost calmly repose.”[713] “That the manes are any
thing,” says Juvenal, “or that the nether world is any thing, not even
boys believe, unless those still in the nursery.”[714] In sullen
submission to fate, the pagan submits to the inevitable doom. When the
name has issued from the fatal urn he leaves forever his woods, his
villa, his pleasant home, and enters the bark which is to bear him
into eternal exile.[715] The wisest sages can only fan the embers of
their hopes into a flickering flame, and cry, “Ha! we have seen the

The following are examples of the melancholy and despairing spirit
often breathed by pagan epitaphs:


     The cruel fates have anticipated the term of life, and placed me,   437
     snatched away, in the infernal bark. Having read this elegy pity
     the fallen youth and say departing, May the earth be light upon

sweet child, whom the angry gods gave to eternal sleep.” SVSCIPE NVNC
now, O husband, if after death is any consciousness, the rites due to
departed spirits.” The hopeless parting of a dying wife is thus
to me, and dearest daughter, farewell.” Or more briefly we read, AVE
ATQVE VALE--“Hail and farewell.”

Sometimes the desponding view of life is like the bitter experience of
the Hebrew moralist, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” One such
example reads thus:


     We are deceived by our vows, misled by time, and death derides
     our cares; anxious life is naught.

Of similar character is the following recalling the complaint of Job,
“He cometh forth as a flower and is cut down:” VIVE LAETVS QVICVNQVE
SENSIM DEFICIT--“Live joyful who ever thou art that livest. Life is a
small gift. It is scarcely sprung up when it imperceptibly flourishes
and then imperceptibly declines.” The succeeding example is remarkable
for its misanthropy: ANIMAL INGRATIVS HOMINE NVLLVM EST--“No animal is
more ungrateful than man.” The inspired apothegm, “We brought nothing
into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out,” is
illustrated in the following: EX OMNIBVS BONIS SVIS HOC SIBI
SVMPSERVNT--“Of all their wealth they possess only this tomb.” We find   438
also the expression, MATER GENVIT ME MATER RECIPIT--“Mother (earth)
nourished me, she receives me again,” analogous to the declaration of
Scripture, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Spon
gives also the following example: VIXI VT VIVIS MORIERIS VT SVM
MORTVVS--“I have lived as thou livest, thou shalt die as I have died.”
Sometimes the cold consolation is offered that others are also the
subjects of sorrow and death, as DOLOR TALIS NON TIBI CONTIGIT
VNI--“Such grief affects not thee alone;” NEC TIBI NEC NOBIS AETERNVM
VIVERE CESSIT--“Neither to you nor to us was it granted to live
forever.” Similar to this is a Christian inscription, ΕΥΨΥΧΕΙ
ϹΕΚΟΥΝΔΕ ΟΥΔΕΙϹ ΑΘΑΝΟΤΟϹ--“Be of good cheer, Secundus; no one is

More painful even than the gloomy stoicism of many pagan inscriptions
is the light Epicurean tone which frequently occurs, as in the
instance which follows, where life is compared to a play:

         VIXI · DVM · VIXI · BENE · IAM · MEA

     While I lived, I lived well. My play is now ended, soon yours
     will be. Farewell and applaud me.[716]

In the succeeding example the sentiment is still more Anacreontic. It
breathes the true pagan spirit, _Carpe diem_--“Seize the day.
Pluck each flower of pleasure as you pass. Press all life’s nectar
into one frenzied draught and drain it to the dregs. Let us eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die.” Even in the solemn presence of death,      439
the soul, unawed by the dread shadow of the future, turns regretfully
to the vanished pleasures of earth, and finds its only consolation in
the thought of their enjoyment.

                   D · M · TI : CLAVDI · SECVNDI
                    HIC · SECVM · HABET · OMNIA
             NOSTRA · SED · VITAM · FACIVNT B · V · V ·

     To the Divine Manes of Tiberius Claudius Secundus. Here he enjoys
     every thing. Baths, wine, and lust ruin our constitutions,
     but--they make life what it is. Farewell, farewell.[717]

The following expresses the very essence of coarse sensualism: QVOD
have with me; what I left I have lost.” Compare the moral antithesis
of the sentiment expressed by John Wesley: “What I gave away I have
still; what I kept I have lost.”

Frequently the pagan epitaphs contain an outburst of scorn or defiance
of the unjust gods that sit aloft and make their sport of human woe,
as is seen in the accompanying examples:


     I, Procope, lift up my hands against the god who snatched away me

In an epitaph in the Lapidarian Gallery a bereaved mother in the
bitterness of her soul cries out:


     O relentless Fortune, who delightest in cruel death,                440
     Why is Maximus so suddenly snatched from me?
     He who lately used to be joyful in my bosom,
     This stone now marks his tomb.--Behold his mother.

Compare also the following: INVIDA LIBITINA FILIIS ABSTVLIT
PATREM--“Envious Libitina snatched away a father from his children;”
VICTA EST IVSTICIA NON AEQVO IVDICE FATO--“Justice is overcome by that
unjust gods, (who) snatched away thy soul.”

But the holy teachings of Christianity revealed to the weary and heavy
laden souls of men, aching with a sense of orphanage, the loving
Fatherhood of God,[718] and produced a spirit of meekness and
resignation altogether foreign to the pagan mind. Of pathetic
interest, as illustrating this fact, is a Christian fragment of date
_circ._ A. D. 600, on which we may still read the inscription

          QVI · DEDIT · ET · ABSTVLIT
          .... OMINI · BENEDIC ....

The familiar words suggest the imperishable thought, which has been a
source of consolation to bereaved ones in every age. “Like a voice
from among the graves,” says Dr. Maitland, “broken by sobs, yet
distinctly intelligible, fall these words on the listening ear, ‘who
gave, and hath taken away--blessed [be the name] of the Lord.’”

We occasionally find pagan inscriptions breathing a sense of spiritual
existence and hope of future life.[719] The yearning of the human
heart that

          Longs for the touch of a vanished hand
            And the sound of a voice that is still,

and the hunger of the soul for communion with the dear departed in the   441
loving tryst of the silent land are pathetically expressed in the
following prayer of Furia Spes: PETO VOS MANES SANCTISSIMAE (_sic_)
CELERIVS APVD EVM PERVENIRE POSSIM--“I beseech you, most holy spirits,
that I may behold my husband in the midnight hours; and also that I
may more sweetly and swiftly go to him.”

More common, however, is the feeling of hopeless severance expressed
by the frequent valediction, VALE VALE LONGVM VALE--“Farewell,
farewell, a long farewell;” or, sadder still, VALE AETERNVM--“Farewell

There occur in the Catacombs frequent examples of acclamations
addressed to the departed, expressive of a desire for their happiness
and peace. These acclamations have been quoted by Romanist writers as
indicating a belief in the doctrine of purgatory, and in the efficacy
of prayers on behalf of the dead. The importance of this subject will
justify its careful examination. Many of the examples quoted by
Roman controversialists are not precatory at all, but simply
declarative.[720] But there are others in which the expression assumes
a distinctively optative form. Some of these may be of comparatively     442
late date, as the _graffiti_, or inscriptions of pilgrims near the
more celebrated shrines, of which we have seen examples at the
so-called “papal crypt.” But others are unquestionably part of the
original epitaphs. We find, for instance, such expressions as
VIVAS--“May you live;” VIVAS IN DEO, ΖΗϹ ΕΝ ΘΕΩ--“May you live in
God;” VIVAS IN ETERNVM--“May you live forever;” ETERNA TIBI
LVX--“Eternal light to thee;” ESTOTE IN PACE--“Be in peace;” VIVAS
INTER SANCTOS--“May you live among the holy ones;” VIVAS IN NOMINE
XTI--“May you live, in the name of Christ;” ΖΗϹΗϹ (_sic_) ΙΝ ΔΕΟ
ΧΡΙϹΤΟ--“May you live in God Christ;” VIVAS IN DOMINO ZEZV--“May you
live in the Lord Jesus;” VIVAS VINCAS--“May you live, may you
conquer;” DORMITIO TVA INTER DICAEIS, (ΔΙΚΑΙΟΙϹ)--“May your sleep be
refresh thee, refresh thy spirit;” ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ϹΟΙ--“Peace to thee;” EN
ΨΥΧΗΝ ΕΝ ϹΚΗΝΑΙϹ ΑΓΙΩΝ--“God give thy soul rest in the tents of the
holy.” These, it will be perceived, are not intercessions _for_ the
dead, but mere apostrophes addressed _to_ them, as is apparent in the
following: ΖΩΤΙΚΕ ΖΗϹΑΙϹΕΝ (_sic_) ΚΥΡΙΩ ΘΑΡΡΙ, (_sic_)--“Zoticus,
mayest thou live in the Lord. Be of good cheer.” They were no more
prayers for the souls of the departed than is Byron’s verse, “Bright
be the place of thy rest.”

But the wish sometimes takes the form of a prayer _for_ the beloved
one, as ΜΝΗϹΘΗϹ ΙΗϹΟΥϹ Ο ΚΥΡΙΟϹ ΤΕΚΝΟΝ ΕΜ ...--“Remember, O Lord
ΙΝ ☧, (Latin in Greek characters,)--“May the Almighty God Christ         443
refresh thy spirit in Christ.” ΝΗΜΝΗΘΗ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ Ω ΘΕΟϹ ΙϹΤΟΥϹ ΑΓΝΑϹ
(_sic_)--“Remember him, O God, among thy lambs;” ΜΝΗϹΘΗΤΙ ΚΥΡΙΕ ΤΗϹ
of thy servant; give rest to the soul of thy servant in the light, in
the refreshment in Abraham’s bosom:” DOMINE NE ADVMBRETVR SPIRITVS--“O
Lord! let not (this) soul be brought into darkness;” ΜΝΗϹΘΗ ΑΥΤΟΥ Ο
ΘΕΟϹ ΕΙϹ ΤΟΥϹ ΑΙΩΝΑϹ--“May God remember him forever.”[721]

These intense expressions of affection of the ardent Italian
nature[722] that would fain follow the loved object--“though lost to
sight to memory dear”--beyond the barrier of the tomb, are surely a
slight foundation on which to build the vast system of mercenary
masses for the dead. And yet they are the only evidences that keen
Roman controversialists can adduce from these Christian inscriptions
of the first six centuries.[723] And, be it remembered, these
inscriptions were not a formulated and authoritative creed framed by
learned theologians, but the untutored utterances of humble peasants,
many of whom were recent converts from paganism or Judaism, in which     444
religions such expressions were a customary sepulchral formula. The
accompanying examples indicate the prevalence of this practice in
pagan epigraphy: AVE or HAVE VALE--“Hail, farewell;” DI TIBI
BENEFACIANT--“May the gods be good to thee;” OSSA TVA BENE
QVIESCANT--“May thy bones rest well;” SIT TIBI TERRA LEVIS--“May the
earth be light upon thee;” ΧΑΙΡΕ ΕΥΠΛΟΕΙ--ΕΥΔΡΟΜΕΙ--“Rejoice, a safe
voyage, a prosperous journey;” ΕΥΨΥΧΕΙ ΚΥΡΙΑ ΚΑΙ ΔΩΗ ϹΟΙ ΟϹΙΡΙϹ ΤΟ
ΨΥΧΡΟΝ ΥΔΩΡ--“Be of good cheer, O lady, and to thee Osiris give to
quaff the cooling water;”[724] ΕΝ ΜΥΡΟΙϹ ϹΟΙ ΤΕΚΝΟΝ Η ΨΥΧΗ--“In
precious odours be thy soul, my child;” HIC MANES PLACIDA NOCTE
manes rest throughout the placid night, and above thee in her nest may
the Marathonian nightingale sing;” BENE VALEAS MATER ROGAT TE VT ME AD
TE RECIPIAS VALE--“Farewell, thy mother prays, O take me to thyself
again, farewell.”[725] In the Jewish epitaphs these acclamations are
much more common than in the Christian inscriptions. The following is
an example: MARCIA BONA IVDEA DORMITIO IN BONIS--“Marcia, a good
Jewess, thy sleep be among the good.” On many modern Hebrew tombstones
are the words, “Let his soul be bound up in the bundle of life.”

Small wonder, therefore, that those Christian converts who had been
brought up in pagan or Jewish superstition should retain traces of
this ancient custom so congenial to the sympathies of the human heart,
unprescient as they were of the baneful results to which it would
lead. Their freedom of language had not yet been restricted, as Bishop
Kip remarks, to the cold rules of ordinary logic by the fear of deadly   445
heresy. We know, indeed, from the testimony of the Fathers, that
mention of the dead was frequently made in the prayers of the
church. These prayers, however, were often thanksgivings--εὐχὴ
εὐχαριστήριος--for those who were asleep in Christ, or commemorations
of their virtues for the improvement of the living.[726] Many of the
Fathers vigorously protest against the idea that the dead can be
benefitted by any prayers on their behalf, and strongly assert their
changeless state in the other world.[727] The notion, however, of the
efficacy of these prayers gradually crept into the church; but that
they were not conceived to procure remission from purgatorial flames
is evident from the fact that, even at a comparatively late period,
they were offered on behalf of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles,
martyrs, and saints, and even of the Virgin Mary herself, who were all
believed to be in the immediate presence of God. At length even this
tremendous error found entrance into the church, and gave into the
hands of a mercenary hierarchy the keys of heaven and hell.

But in the testimony of the Catacombs is no trace of that torturing
doctrine which hangs the heart on tenter-hooks of dread suspense, and
wrings from the lacerated affections a dole to a hireling priesthood
for the exercise of their ghostly functions in delivering the souls of   446
the departed from burning flame. There is no hint in their cheerful
art and pious epitaphs of the Dantean horrors, the worse than
Sisyphean toil, and torments more dire than those of Tantalus, under
the intense conception of which for centuries the heart of Christendom
was wrung. No; the early church believed the pious dead already to
enjoy the ampler life, the more ethereal air, and sweet beatitude of

Associated with the Romish practice of praying for the dead is that of
praying _to_ them. For this there is still less authority in the
testimony of the Catacombs than for the former. There are, indeed,
indications that this custom was not unknown, but they are very rare
and exceptional. In all the dated inscriptions of the first six
centuries, thirteen hundred and seventy four in number, there is only
_one_ invocation of the departed. It is that of the year 380,
already given, in which from the heart of an orphaned and ignorant[729]
girl, in the hour of her bitter sorrow and bereavement, is wrung the
cry, PRO HVNC VNVM ORA SVBOLEM--“O pray for this, thine only child.”
The few undated inscriptions of a similar character are probably of as
late, or it may be of a much later, date than this; and the invocation
is almost invariably uttered by some relative of the deceased, as if
prompted by natural affection rather than by religious feeling. Thus
we have such examples as the following: PETE PRO FILIIS TVIS--“Pray
(_sic_)--“Entreat and pray for your brothers and children;” ORA PRO      447
NOBIS--“May you live in peace and pray for us;” VIBAS IN DEO ET
ROGA--“May you live in God and pray;” IN ORATIONIBVS TVIS ROGES PRO
NOBIS QVIA SCIMVS TE IN ☧--“In your prayers, pray for us, for we
ΓΛΥΨΑΤΟϹ ΚΑΙ ΓΡΑΨΑΝΤΟϹ--“Dionysius a spotless infant, lies here with
the saints. O remember us also in thy holy prayers; aye, and the
sculptor and writer as well.” The last clause is in smaller characters
as if an afterthought.[730]

These few examples among eleven thousand inscriptions, of which the
greater number are of post-Constantinian date, are a slight foundation
for the vast Roman system of the invocation of saints. “If this
doctrine,” says Bishop Kip, “so much in unison with many of the
deepest feelings of our nature, had been held by the primitive church,
we should have found it written broadly and clearly every-where
through these epitaphs. Its proof would not be left to half a dozen
inscriptions among thousands which plainly declare the reverse.” How
different from these lowly crypts is a modern Romish sepulchral
chapel, with its ceaseless appeals by the dead for the prayers of the    448
living, and by the living for the prayers of the dead; with its
ever-recurring _Orate pro anima_, and _Maria sanctissima, ora
pro nobis_. We search in vain through all the corridors of those
ancient sanctuaries of the Christian faith for a single example of
these now universal Romish formulæ.

The invocation of saints probably sprang from the superstitious
reverence paid to the martyrs after the age of persecution had passed.
_Miserere nostrarum precum_, “Pitying, hear our prayer,” sings
Prudentius at the close of the fourth century in his hymn to St.
martyr, I beseech thee to aid my prayers,” writes Damasus about the
same period in his epitaph on St. Agnes; and in an epitaph on his
PRAESTET MIHI FACVLA LVMEN--“Remember me, O virgin, that by God’s help
your torch may give me light.”

Thus was developed in course of time a vast celestial hierarchy
endowed with the attributes of Deity,[731] usurping the intercessory
office of Christ, and rivalling the polytheism of paganism. The
primitive Fathers repudiated the worship of any saint or angel, or the
intervention of any mediator with God but Christ. “We worship the Son
of God,” write the elders of Smyrna, “but the martyrs we only
love.”[732] “We sacrifice not to martyrs,” says Augustine, “but to the
one God, both theirs and ours;”[733] “nor is our religion,” he           449
indignantly adds, “the worship of dead men.”[734] “It is the devil who
has introduced this homage of angels,” says Chrysostom;[735] and the
Council of Laodicea, (A. D. 361,) forbade their invocation as
idolatrous and a forsaking of Christ.[736]

We now turn from these polemical subjects to the consideration of the
doctrines, common to Christendom, of the trinity of the Godhead and
the divinity of Jesus Christ. We know from ecclesiastical history that
numerous heresies sprang up in the early centuries with reference to
these august themes; but no evidence accuses the church in the
Catacombs of departure from the primitive and orthodox faith in these
important respects. Frequently, indeed, the belief in these cardinal
doctrines is so strongly asserted as to suggest, that it is in
designed and vigorous protest against the contemporary heretical

The doctrine of the essential divinity of the Son of God is repeatedly
and strikingly affirmed. Not only are the symbolical letters Alpha and
Omega often associated with the sacred monogram, in allusion to the
sublime passage in the Revelation descriptive of the eternity of
Christ, but his name and Messianic title are variously combined with     450
that of the Deity so as to indicate their identity. Thus we have the
(_sic_)--VIBAS IN CHRISTO DEO--IN DOMINO IESV--“May you live in God
Christ--in God, the Lord Christ--in Christ God--in the Lord Jesus.” Or
the divine attributes are still more strongly expressed as follows:
ΔΕΟΥϹ ΧΡΙϹΤΟΥϹ ΟΜΝΙΠΟΤΕϹ, (_sic_)--“God Christ Almighty;” DEO SANC
XRO VN LVC, (_sic_)--“God, holy Christ, only light;” DEO SANC ☧
VNI, (_sic_)--“To Christ, the one holy God.” We have seen the
impression in the plaster of a grave whereby some orthodox believer,
probably in protest against the Arian heresy, has “set to his seal”
that “Christ is God.” Fig. 119, page 386.[737]

Mention is made of the three persons of the Trinity separately in
several epitaphs in which the deceased is said to sleep IN DEO--IN       451
CHRISTO--IN SPIRITV SANCTO, and collectively in the following of
CASTITATEM RESPVENS MVNDVM--“Quintilianus, a man of God, holding
fast the doctrine of the Trinity, loving chastity, contemning the
world.” In later examples from Aqueilia and other places we find the
SANCTI--“In the name of the Holy Trinity--of the Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit.”[738]

Patristic evidence informs us that both these doctrines were firmly
held by the primitive Christians. The doxologies, benedictions, and
baptismal formulæ, of the ancient liturgies are all in the name of the
triune God. The divinity of the three persons and at the same time the
unity of the Godhead are distinctly and often asserted. This is also     452
affirmed in frequent Christian inscriptions “to the one God”--DEO
VNO. (_sic_.)

Such, then, is the testimony of the Catacombs concerning the doctrines
of the early believers--a testimony more favourable to the general
character of ancient Christianity than the writings of the Fathers and
ecclesiastical historians of the times; probably, as Dr. Maitland
remarks, because “the sepulchral tablet is more congenial to the
expression of pious feeling than the controversial epistle, or even
the much needed episcopal rebuke.” We know, indeed, from these latter
sources, that heresy, strife, recrimination, and mutual anathemas
early disgraced the religion of peace and love. But no sounds of this
profane controversy disturbed those quiet resting-places of the
Christian dead. The expression of faith and hope and joy and
peace--the peace of God that passeth all understanding--every-where
appears. The stricken and sorrowing believer burst not forth like the
heathen in passionate complainings and impotent rage against the gods,
but bowed in meek submission to _His_ will who doeth all things
well. With devout and chastened spirit he bore the ills of life, and
with calm confidence and holy joy he met the doom of death,

           Not like the quarry slave, at night
     Scourged to his dungeon; but, sustained and soothed
     By an unfaltering trust, approached his grave,
     Like one who wrapped the drapery of his couch
     About him, and lay down to pleasant dreams.[739]

     [693] _Eastern Churches._

     [694] Tertullian says they destroy the soul as fevers do the
     body.--_De Præscrip. Hæreticorum_, c. 2.

     [695] The Gnostic Marcion sought admission to the Roman
     presbytery and Valentine even aspired to the episcopal chair.
     “Speraverat episcopatum Valentinus.”--Tertull., _Adv.
     Valent._, c. iv.

     [696] _Inscriptiones Christianæ Urbis Romæ Septimo Sæculo

     [697] The earlier inscriptions express merely the consular dates,
     and in one instance only, the name and age of the deceased.

     [698] Dr. McCaul remarks the occurrence of a similar expression
     in a pagan inscription given by Muratori, (978, 979,) as follows:
     _D.M. in hoc tumulo jacet corpus exanimis_ (sic) _cujus spiritus
     inter deos receptus est; sic enim meruit_,--“In this tomb lies a
     lifeless body whose spirit is received among the gods, for so it

     [699] The use of _recedo_ in the sense of “to die” is classical;
     but in the above form it is unknown in pagan epigraphy.

     [700] Compare Wesley--
               “There everlasting spring abides,
                  And never-withering flowers.”

     [701] De Rossi thinks _Ancilla Dei_ a proper name.

     [702] The following is the brief biography of some unknown saint
     at Naples: SERVVS DEI ... ET AD VITA (_sic_) PERBENIT
     (_sic_,)--“A servant of God ... and attained unto life.”

     [703] Burgon.

     [704] Of the Antiochene Christians Chrysostom writes: “They say
     not of the departed ‘he is dead,’ but, ‘he is perfected.’”--_Hom._
     in _Matt._, 68.

     [705] _Apol._, c. 48.

     [706] _De Resur. Carn._, c. 9. He mentions the long duration
     of the bones and teeth, and quotes the story of the phoenix as
     an argument in favour of the doctrine, c. 13.

     [707] A spurious epitaph of the fourteenth century, given by
     Maitland, p. 82, as genuine, thus fantastically refers to this
     IMPEDIMENTO FACILIVS RESVRGAM--“I who lived restless, being now
     at length dead, rest unwillingly. Do you ask why I am alone? That
     in the day of Judgment I may more readily rise without

     [708] See also the epitaph given in Book I, chap. iii.--ALEXANDER
     MORTVVS NON EST SED VIVIT SVPER ASTRA--“Alexander is not dead but
     lives above the stars.”

     [709] Similarly the African Christians called their burial places
     _accubitoria_--“sleeping places.”

     [710] Wiseman, _Fabiola_, p. 145. Dr. McCaul, however, regards
     the expression as simply equivalent to buried.

     [711] This phrase is sometimes, though very rarely, inadvertently
     used in Christian epitaphs, as also the expression, Τὸν ἀγρήγορον
     ὕπνον καθεύδει--“Sleeps the sleep that knows no waking.” Of
     somewhat pagan form is the following epitaph of Cardinal
     Porto-Carero at Toledo, _Hic jacet pulvis cinis et nihil_--“Here
     lies dust and ashes, and nothing more.”

     [712] Omnibus a suprema die eadem quæ ante primum, nec magis a
     morte sensus ullus aut corporis aut animæ, quam ante natalem.

     [713] Si quis piorum manibus locus, si non cum corpore
     extinguuntur magnæ animæ, placide quiescas.--_Vit. Agric._

     [714] Esse aliquid manes et subterranea regna,
           Nec pueri credunt, nisi qui nondum ære lavantur.
                                                   --_Sat._, ii, 149.

     [715] See that saddest but most beautiful of the odes of
     Horace--To Delium, II, 3.
                       ... Et nos in æternum
                     Exilium impositura cymbæ.

     [716] In a similar spirit the dying emperor Augustus inquired if
     he had played his part well in the farce of life, and asked the
     applause of his courtiers.
                                      Δότε κρότον
            Καὶ πάντες ὑμεῖς μετὰ χαρᾶς κτυπήσατε.

     [717] The Swedish poet Georg St. Jernhjelm ordered to be written
     on his tomb the pagan sentiment, VIXIT DVM VIXIT LAETVS--“While
     he lived he lived merrily.”

     [718] “God counts even the bristles of the swine,” says
     Tertullian, “much more the hairs of his children.”

     [719] The following proposes a practical test of the existence of
     NOS ET INTELLIGES--“You who read this epitaph and doubt whether
     spirits exist, invoke us, and by our answer you will know.”

     [720] Thus in Rock’s _Hierurgia_, a standard Romanist authority,
     such expressions as REQ IN PACE are explained sometimes in
     defiance of the grammatical construction of the context, as
     signifying “Mayest thou rest,” as if REQVIESCAS, instead of, in
     analogy with numerous other examples, “he rests,”--REQVIESCIT.
     Sometimes the cardinal word is entirely omitted, as in the
     expression, IN PACE ET BENEDICTIONE, which is quite unwarrantably
     translated, “May you rest in peace and benediction.”

     [721] Sometimes the modernized form of the language indicates the
     late origin of _graffiti_ found on ancient monuments, as in the

     [722] The adoring love of Cicero for his daughter found
     expression in the building of a temple to her memory.

     [723] Rock quotes them as “_proof_” that the primitive Christians
     believed that the soul of the deceased might be in an
     intermediate state, where the efficacy of such aspirations could
     reach him, and his spirit could be refreshed and benefitted by
     the supplications of his surviving brethren.--_Hierurgia_, p.
     322. He gives several examples similar to the above; but no
     accumulation of such evidence affords the slightest warrant for
     the corrupt practice of the Church of Rome.

     [724] Burgon.

     [725] _Ibid._

     [726] Ut ex recordatione eorum proficiamus.--_Orig._ in _Rom._,
     xii. These commemorations of the departed were generally
     celebrated on the anniversaries of their death--their birthday as
     it was called--Oblationes pro defunctis pro natalitiis, annua die
     facimus--Tertul., _De Coron. Mil._, c. 3; cf. _De Monogam._,
     c. 10.

     [727] Quando isthinc excessum fuerit, nullus jam locus
     poenitentiæ est, nullus satisfactionis effectus.--Cypr. _ad
     Demet._, § 16; cf. Greg. Naz., _de Rebus suis_, and Hieron. in
     _Galat._, c. 6. The modern Greek church offers prayers for the
     dead without believing in the doctrine of purgatory.

     [728] The doctrine of purgatory was first preached by Gregory the
     Great; and this fiery realm, so rich in revenue of tears and
     blood, was afterward formally annexed to the papal dominions by a

     [729] See the barbarous Latinity of the inscription, p. 426.

     [730] Some of the examples of alleged invocation of saints given
     by Romanist writers are altogether gratuitous assumptions. Thus
     the letters P. T. PR. N. S. have been, without the slightest
     warrant, expanded thus, _Pete pro nobis_, “Pray for us.” Others
     are merely requests to be remembered by the dear departed, as
     ΔΙΟΝΥϹΙΝ ΕΙϹ ΜΝΙΑΝ ΕΧΕΤΕ--“Have ye in remembrance Dionysius.”
     The _graffiti_ of the pilgrims at the shrines of the more
     celebrated martyrs, in which are occasional invocations of the
     dead, are no criteria of primitive belief and practice, for these
     are of every age down to comparatively late mediæval times. The
     example in the text is from Burgon.

     [731]               Qui lumine Christi
           Cuncta et operta vides, longeque absentia cernis.
                                                --Paulin., _Nat._ vi.

     See also the Litany of the Saints in Romish Missal.

     [732] Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ προσκυνοῦμεν τοὺς δὲ μάρτυρας
     ἀγαπῶμεν.--_Euseb._, iv, 35.

     [733] Nec ... sacrificemus martyribus, sed uni Deo et martyrum et
     nostro.--_De Civ. Dei_, 22, 10.

     [734] Non sit nobis religio cultus hominum mortuorum.--_De Ver.
     Relig._, c. 55.

     [735] Ὁ διάβολος τὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων ἐπεισήγαγε.--_Hom._, 9.

     [736] Οὐ δεῖ Χριστιανοὺς ἀγγέλους ὀνομάζειν.--_Can._, 35. The
     “saints” of the primitive church, says Schaff, were the whole
     body of believers, and not a narrow spiritual aristocracy, as in
     the Romish church. The Council of Constantinople, A. D. 712,
     decreed that “Whosoever will not avail himself of the
     intercession of the Virgin Mary, let him be accursed.” “May God
     Almighty forgive your sin by the merits of Our Lady,” said
     Gregory VII. to Beatrice and Matilda.--_Harduin_ vi, 1235.

     [737] We have frequent evidence of the zeal of the early
     Christians in the study of the Scriptures. The Bible was not the
     sealed book that it is in modern Rome. Jerome counsels that it be
     frequently read and scarcely ever laid aside, that it be studied
     not as a task but for delight and instruction, and that some of
     it be learned by heart every day.--Divinas Scripturas sæpius
     lege, imo nunquam de manibus tuis sacra lectio deponatur.--_Ep.
     ad Nepotian._, 7. Non ad laborem, sed ad delectationem et
     instructionem animæ.--_Ep. ad Demetriad._, 15. Nec licebat cuiquam
     sororum ignorare psalmos, et non de Scripturis sanctis quotidie
     aliquid discere.--_Ep. ad Eustoch._, 19.

     We find no traces in the early period of the church of the fierce
     intolerance and dreadful anathemas that mark modern Romanism.
     Tertullian in golden words asserts that liberty of conscience
     which a Dominic and Torquemada afterward so ruthlessly trampled
     under foot. “It is a fundamental human right,” he exclaims, “that
     every man should worship according to his own conviction. It is
     no part of religion to compel religion.”--_Ad Scap._, 2. Compare
     also the wise words of Cassiodorus: “Cum divinitas patiatur
     multas religiones esse, nos unam non audemus imponere. Retinemus
     enim legisse, voluntarie sacrificandum esse domino, non cujusquam
     cogentis imperio.”

     [738] The pagan Lucian satirizes the Christian doctrine of the
     Trinity, “one in three and three in one”--Ἓν ἐκ τριῶν, καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς
     τρία.--_Philopatr._, ad fine. Pliny mentions the Christian
     worship of Christ as God, “Carmenque Christo quasi Deo.”--_Ep. ad
     Had._ In response to the heathen accusation of worshipping a mere
     man, a crucified impostor--ἀνεσκολοπισμένον σοφιστὴν, (Luc., _de
     Mort. Pereg._,) the Christians reply that he is also God: Υἱος καὶ
     πατὴρ εἷς ἄμφω κύριος--Clem., _Paed._, iii, 12; “Deus est
     et Dei Filius, et unus ambo.”--Tertul., _Apol._, 30. In contrast
     to Christian monotheism, Tertullian ridicules the polytheism of
     the heathen, and compares the contests of the gods in Homer to
     those of gladiators.--_Ad. Nat._, 10. Imitating the keen irony of
     Isaiah, he exclaims, “You make a cooking pot of Saturn, a frying
     pan of Minerva. Even the mice gnaw, the spiders defoul your
     gods.”--_Ibid._, ii, 12. The trinity of Plato and the Hindoo
     sages was a mere speculative subtlety. Tertullian spurned the
     fusion of philosophy and Christian doctrine. “Away with such
     mottled Christianity,” he exclaims.--_De Præscrip. Hæret._, c. 7.
     Compare his noble confession of faith in God, the eternal Spirit,
     an incorporeal essence, the true Prometheus who gave order to the
     world, concluding with the noble words, “We say, and before all
     men we say, and torn and bleeding under your tortures we cry out,
     ‘We worship God through Christ.’”--_Apol._, 17-22.

     [739] Bryant’s _Thanatopsis_.

                            CHAPTER III.                                 453


The inscriptions of the Catacombs give us many interesting indications
of the social position, domestic relations, and general character of
the primitive Christians, as well as of their religious belief. They
lift the veil of ages from the buried past and cause it to live again,
lit up with a thousand natural touches which we seek in vain from
books. They bridge the gulf of time, and make us in a sense
contemporaries of the early church. They give us an insight into the
daily life and occupations of the ancient believers, of which no
mention is made in the crowded page of history. The winding Catacombs
are the whispering gallery of the bygone ages. Their humble epitaphs
are echoes thrilling with a deep and tender meaning, too low and
gentle to be heard across the strife of intervening years. In their
touching pathos we seem to hear the sob of natural sorrow for the
loved and lost, “the fall of kisses on unanswering clay,” the
throbbings of the human heart in the hour of its deepest emotion, when
the parting pang unseals the founts of feeling in the soul. We read of
the yearnings of an affection that reaches beyond the grave, and
hungers for reunion with the dear departed above the skies; the
expression of an inextinguishable love that death itself cannot
destroy. We see the emblematic palm and crown rudely scratched upon
the grave wherein the Christian athlete, having fought the fight
and kept the faith, has entered into dreamless rest. We read, too, the   454
records of the worldly rank of the deceased--sometimes exalted, more
often lowly and obscure--frequently accompanied by the emblems of
their humble toil.

The very names written on these marble slabs are often beautifully and
designedly expressive of Christian sentiment or character. Sometimes
the correspondence of name and character is indicated, as in the
following: ΣΙΜΠΛΙΚΙΑ Η ΚΑΙ ΚΑΛΩΝΥΜΟΣ--“Simplicia who was also rightly
so-called;” HIC VERVS QVI SEMPER VERA LOCVTVS--“Here lies Verus, who
ever spoke verity.” These names were frequently assumed in adult age,
when the convert from paganism laid aside his former designation,
often of an idolatrous meaning, in order to adopt one more consistent
with the Christian profession. Thus we have such beautifully
significant names as INNOCENTIA, “Innocence;” CONSTANTIA, “Constancy;”
PRVDENTIA, “Prudence;” DIGNITAS, “Dignity;” DECENTIA, “Comeliness;”
resurrection;” ΠΙΣΤΙΣ, “Faith;” ΕΛΠΙΣ and SPES, “Hope;” ΑΓΑΠΗ, “Love;”
ΕΙΡΗΝΗ, “Peace;” ΑΓΑΘΗ, “Good;” ΕΥΣΕΒΙΟΣ, “Pious;” ΕΥΚΑΡΠΙΑ, “Good
fruit;” PROBVS, “Just;” FELIX, “Happy;” FIDELIS, “Faithful;”
FORTVNATA, “Fortunate;” VERVS, “True;” DIGNVS, “Worthy;” CASTA,
“Pure;” BENIGNVS, “Kind;” NOBILIS, “Noble;” AMABILIS, “Amiable;”
INGENVA, “Sincere;” VENEROSA, “Venerable;” GAVDIOSA, “Rejoicing,”
GRATA, “Pleasing;” CANDIDVS, “Frank;” DVLCIS and ΓΛΥΚΥΣ, “Sweet;”
SEVERA, “grave;” with the comparatives, FELICIOR, NOBILIOR, etc., and
the superlatives, FELICISSIMA, “most happy;” NOBILISSIMA, “most
noble;” FIDELISSIMA, “most faithful;” DIGNISSIMA, “Most worthy;”
DVLCISSIMA, “Most sweet;” and the like.[740]                             455

Sometimes, too, a pious word or phrase was used as a proper name, as
among the ancient Hebrews and the English Puritans. Thus we have such
examples as, QVOD VVLT DEVS, “What God wills;” DEVS DEDIT, “God gave;”
ADEODATVS[741] and ADEODATA, “Given by God;” ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΣ, “God-born;”
ΘΕΟΔΩΡΑ, “God-given;” DEO GRATIA, “Thanks to God;” ΘΕΟΦΙΛΟΣ,
“God-beloved;”[742] RENATVS, “Born again;” REDEMPTVS, “Redeemed;”
ACCEPTISSIMA, “Very well pleasing;” BONIFACIVS, “Well-doer;”
ΕΥΠΡΟΣΔΕΚΤΟΣ, “Accepted” or “Acceptable;” and ΣΩΖΟΜΕΝΗ, “Saved.”[743]
De Rossi thinks that the expressions, ANCILLA DEI, “Handmaid of God;”
and SERVVS DEI, “Servant of God,” are sometimes proper names.

Some of the names in these inscriptions were probably given by the
heathen in reproach and contempt, and were afterward adopted by the
Christians in humility and self-abasement. It is difficult to account
otherwise for such names as, CONTVMELIOSVS, “Injurious;” CALAMITOSA,
“Destructive;” PROIECTVS, “Cast out;” SERVILIS, “Servile;” and           456
especially such opprobrious epithets as FIMUS and STERCORIA, “Dung”
and “Filth.” In the last there may be an allusion to the words of St.
Paul, (1 Cor. iv, 13,) “We are made as the filth of the world, and are
the offscouring of all things unto this day.” Thus the primitive
believers bound persecution as a wreath about their brows, exulted in
the glorious infamy, and made the brand of shame the badge of honour.

A few Scripture names occur, and have a strangely foreign look amid
those of Greek or Latin origin by which they are surrounded. Thus we
have Petrus, Joannes, Paulus, Stephanus, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Susanna,
and Maria. The extreme rarity of the last, however, since so popular
throughout Christendom, is an indication that the homage of the Virgin
Mary is the growth of later times.

The names of animals were often applied to both Christians and pagans,
as Aper, Leo, Leopardus, Porcella, Muscula, Tigris, Ursus, and Ursa;
and some of these we have seen pictorially represented on the
tombs.[744] Other names were derived from the months, as Januarius,
Aprilis, December, etc.; and even from the appellations of the pagan
deities, as Mercurius, Apollinaris, etc. Sometimes the pet name by
which the deceased was familiarly known in life is recorded, as
Agnella, “Little Lamb;” Lepusculus and Leporilla, “Little Hare;”
Rosula, “Little Rose;” Jocundilla, “Merry Little Thing,” etc.[745]

Most of the names, as might be expected, were of classic origin,         457
sometimes indicating alliance with families of senatorial, consular,
or even imperial rank. We find also indications of the custom of
adopting the names of the reigning dynasty. The modern Victorias and
Alberts find their analogues in the Aurelias and Constantias of the
Aurelian and Constantinian periods. The lofty prænomen, nomen, and
cognomen of the pagan epitaphs rarely appear in this Christian series.
Only two or three examples of these triple names occur. Even two names
become uncommon, and persons undoubtedly entitled to these
distinctions of rank were recorded only by a single name. Having
renounced the pride of birth, and place, and power, they laid aside
their worldly titles for the new name given in Christian baptism.
Sometimes the names of the deceased are not recorded in the epitaphs
at all, perhaps, as Fabretti suggests, because they wish them to be
written only in the Book of Life.[746] For the same reason probably,
or from poverty or ignorance, most of the funeral tiles and slabs bear
no inscription whatever.

These inscriptions frequently give intimations of the social rank and
occupations of the deceased. Sometimes the enumeration of titles
indicates exalted position and the holding of important offices of       458
trust. Especially was this the case after the public establishment of
Christianity. Many of the later inscriptions recount in pompous and
inflated terms, strongly contrasting with the brevity and simplicity
of the earlier examples, the civil dignities and distinctions of the
departed. We have already seen the epitaph of an Imperial
Procurator.[747] The following are examples of later date.

     distinguished man, who lived forty-two years, two months. Whilst
     holding the office of Præfect of the City, he, a neophyte, went
     (Constantine) came a stranger to the City, whose first friend was
     this lawyer.” HIC REQVIESCINT (_sic_) IN PACE PRAETEXTATVS |VI| ·
     peace Prætextatus, an illustrious man, ex-quaestor of the Sacred
     Palace, and his daughter Prætextata, a most distinguished woman.”
     DOM--“Julius Felix Valentinianus, a man of the highest
     distinction and consideration,[748] ex-Silentiary of the Sacred
     Palace, ex-Count of the Consistory, Count of the Household
     Troops.” (A. D. 519.)


     A Senator, coming from a long line of ancestors, thou didst
     dignify thy family by nobility of mind, preserving the authority
     of the judge by the power of goodness. Thou wast also a soldier
     with those subject to thee, and Rome rejoicing, was preparing for
     thee the fasces of the city.

We have also such examples as SCRINARIVS PATRICIAE SEDIS, “Secretary     459
of the Patrician order;” PRIMICERIVS MONETARIORVM, “Chief of the
bankers;” ARGENTARIVS, “A money dealer;” VIATOR AD AERARIVM, “Sergeant
to the Exchequer;” PRAEFECTVS ANNONAE, “Prefect of the market;”
VESTITOR IMPERATORIS, “Master of the imperial wardrobe;” MAGISTER
SCOLAE TERTIAE, “Master of the Third School;” MEDICVS, “A physician,”

The great body of the Christians, however, were of lowly rank, many of
them probably slaves, as most of the arts of life were carried on by
that oppressed class. It was the sneer of Celsus that “wool-workers,
leather-dressers, cobblers, the most illiterate of mankind, were
zealous preachers of the Gospel;” but Tertullian retorts that every
Christian craftsman can teach truths loftier than Plato ever
knew.[749] The inscriptions of the Catacombs indicate that not many
wise, not many mighty, joined that phalanx of heroic souls; but they
teach, too, that the lowliest toil may be dignified and ennobled by
being done to the glory of God. We have seen represented on the tombs
emblems of the occupation of the carpenter, mason, currier,
wool-comber, shoemaker, vine-dresser, and fossor. We find also such
records of trade as PISTOR REGIONIS XII, “A baker of the Twelfth
District;” ORTVLANVS, for _hortulanus_, “A gardener;” PATRONVS
CORPORIS PASTILLARIORVM, “Patron of the Corporation of Confectioners;”
PRIMICERIVS CENARIORVM, “Chief of the cooks;” HORREARIVS, “A             460
granary-keeper;” CARBONARIVS, “A charcoal seller;” POPINARIVS, “A
victualler;” BVBVLARIVS DE MACELLO, “A flesher from the shambles;”
CAPSARARIVS (_sic_) DE ANTONINIA, “A keeper of clothes at the Antonine
(_sic_) DE BIA NOBA (_sic_,) “Pollicla, who sells barley in the New
respectable man, a book-keeper in the tavern of Isidorus;” also, less
reputable still, VRBANVS VH. TABERNARIVS, “Urban, a respectable man, a
tavern keeper.” This, however, was in the year A. D. 584, when purity
of faith and practice had greatly degenerated. These lowly records are
preserved and studied with interest, when many of Rome’s proudest
monuments have crumbled away.[750]

Very often some phrase expressive of the Christian character or          461
distinguished virtues of the deceased is recorded in loving
remembrance by his sorrowing friends. These testimonies are calculated
to inspire a very high opinion of the purity, blamelessness, and
nobility of life of the primitive believers; all the more striking
from its contrast with the abominable corruptions of the pagan society
by which they were surrounded. With many points of external
resemblance to heathen inscriptions there is in these Christian
epitaphs a world-wide difference of informing spirit. Instead of the
pomp and pride of pagan panegyric, we have the celebration of the
modest virtues, of lowliness, gentleness, and truth. The Christian
ideal of excellence, as indicated by the nature of the praises
bestowed on the departed, is shown to be utterly foreign to that of
heathen sentiment. The following are characteristic examples:


     Felix of sacred honour, when called away went in peace, whose
     love and affection are so warmly cherished by his friends; who,
     when he was in life was known to all for sympathy with the          462
     afflicted and compassion toward the distressed.

SPECTABILIS ET PENITENS--“He lived in simplicity, a friend of the
poor, compassionate to the innocent, a man of consideration and
FIDEI ET REVERENTIAE DISCIPLINA--“Of youthful age, of spotless
maidenhood, of grave manners, well disciplined in faith and

More frequent than any other expression was the phrase, common also to
pagan epitaphs, BENE MERENTI,--“To the well-deserving,” generally
indicated by the letters B. M. But many others of a more distinctively
Christian character occur, as, SERVVS DEI, FAMVLVS DEI, “Servant of
God;” ΔΟΥΛΟϹ ΠΙϹΤΟϹ ΘΕΟΥ, “Faithful Servant of God;” ΑΓΙΟϹ · ΘΕΟϹΕΒΕϹ,
“A holy worshipper of God;” ΓΛΥΚΕΡΑΝ ΑΓΙΑΝ, “An amiable and
holy person;” SANCTISSIMVS, “A most holy person;” ANIMA DVLCIS ET
INNOCENS, “Sweet and innocent soul;” AMICVS OMNIVM, “Friend of all
men;” ΠΑϹΙΦΙΛΟϹ ΚΑΙ ΟΥΔΕΝΙ ΕΧΘΡΟϹ, “Friend of all and enemy of
none;” SEMPER SINE CVLPA, “Ever without fault;” AMATOR PAVPERVM, “A
lover of the poor;” HOMO BONVS, “A good man;” STVDIOSVS, “Zealous;”
SPIRITO SANCTO, “To a holy soul;” INNOCENTISSIMVS, “A most innocent
person;” and the like. Others are of a more general character, as
HONESTES RECORDATIONES (_sic_) VIR, “A man worthy to be remembered
with honour;” ΑΕΙΜΝΗϹΤΟϹ, “Ever to be remembered;” ΘΕΟΦΙΛΕϹΤΑΤΟϹ,
“The most devout or God-loving;” MIRE (_sic_) SAPIENTIAE, “Of
wonderful wisdom;” LAVDABILIS FEMINA, “A praiseworthy woman;” CONIVX
FEMINAE, “To a most chaste and modest woman;” MIRAE PVLCHRITVDINIS
ATQVE IDONEITATIS, “Of wonderful beauty and ability;” MIRAE
faith, and steadfastness;” SAPIENS PIVS ATQVE BENIGNVS, “Wise, pious,
AMICVS AMICORVM, “A man of sound faith and integrity, of good
judgment, of a sound mind, a friend of his friends;” SVABIS (_sic_)
SEMPERQVE PVDICA VERA LOQVENS, “Agreeable and ever modest, speaking
SAPIENTIAE, “Of remarkable goodness and wonderful modesty, and wise
beyond her years;” ANIMA DVLCIS, INNOCVA (_sic_) SAPIENS ET PVLCHRA,
“A sweet spirit, guileless, wise, beautiful;” AMATRIX PAVPERORVM
(_sic_) ET OPERARIA, “A lover of the poor, and attentive to her work;”
“Faithful in Christ, keeping his commands, devoted in attention to the
PIETATE IVVANS, “A guileless preserver of friendship and observer of
honour, helping the wretched by words and by affectionate care;” TE
HONESTVS, “Thee thy son felt beloved, thy friend attached, thee the
frivolous found stern, but the upright knew to be gentle;” ΕΥΤΕΡΠΕ Η
companion of the Muses, having lived simply, piously, and
irreproachably.” The last is from Sicily, the others are from Rome.
Other examples will be given in treating the domestic and                464
ecclesiastical relations of the primitive Christians.

In these memorials of the departed we have a striking portraiture of
the Christian graces and domestic virtues of the early believers. The
existence of such a pure and blameless community in a base and sensual
age is one of the noblest chapters in the history of the race. It was
also an eloquent protest, a living testimony against the abominations
of pagan society and the manifold corruptions which were in the world
through lust. From these the Christian community recoiled with utter
abhorrence, and, in the early centuries, lived unspotted amid
surrounding pollution.[751]

Although some of the pagan epitaphs betray a light and sportive
epicurean vein even in the solemn presence of death, yet others
indicate an appreciation of the domestic and civic virtues, as in the
FILIOS AVTEM PROCREAVIT VII--“Of wonderful goodness and inimitable
piety, of entire modesty, a woman of rare example, of a chaste,
virtuous, and pious life in all things. She lived with me without any
annoyance of my mind fifteen years, and bore me seven children.”

Often they are expressed with admirable brevity, as, TANTIS VIRTVTIBVS
NVLLVM PAR ELOGIVM, “Of so great virtue there is no equal praise;”
equally in manners and education an example to other women;” DE CVIVS
PVDORE NEMO DICERE POTVIT, “Against whose modesty no one could say
aught;”[752] and this noble testimony to a magistrate, QVID ESSET
MALEDICERE NESCHT NON TANQVAM, “What it was to speak evil he did not
even know.”

But it is especially in the domestic relations that the tender and
pure affections of the Christians are most beautifully exhibited. His
heart must be callous indeed, who can read without emotion these
humble records of love and sorrow, which have survived so many of the
proudest monuments of antiquity. In the hour of tearful parting from
the dearly loved, the richest affections of the soul are breathed
forth, as the flower when crushed exhales its sweetest fragrance.
These rude inscriptions speak to our hearts with a power and pathos
all their own. Their mute eloquence sweeps down the centuries, and
touches chords in every soul that thrill with keenest sympathy. The
far severed ages are linked together by the tale of death and
sorrow--old as humanity yet ever new. The bleaching skeletons in their
stony beds seem clothed again with human flesh and warm with living
love. The beauty and tenderness of Christian family life is vividly
exhibited--the hallowing influence of religion making earthly love the
type of love eternal in the skies. The tie that knits fond hearts
together becomes the stronger as death smites at it in vain. The
language of affection becomes more fervent as the barrier of the grave
is interposed.

Especially is this the case when sorrowing parents mingle their tears    466
at the tiny _loculus_ of their babe, consigned to earth’s cold keeping
from their loving arms--their bud of promise blighted, and hope’s
blossom withered to bloom only in the skies. The warmest expressions
of endearment are lavished on the tombs of little children. Thus we
have such tender epithets as DVLCIOR MELLE, “Sweeter than honey;”
ΓΛΥΚΥΤΕΡΟϹ ΦΩΤΟϹ ΚΑΙ ΖΩΗϹ, “Sweeter than light and life;” AGNELLVS
DEI, “God’s little lamb;” PALVMBVLVS SINE FELLE, “Little dove without
gall;” PARVVLVS INNOCENS, “Little innocent;” MEAE DELICIAE, “My
delight;” DVLCISSIMVS CARISSIMVS, “Most sweet, most dear;” ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ΣΟΙ
ΦΟΡΤΟΥΝΑΤΗ ΘΥΓΑΤΡΙ ΓΛΥΚΥΤΑΤΗ, “Peace to thee, O Fortunata, our very
sweet child;” INNOCENTISSIMO PAVLO QVI · VIX · M · X · D · XIIII, “To
the most innocent Paul, who lived ten months, fourteen days;” ANIMA
DVLCIS INNOCVA SAPIENS ET PVLCHRA, “A sweet spirit, guileless, wise,
and beautiful,” (a child aged three years); MIRAE INNOCENTIAE AC
SAPIENTIAE PVERO, “A boy of wonderful innocence and intelligence,”
(aged four years.) Sometimes a reference is made to the brief sojourn
of the little pilgrim to life’s shores, as PARVM STETIT APVD NOS, “He
stayed but a short time with us.”

The following is from Sicily: ΕΝΘΑΔΕ ΚΙΤΕ (_sic_) ΕΝ ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ΜΑΡΙΑ
she lived a little more than two years (and) finished her course.” Of
another it is said, that she died INTER MANVS PARENTVM, “In the arms
of her parents.” In an epitaph at Naples is the exquisite utterance of
a sorrowing heart: IN SOLIS TV MIHI TVRBA LOCIS, “In lonely places
thou art crowds to me.” Generally, however, the grief of the parents
is speechless, and we read merely, PARENTES FECERVNT FILIAE, “The        467
parents made (this tomb) for their child,” or perhaps, MATER
INCOMPARABILI FILIAE PECIT, “The mother made this for her incomparable

Sometimes the praise of the deceased is more elaborate, as in the
following, which is probably of late date; DALMATIO FILIO DVLCISSIMO
MONSTRATAS SIBI LATINAS--“To Dalmatius, a very sweet son, of the
utmost genius and wisdom, whose unhappy father was not permitted to
enjoy him for seven full years, who, while studying the Greek
language, acquired Latin without being taught.”[753]

Sometimes a natural expression of sorrow occurs, as PARENTES DOLENTES,
“The parents grieving;” PATER INFELIX, “The unhappy father;” CONTRA
PERCVSSI TITVLVM ERIGI IVSSERVNT, “The wretched parents, smitten by
the bitterness of her death, commanded this tablet to be set up,” (A.
D. 464;) EREPTA EX OCVLIS GENITORIS, “Snatched from the eyes of her
grieve for thy (immature) age and pour affectionate tears? In thee was
future hope. Through thee, through thee, O son Celerinus, perennial
glory was expected. Faithful one, thou restest in peace, who lived one
year eight months,” (A. D. 381).

In the following, of later date, the expressions of grief are more
elaborate and artificial, and indicate the influence of pagan thought    468
and diction, especially in the last line:


     “What sweet children, what dear pledges promise, a dire day has
     borne away, and plunged in bitter death. The father and mother,
     together, write these verses on the tomb, in order that to any
     one reading, the image may at once return to the soul, and the
     eyes, long dry, may moisten with tears. Thus love administers
     relief, nor do the spirits care for songs.”

No less fervent expressions of affection are employed toward their
adult offspring by surviving parents. Indeed they are, if possible,
still more intense, as if wrung from the bleeding heart by grief for
the fallen column of the house--the broken staff of their declining
years. In the following, from the Lapidarian gallery, the epithets of
endearment are lavishly heaped upon the beloved object: ADSERTORI
VII · DIEBVS VIII · PATER ET MATER FECER(VNT)--“To Adsertor, our dear,
sweet, guileless, and incomparable son, who lived seventeen years,
seven months, eight days. His father and mother made this.”

Of similar character are the following: PAVLA CLARISSIMA FAEMINA
DVLCIS BENIGNA GRATIOSA FILIA--“Paula, an illustrious woman, a sweet,
kind, and gracious daughter;” NIMIVM CITO DECIDISTI CONSTANTIA MIRVM
Constantia, wonderful (example) of beauty and ability.”

Similar evidences of parental affection and grief occur in pagan
inscriptions, though often overshadowed by a deep and dark despair.      469
Thus we read such tender epithets of little children as FILIAE
prattling, not yet two little years of age;” OBSEQVENTISSIMAE
FILIAE--“To a most obedient daughter;” MATER MOERENS FILIO EX QVO
NIHIL VNQVAM DOLVIT NISI CVM IS NON FVIT--“The grieving mother to her
son, from whom she never received any pain but when he was not,”--that
CONCIPIT--“Her foster-father made this tomb of a little girl. Who does
not moisten his face with tears, compelled by grief? Who does not
cherish sorrow in his bosom?” ADOLESCENTVLAE DVLCISSIMAE PATER
PIISSIMVS ET INFELICISSIMVS FECIT--“To a most sweet young maiden, her
most affectionate and unhappy father gave this tomb;” FLEVIT ET
ASSIDVO MAESTVS VTERQVE PARENS--“Both the sorrowful parents wept

We have also such examples as, MATER AD LVCTVM ET GEMITVM RELICTA EVM
to sorrow and groaning, buried him, moist with tears and balsam, in
yearning for her most affectionate son, hated life, and, fifteen days
after his death, also died.”

Sometimes in their passionate grief the heathen parents reproach
themselves for surviving their children, as in the following.


     The cruel, impious mother, to her dear, most sweet children. The    470
     most unhappy mother, who saw (in theirs) her _own_ most
     cruel death, who, if she had had a propitious deity, ought to
     have suffered this for them--(that is, have died in their stead.)


     Here lies, destroyed by cruel fate, a son, who was my only reason
     for living.

Often the expressions in Christian epitaphs of filial affection to
deceased parents are exceedingly tender and beautiful, as for example:
well-deserving, in peace,” (A. D. 356); TIGRITI BENEMERENTI.... FILIVS
FECI MATRI--“To the well-deserving Tigris.... I, her son, made this
CAVSA AMORIS PATERNI RECORDATIONIS--“This tomb of his father the son
wished to be made on account of his remembrance of paternal
LVGET AMATA DOMVS--“Thee thy parent, thy offspring, thy faithful
consort, thee a loved home, with mingled tears, lament,” (A. D. 533.)


     Alas, O father, ever to be remembered, cause of long grief to me,
     thou didst often desire to die in the arms of thy children, to
     gently pass away in the sweet embrace of thy offspring. These
     wishes the grace of the exalted Christ fulfilled. Happy was thy
     life, and happy also thy passing away.

We find also the epitaphs of foster-parents and adopted children,
showing the exercise, under the influence of Christian sentiment, of     471
the beautiful charity of rescuing foundlings and orphans[754] from
poverty, infamy, or death. The following example is of date A. D. 392:


     “You yourself who reared (us) now occupy a lasting resting-place.
     Here you have reached the end that you deserved, of a course
     fraught with great perils. Here, in happiness, you take the
     repose that age compels. Here is laid foster-father Antimio, who
     lived seventy years.”[755]

The conjugal affections especially have their beautiful and tender
commemoration. The mutual love of husband and wife finds in these
inscriptions affecting record, which attests the happiness of the
marriage relation among the primitive Christians. Frequently the
bereaved husband recounts with grateful recollection the fact that his
wedded life was one of perfect harmony, unmarred by a single jar or      472

The posthumous praise of these Christian matrons recalls the inspired
portraiture of the virtuous woman of Scripture. The intensity of
conjugal grief is shown by the expressions, MALE FRACTVS CONIVX--“The
sore broken husband;” and GEMITV TRISTI LACRIMIS DEFLET--“He bewails
in tears with bitter lamentation.” Often occurs the phrase
INCOMPARABILIS CONIVX--“Incomparable wife,” frequently with the
addition, OPTIMAE MEMORIAE--“Of most excellent memory.” Sometimes
we find the tender expression, with such depth of meaning in its
simple words, QVI AMAVIT ME--“Who loved me;” also the phrase,
CARVS SVIS--“Dear to his friends;” or, PERDVLCISSIMO CONIVGI
SVO--inadequately rendered, “To her most dearest husband.” The
utterance of a grief into the secret of which none can enter but those
who have known its bitterness, is often extremely pathetic.

The spirit of these inscriptions will be best seen in the concrete.
The following are characteristic examples: DEO FIDELIS DVLCIS MARITO
endeared to her husband, the nurse of her family, humble to all, a
lover of the poor;” BIXIT MECVM ANNIS XXII · MENS · IX · DIES V IN
twenty-two years, nine months, five days, during which time it ever
went well with me in her society;” CONIVGE VENERANDE BONE INNOCVA
FLORENTIA DIGNA PIA AMABILIS PVDICA (_sic_)--“To my wife Florentia,
deserving of honour, good, guileless, worthy, pious, amiable, modest.”


     “Here reposes in peace Tertura, an illustrious woman, the sweet
     wife of Petronius, serving God, of matchless faith, a friend of
     peace, adorned with modest manners, affable toward the faithful
     friends of her family, a loving nurse of her children, and never
     bitter to her husband.”


     “This grief will always weigh upon me. May it be granted me to
     behold in sleep your revered countenance. My wife Albana, always
     chaste and modest. I grieve over the loss of your support, whom
     our divine author had given to me as a sacred (boon.)”

In the following a disconsolate husband mourns the wife of his youth
with the pleasing illusion that such love as theirs the world had
my most guileless and sweet wife, who lived sixteen years and four
months, and was married two years, four months, and nine days; with
whom I was not able to live on account of my travelling more than six
months: during this period as I felt and showed my affection no others
ever loved.”[756]

Similar expressions of affection are applied by bereaved wives to        474
their deceased husbands. In the following a widowed heart dwells with
fond complacency on the thought that no rankling recollection of
estranged regard embitters her remembrance of the lost: AGRIPPINA
ANNOS III ET M · X.--“Agrippina made this to her very sweet husband,
with whom she lived, without jarring, three years and ten months.” Of
similar import is this also: DIGNO MERITOQVE IVGALI MEO TETTIO
LXX--“To my husband, Tettius Felicissimus, worthy and deserving, a
deacon. I, Marcia Decentia, inscribed this stone to him (who was) most
sweet to me, on the day of his burial. He lived in honour not less
than seventy years.”

Similar language of mingled love and grief occurs in pagan               475
inscriptions, but without the chastening influence of Christian
resignation. The domestic life of the Romans, especially in the days
of republican simplicity, seems to have been remarkably free from
discord or strife. Thus we find frequent record of over half a century
QVERELA--“Without contention, without emulation, without dissension,
without strife.” With ceaseless iteration the virtues of the deceased
are lovingly recorded, as in the examples which follow: CONIVGEM
a most pious and sweet wife of rarest excellence;” OPTIMA ET
beautiful, a spinner of wool, pious, modest, chaste, home-abiding;”
VXORI OBSEQVENTISSIMAE--“To a most obedient (or obsequious) wife;” T.
Flavius Capito, to his most chaste and pious wife, deserving well of
him, from whom he received no cause of grief, except that of her most
his most dear spouse, on account of his love for whom he swore that he
would have no other wife.” Once we meet the strange remark by a
ET APVD HOMINES--“On the day of whose death I gave the greatest thanks
to gods and men.” It was probably on account of her release from

In the accompanying epitaph a bereaved widow laments her irreparable     476
deeply regretted husband.... For neither do I now see thee, nor is the
affection of thy loving spouse satisfied; and I, a miserable wife,
implore an end of my sorrow.”

Such examples of conjugal affection recall to mind the immortal love
of Alcestis in the Greek myth, dying for her bosom’s lord; and of
Arria, in Roman story, refusing to survive her husband, and having
plunged the dagger into her own breast, with dying smile exclaiming,
_Pæte, non dolet_--“It hurts not, my Pætus.”[757]

Another interesting class of Christian inscriptions are those
commemorating fraternal affection. The following are typical examples:
dearest Jovianus, his most affectionate brothers made this;” ΤΩ
ΜΑΚΑΡΙΩ ΠΑΥΛΩ ΗΔΥΛΑΛΟϹ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΣ--“To the blessed Paul, his brother

In the accompanying poetical tribute to a sister the melancholy
consolation of mourning the lost is beautifully referred to:


     Sister, take these verses, the sad comfort of your brother, who,
     in lonely lamentation, has given these words to you. Reader, if
     you desire to know who is covered by this tomb, she bore names      477
     which told her high descent. She, when alive, always followed, in
     her conduct, Christ, who she believed would be her guide after

Frequently members of the same family were buried in the same
grave--lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death not
divided. Thus we read of a brother and sister who died in one day, and
were buried together--VNA DIE MORTVI ET PARITER TVMVLATI SVNT; of a
certain Antigonus who occupied the same tomb with his sister--LOCVM
HABET CVM SORE (_sic_) SVA; and of a mother who shared her daughter’s
grave--FELICIA CVM FILIA IN PACE; also of Claudia and Julia, who had
secured their places by the side of their sweet friend Calpurnia. The
same custom sometimes obtains in pagan sepulture, as indicated by the
following epitaph of a husband and wife who, not to be divorced even
in death, mingled their ashes in one urn:


     In a prepared rest they join their dear bodies. These are our
     second but our perpetual nuptials.[758]

Sometimes the funeral tablet was erected by the hand of friendship,
probably when there were none of kin to pay this last sad tribute of     478
affection. De Rossi thinks that which follows one of the most ancient
AMICVS KARISSIMVS KARE BALE--“As a resting place for Titus Flavius
Eutychius, his dearest friend, Marcus Orbius, gave this spot.
Farewell, beloved.” One fair friend thus commemorates the loss of
erected this stone to Aurelia Proba.” We find also such expressions
as, “Best friend,” “Dear and faithful companion,” “Constant in love
and truth.” Sometimes a lowly servant or freedman records a master’s
virtues, as in the epitaph of Gordianus, erected by his handmaid
Theophila--ΥΘΦΗΛΑ ΑΝCΗΛΛΑ ΦΕCΙΤ (_sic_); and that of Prosenes,
which Ampelius, his freedman, wrote--SCRIPSIT AMPELIVS LIB. Another
was buried by her sweet and holy nurse in Christ--ΘΡΕΠΤΕΙΡΑΝ ΓΛΥΚΕΡΗΝ

The duration of sickness, or cause of death, is sometimes, though very
rarely, mentioned in Christian inscriptions. Thus we have such
particulars as PERIT IN DIES V--“He died in five days;” ΕΝΟϹΗϹΕΝ
ΗΜΕΡΑϹ ΙΒ--“He was ill twelve days.” A pagan epitaph complains of the
death of the deceased by magical incantations: CARMINIBVS DEFIXA
REDDERETVR--“Overcome by charms she lay at times dumb, so that her
spirit was torn from her by force rather than given back to nature.”
Another was snatched away while she too sedulously nursed a sick
husband--DVM FOVIT NIMIA SEDVLITATE VIRVM. Another died of internal
burnings, which medical skill was powerless to cope with--ARDENTES
after long and various infirmities she is freed from human
EST.[759] Like this is the expression in a Christian epitaph--POST
VARIAS CVRAS POST LONGAE MVNERA VITAE--“After various cares, after the
duties of a long life.”

The same spirit which thus commemorated the departed would lead also
to the decoration of their sepulchres with pious frescoes or elaborate
sculpture, limned or carved often as a last offering of love by the
hand of affection or of friendship--now for fifteen centuries kindred
dust with that whose resting-place it so fondly sought to beautify.

We should do scant justice, however, to the blameless character,
simple dignity, and moral purity of the primitive Christians, as
indicated in these posthumous remains, if we forgot the thoroughly
effete and corrupt society by which they were surrounded. It would
seem almost impossible for the Christian graces to grow in such a
fetid atmosphere. Like the snow-white lily springing in virgin purity
from the muddy ooze, they are more lovely by contrast with the
surrounding pollutions. Like flowers that deck a sepulchre, breathing
their fragrance amid scenes of corruption and death, are these holy
characters, fragrant with the breath of heaven amid the social
rottenness and moral death of their foul environment.

It is difficult to imagine, and impossible to portray, the abominable
pollutions of the times. “Society,” says Gibbon, “was a rotting,
aimless chaos of sensuality.” It was a boiling Acheron of seething
passions, unhallowed lusts, and tiger thirst for blood, such as never
provoked the wrath of heaven since God drowned the world with water,     480
or destroyed the Cities of the Plain by fire. Only those who have
visited the secret museum of Naples, or that house which no woman may
enter at Pompeii, and whose paintings no pen may describe; or who are
familiar with the scathing denunciations of popular vices by the Roman
satirists and moralists and by the Christian Fathers, can conceive the
appalling depravity of the age and nation. St. Paul, in his epistle to
the church among this very people, hints at some features of their
exceeding wickedness. It was a shame even to speak of the things which
were done by them, but which gifted poets employed their wit to
celebrate. A brutalized monster was deified as God, received divine
homage,[760] and beheld all the world at his feet and the nations
tremble at his nod, while the multitude wallowed in a sty of

Christianity was to be the new Hercules to cleanse this worse than
Augean pollution. The pure morals and holy lives of the believers were
a perpetual testimony against abounding iniquity, and a living proof
of the regenerating power and transforming grace of God. For they
themselves, as one of their apologists asserts, “had been reclaimed
from ten thousand vices.”[762] And the Apostle, describing some of the
vilest characters, exclaims, “Such were some of you, but ye are
washed, ye are sanctified.” They recoiled with the utmost abhorrence
from the pollutions of the age, and became indeed “the salt of the       481
earth,” the sole moral antiseptic to prevent the total disintegration
of society.

The Christians were daily exposed to contact with idolatry. The whole
public and private life of the heathen was pervaded with the spirit of
polytheism. Idolatrous usages were interwoven with almost every act.
The courts of justice, the marts of trade, the highways and gardens,
the fountains and rivers, the domestic hearth, and the very doors and
hinges, were under the protection of their respective deities. The
implements of labour, the household utensils, the military ensigns,
the achievements of art, the adornments of beauty, were all
consecrated to idol worship. The daily meals and rites of hospitality,
the social banquets and public amusements, the common language and
salutations of friendship, had all a religious significance.

The Christians were therefore especially exhorted to “keep themselves
from idols.” They believed that their images were the abodes of dæmons
who delighted in the reek of blood and the fetid odour of sacrificial
flesh.[763] Against image-makers the severest ecclesiastical censures
were denounced. They were the foster fathers of devils,[764] to whom
they offered not the sacrifice of a beast, but immolated their mind,
poured the libation of their sweat, kindled the torch of their
thought, and slew the richer and more precious victim of their
salvation.[765] The believers might not wreath their gates, nor
illuminate their houses, nor attend the public festivals, nor witness
a sacrifice, nor accept a heathen salutation, nor sell incense, nor
eat meat polluted with idolatrous lustration.[766] Thus amid pagan       482
usages and unspeakable moral degradation the Christians lived: a holy
nation, a peculiar people. “We alone are without crime,” says
Tertullian; “no Christian suffers but for his religion.” “Your prisons
are full,” says Minutius Felix, “but they contain not one Christian.”
And these holy lives were an argument which even the heathen could not
gainsay. The ethics of paganism were the speculations of the
cultivated few who aspired to the character of philosophers. The
ethics of Christianity were a system of practical duty affecting the
daily life of the most lowly and unlettered. “Philosophy,” says Lecky,
“may dignify, but is impotent to regenerate man; it may cultivate
virtue, but cannot restrain vice.”[767] But Christianity introduced a
new sense of sin and of holiness, of everlasting reward, and of
endless condemnation. It planted a sublime, impassioned love of Christ
in the heart, inflaming all its affections. It transformed the
character from icy stoicism or epicurean selfishness to a boundless
and uncalculating self-abnegation and devotion.[768]

This divine principle developed a new instinct of philanthropy in the
soul. A feeling of common brotherhood knit the hearts of the believers
together. To love a slave, to love an enemy! was accounted the
impossible among the heathen; yet this incredible virtue they beheld
every day among the Christians. “This surprised them beyond measure,”
says Tertullian, “that one man should die for another.”[769] Hence, in   483
the Christian inscriptions no word of bitterness even toward their
persecutors is to be found. Sweet peace, the peace of God that passeth
all understanding, breathes on every side.

One of the most striking results of the new spirit of philanthropy
which Christianity introduced is seen in the copious charity of the
primitive church. Amid the ruins of ancient palaces and temples,
theatres and baths, there are none of any house of mercy. Charity
among the pagans was, at best, a fitful and capricious fancy. Among
the Christians it was a vast and vigorous organization, and was
cultivated with noble enthusiasm. And the great and wicked city of
Rome, with its fierce oppressions and inhuman wrongs, afforded amplest
opportunity for the Christ-like ministrations of love and pity. There
were Christian slaves to succour, exposed to unutterable indignities
and cruel punishment, even unto crucifixion for conscience’ sake.
There were often martyrs’ pangs to assuage, the aching wounds
inflicted by the rack or by the nameless tortures of the heathen to
bind up, and their bruised and broken hearts to cheer with heavenly
consolation. There were outcast babes to pluck from death. There were
a thousand forms of suffering and sorrow to relieve, and the
ever-present thought of Him who came, not to be ministered unto but to
minister, and to give his life a ransom for many, was an inspiration
to heroic sacrifice and self-denial. And doubtless the religion of
love won its way to many a stony pagan heart by the winsome spell of
the saintly charities and heavenly benedictions of the persecuted
Christians. This sublime principle has since covered the earth with
its institutions of mercy, and with a passionate zeal has sought out     484
the woes of man in every land, in order to their relief. In the
primitive church voluntary collections[770] were regularly made for
the poor, the aged, the sick, the brethren in bonds, and for the
burial of the dead. All fraud and deceit was abhorred, and all usury
forbidden. Many gave all their goods to feed the poor. “Our charity
dispenses more in the streets,” says Tertullian to the heathen, “than
your religion in all the temples.”[771] He upbraids them for offering
to the gods only the worn-out and useless, such as is given to
dogs.[772] “How monstrous is it,” exclaims the Alexandrian Clement,
“to live in luxury while so many are in want.”[773] “As you would
receive, show mercy,” says Chrysostom; “make God your debtor that you
may receive again with usury.”[774] The church at Antioch, he tells
us, maintained three thousand widows and virgins, besides the sick and
poor. Under the persecuting Decius the widows and infirm under the
care of the church at Rome were fifteen hundred. “Behold the treasures
of the church,” said St. Lawrence, pointing to the aged and poor, when
the heathen prefect came to confiscate its wealth. The church in
Carthage sent a sum equal to four thousand dollars to ransom Christian
captives in Numidia. St. Ambrose sold the sacred vessels of the church
of Milan to rescue prisoners from the Goths, esteeming it their truest
consecration to the service of God. “Better clothe the living temples
of Christ,” says Jerome, “than adorn the temples of stone.”[775] “God
has no need of plates and dishes,” said Acacius, bishop of Amida, and
he ransomed therewith a number of poor captives. For a similar purpose
Paulinus of Nola sold the treasures of his beautiful church, and it is   485
said even sold himself into African slavery.[776] The Christian
traveller was hospitably entertained by the faithful; and before the
close of the fourth century asylums were provided for the sick, aged,
and infirm. During the Decian persecution, when the streets of
Carthage were strewn with the dying and the dead, the Christians, with
the scars of recent torture and imprisonment upon them, exhibited the
nobility of a gospel revenge in their care for their fever-smitten
persecutors, and seemed to seek the martyrdom of Christian charity,
even more glorious than that they had escaped.[777] In the plague of
Alexandria six hundred Christian _parabolani_ periled their lives
to succour the dying and bury the dead.[778] Julian urged the pagan
priests to imitate the virtues of the lowly Christians.

Christianity also gave a new sanctity to human life, and even
denounced as murder the heathen custom of destroying the unborn child.
The exposure of infants was a fearfully prevalent pagan practice,
which even Plato and Aristotle permitted. We have had evidences of the
tender charity of the Christians in rescuing these foundlings from
death, or from a fate more dreadful still--a life of infamy.
Christianity also emphatically affirmed the Almighty’s “canon ’gainst
self-slaughter,” which crime the pagans had even exalted into a
virtue. It taught that a patient endurance of suffering, like Job’s,
exhibited a loftier courage than Cato’s renunciation of life.

Out of eleven thousand Christian inscriptions of the first six
centuries, scarce half a dozen make any reference to a condition of
servitude, and of these, as Dr. Northcote remarks, two or three are      486
doubtful. Yet of pagan epitaphs at least three fourths are those of
slaves or freedmen. The conspicuous absence of recognition of this
unhappy social distinction is no mere accident. We know that the
Christians were largely drawn from the servile classes, but in the
church of God there was no respect of persons. The gospel of liberty
smote the gyves at once from the bodies and the souls of men. In
Christ Jesus there was neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free. The
wretched slave, in the intervals of toil or torture, caught with joy
the emancipating message, and sprang up enfranchised by an
immortalizing hope. Then “trampled manhood heard and claimed his
crown.” The victim of human oppression exulted in a new-found liberty
in Christ which no wealth could purchase, no chains of slavery fetter,
nor even death itself destroy. To him earth’s loftiest palace was but
a gilded prison of the soul, his lowly cot became the antechamber of
the skies, and his emancipated spirit passed from his pallet of straw
to the repose of Abraham’s bosom.

In the Christian church the distinctions of worldly rank were
abolished.[779] The highest spiritual dignities were open to the
lowliest slave. In the ecclesiastical hierarchy were no rights of
birth, and no privileges of blood. In the inscriptions of the
Catacombs no badges of servitude, no titles of honour appear. The
wealthy noble--the lord of many acres--recognized in his lowly servant
a fellow-heir of glory. They bowed together at the same table of the
Lord, saluted each other with the mutual kiss of charity, and side by
side in their narrow graves at length returned to indistinguishable
dust. The story of Onesimus may have often been repeated, and the        487
patrician master have received his returning slave, “not now as a
servant, but above a servant--a brother beloved.” Nay, he may have
bowed to him as his ecclesiastical superior, and received from his
plebeian hands the emblems of their common Lord. The lowly arenarii
and fossors, the rude Campagnian husbandmen and shepherds, and they
“of Cæsar’s household,” met in common brotherhood, knit together by
stronger ties than those of kinship or of worldly rank, as heirs of
glory and of everlasting life.

The condition of the slave population of Rome was one of inconceivable
wretchedness. Colossal piles built by their blood and sweat attest the
bitterness of their bondage. The lash of the taskmaster was heard in
the fields, and crosses bearing aloft their quivering victims polluted
the public highways. Vidius Pollio fed his lampreys with the bodies of
his slaves. Four hundred of these wretched beings deluged with their
blood the funeral pyre of Pedanius Secundus. A single freedman
possessed over four thousand of these human chattels. They had no
rights of marriage nor any claim to their children. This dumb,
weltering mass of humanity, crushed by power, led by their lusts, and
fed by public dole, became a hot-bed of vice in which every evil
passion grew apace. The institution of slavery cast a stigma of
disgrace on labour, and prevented the formation of that intelligent
middle class which is the true safeguard of liberty. Christianity, on
the contrary, dignified, ennobled, and in a sense hallowed labour by
the example of its Divine Founder. It consecrated the lowly virtues of
humility, obedience, gentleness, patience, and long-suffering, which
paganism contemned. It did not, indeed, at once subvert the political
institution of slavery, but it mitigated its evils, and gradually led    488
to its abolition.

One of the noblest triumphs of Christianity was its suppression of the
bloody spectacles of the amphitheatre. The early Christians had good
reason to regard with shuddering aversion those accursed scenes within
that vast Coliseum which rears to-day its mighty walls, a perpetual
monument of the cruelty of Rome’s Christless creed. Many of their
number had been mangled to death by savage beasts or still more savage
men, surrounded by a sea of pitiless faces, twice eighty thousand
hungry eyes gloating on the mortal agony of the confessor of Christ,
while not a single thumb was reversed to make the sign of mercy.[780]
There the maids and matrons, the patricians and the “vile plebs” of
Rome, enjoyed the grateful spectacle of cruelty and blood. Even
woman’s pitiful nature forgot its tenderness, and the honour was
reserved for the vestal virgin to give the signal for the mortal
stroke that crowned the martyr’s brow with fadeless amaranth. These
hateful scenes, in which the spectacle of human agony and death became
the impassioned delight of all classes, created a ferocious thirst for
blood and torture throughout society.[781] They overthrew the altar of
pity, and impelled to every excess and refinement of barbarity. Even
children imitated the cruel sport in their games, schools of
gladiators were trained for the work of slaughter, and women fought in
the arena, or lay dead and trampled in the sand.

From the very first Christianity relentlessly opposed this horrid        489
practice, as well as all theatrical exhibitions. The mingled cruelty,
idolatry, and indecency of the performances were obnoxious alike to
the humanity, the piety, and the modesty of the Christians.[782] They
were especially included in the pomps of Satan which the believer
abjured at his baptism. Hence their abandonment was often regarded as
a proof of conversion to Christianity. The theatre was the devil’s
house, and he had a right to all found therein.[783] Christianity,
soon after it ascended the throne of the Cæsars, suppressed the
gladiatorial combats. The Christian city of Constantinople was never
polluted by the atrocious exhibition. A Christian poet eloquently
denounced the bloody spectacle, and a Christian monk, at the cost of
his life, protested, amid the very frenzy of the conflict, against its
cruelty. His heroic martyrdom produced a moral revulsion against the
practice, and the laws of Honorius, to use the language of Gibbon,
“abolished forever the human sacrifices of the amphitheatre.”

It is remarkable that so few references to military life occur in
Christian epitaphs, whereas they form a prominent feature in those of
heathen origin. In ten thousand pagan inscriptions analyzed by M. Le     490
Blant, over five hundred, or, more precisely, 5·47 per cent., were of
military character; while in four thousand seven hundred of Christian
origin, most of which were after the period of Constantine, only ·57
per cent., were military, or one tenth the proportion of those among
the pagans. But even if in the army, the Christians, whose higher
dignity was that of soldiers of Christ, would be less likely than the
heathen to mention it in their epitaphs. Although Tertullian inveighs
against the military service,[784] he yet admits that the Christians
engaged in that as well as in other pursuits,[785] and asserts that
they were found even in the camps.[786] It is probable, however, that
the number in the army was insignificant, and these, it is most
likely, were converted after their enlistment. There could be little
affinity between the bronzed and hardened ruffians who were the
instruments of the reigning tyrant’s cruelty, and the meek and gentle
Christians. We know that the latter had often to choose between the
sword and the gospel; and many resigned their office, and even
embraced martyrdom, rather than perjure their consciences.[787] They
could not take the military oath, nor deck their weapons with laurel,
nor crown the emperor’s effigy, nor celebrate his birthday, nor observe
any other idolatrous festival. Hence they were accused of the dreaded    491
crime of treason, and announced as the enemies of Cæsar and of the
Roman people.[788] Tertullian repels the charge, and demonstrates
their loyalty to the emperor and to their country.[789]

Feeling that their citizenship was in heaven, the Christians took no
part in the troubled politics of earth. “Nothing is more indifferent
to us,” says Tertullian, “than public affairs.”[790] If only their
religious convictions were unassailed they would gladly live in quiet,
unaffected by civic ambition or by worldly strife. “Themselves half
naked,” sneered the heathen, “they despise honours and purple
robes.”[791] But although accused of being profitless to the
state,[792] they were nevertheless diligent in business while fervent
in spirit. “We are no Brahmins or Indian devotees,” says their great
apologist, “living naked in the woods, and banished from civilized
life.”[793] They were no drones in the social hive, but patterns of
industry and thrift. Inspired with loftier motives than their heathen
neighbours, they faithfully discharged life’s lowly toils, sedulously
cultivated the private virtues, and followed blamelessly whatsoever
things were lovely and of good report.

In nothing, however, is the superiority of Christianity over paganism
so apparent as in the vast difference in the position and treatment of
woman in the respective systems. It is difficult to conceive the
depths of degradation into which woman had fallen when Christianity
came to rescue her from infamy, to clothe her with the domestic          492
virtues, to enshrine her amid the sanctities of home, and to employ
her in the gentle ministrations of charity. The Greek courtesan, says
Lecky, was the finest type of Greek life--the one free woman of
Athens. But how world-wide was the difference between the Greek
_hetæra_--a Phryne or an Aspasia, though honoured by Socrates and
Pericles--and the Christian matrons Monica, Marcella, or Fabiola. So
much does woman owe to Christianity! In Rome her condition was still
worse. The heathen satirists paint in strongest colours the prevailing
corruptions, and the historians of the times reveal abounding
wickedness that shames humanity. The vast wealth, the multiplication
of slaves, the influx of orientalism with its debasing vices, had
thoroughly corrupted society. The relations of the sexes seemed
entirely dislocated. The early Roman ideas of marriage were forgotten;
it had no moral, only a legal character. Woman, reckless of her “good
name,” had lost “the most immediate jewel of her soul.” The Lucretias
and Virginias of the old heroic days were beings of tradition. A
chaste woman, says Juvenal, was a _rara avis in terra_. The Julias and
Messalinas flaunted their wickedness in the high places of the earth,
and to be Cæsar’s wife was _not_ to be above suspicion. Alas, that in
a few short centuries Christianity should sink so low that the
excesses of a Theodora should rival those of an Agrippina or a Julia!
Even the loftiest pagan moralists and philosophers recklessly
disregarded the most sacred social obligation at their mere caprice.
Cicero, who discoursed so nobly concerning the nature of the gods,
divorced his wife Terentia that he might mend his broken fortunes by
marrying his wealthy ward. Cato ceded his wife, with the consent of
her father, to his friend Hortensius, taking her back after his death.   493
Woman was not a _person_, but a _thing_, says Gibbon. Her rights and
interests were lost in those of her husband. She should have no
friends nor gods but his, says Plutarch. It was the age of reckless
divorce. In the early days of the Commonwealth there had been no
divorce in Rome in five hundred and forty years. In the reign of Nero,
says Seneca, the women measured their years by their husbands, and not
by the consuls. Juvenal speaks of a woman with eight husbands in five
years;[794] and Martial, in extravagant hyperbole, of another who
married ten husbands in a month.[795] We must also regard as an
exaggeration the account given by Jerome of a woman married to her
twenty-third husband, being his twenty-first wife.[796]

Nevertheless, God did not leave himself without a witness in the
hearts of the people; and we have seen many illustrations of conjugal
happiness in previous inscriptions.[797] But Christianity first taught
the sanctity of the marriage relation, as a type of the mystical union
between Christ and his church; and enforced the reciprocal obligation
of conjugal fidelity, which was previously regarded as binding on
woman alone. In their recoil from the abominable licentiousness of the
heathen, the Christians regarded modesty as the crown of all the
virtues, and against its violation the heaviest ecclesiastical
penalties were threatened. This regard was at length intensified into
a superstitious reverence for celibacy.[798]

The absolute sinfulness of a divorce was maintained by the early         494
councils.[799] The Fathers admit of but one cause, that which Christ
himself assigns, as rendering it lawful.[800] They also denounced
second marriage, or bigamy, as it was called, which excluded from the
clerical order, and from a share in the charities of the church.[801]
The marriage relation was regarded as the union of two souls for time
and for eternity.[802]

The church, following the principle laid down by St. Paul, strongly      495
opposed mixed marriages with the heathen; and the Fathers denounced
them as dangerous and immoral. Cyprian regards them as a prostitution
of the members of Christ.[803] Tertullian also designates them
spiritual adultery.[804] Where conversion occurred after marriage, the
Christian partner was exhorted, in the spirit of the apostolic
counsel, to strive by gentleness and love to win the unbelieving
companion to Christ. Thus Monica, the mother of Augustine, and
Clotildis, the wife of Clovis, both brought their heathen husbands to
embrace Christianity.

The rites and benedictions of the church were early invoked to give
sanction to Christian marriage;[805] and doubtless in the dim recesses
of the Catacombs, and surrounded by the holy dead, youthful hearts
must have plighted their troth, and been the more firmly knit together
by the common perils and persecutions they must share. Here, too, the
wedded pair may have paced the silent galleries, by holy converse
inspired with stronger faith and more fervent love. How sweet must
discourse of heaven have been in those sunless depths of earth! How      496
thrilling those partings when before another meeting each might win a
martyr’s crown.

When the church emerged from the Catacombs the marriage rites assumed
a more festive character, and were frequently attended with nuptial
processions, songs, music, and feasting. Some of the gilded glasses
previously described seem to commemorate these occasions. Thus we
occasionally find representations of the man and woman standing with
clasped hands before the marriage altar, while Christ crowns the newly
wedded pair. Sometimes the glass used in the marriage rite was
immediately broken, as if to denote the transient nature of even the
highest human bliss. The innocent festivities of these occasions
gradually degenerated into convivial excesses; and, in conformity to
heathen usages, were contaminated by licentiousness of speech and
action unbecoming to Christian modesty. These abuses called for the
strong denunciations of the Fathers and the early councils, and at
length the clergy were forbidden to attend such festivals. The early
Christians were required, in all their entertainments and festivals,
by temperance,[806] by purity, by piety, to adorn the doctrines of the
Gospel. Prayer hallowed their daily lives, and every act was done to
the glory of God.

In their apparel and households the primitive believers were patterns
of sobriety and godliness. The pomps and vanities of the world were
renounced at their baptism. They eschewed all sumptuous and gaudy
clothing as unbecoming the gravity and simplicity of the Christian
character. Although many by social rank were entitled to wear the        497
flowing Roman toga, yet by most it was regarded as too ostentatious in
appearance; and, disdaining all assumption of worldly honour, they
wore instead the common pallium or cloak. They rejected also, as the
epicurean enticements of a world the fashion whereof was passing away,
the luxurious draperies, the costly cabinets and couches, the golden
vessels and marble statuary that adorned the abodes of the wealthy

The strong instinct of the female mind to personal adornment was
suppressed by religious convictions and ecclesiastical discipline; and
Christian women cultivated rather the ornament of a meek and quiet
spirit than the meretricious attractions of the heathen. “Let your
comeliness be the goodly garment of the soul,” says Tertullian. “Be
arrayed in the ornaments of the apostles and prophets, drawing your
whiteness from simplicity, your ruddy hue from modesty, painting your
eyes with bashfulness, your mouth with silence, implanting in your
ears the word of God, fitting on your neck the yoke of Christ. Clothe
yourself with the silk of uprightness, the fine linen of holiness, the
purple of modesty, and you shall have God himself for your lover and

“Let woman breathe the odour of the true royal ointment, that of
Christ, and not of unguents and scented powders,” writes Clement of
Alexandria, warning the faithful against another heathen practice.
“Let her be anointed with the ambrosial chrism of industry, and find
delight in the holy unguent of the Spirit, and offer spiritual
fragrance. She may not crown the living image of God as the heathen      498
do dead idols. Her fair crown is one of amaranth, which groweth not on
earth, but in the skies.”[808] The simple and modest garb of the
Christian matron is exhibited in many of the representations of
_oranti_, or praying figures, in the chambers of the Catacombs. See
one beautiful example from a sarcophagus in Fig. 88.

With the corruption of the church and decay of piety under the
post-Constantinian emperors came the development of luxury and an
increased sumptuousness of apparel. The refined classic taste was
lost, and barbaric pomp and splendour were the only expression of
opulence. The mosaics in the vestibules of the more ancient basilicas,
and an occasional representation from the Catacombs of the period of
their latest occupation, illustrate the increased luxury of dress. The
primitive simplicity has given place to many-coloured and embroidered
robes. The hair, often false, was tortured into unnatural forms, and
raised in a towering mass on the head, not unlike certain modern
fashionable modes, and was frequently artificially dyed. The person
was bedizened with jewelry--pendents in the ears, pearls on the neck,
bracelets and a profusion of rings on the arms and fingers. St. Jerome
inveighs with peculiar vehemence against the attempt to beautify the
complexion with pigments. “What business have rouge and paint on a
Christian cheek?” he asks. “Who can weep for her sins when her tears
wash bare furrows on her skin? With what trust can faces be lifted to
heaven which the Maker cannot recognize as his workmanship?”[809] The
mosaic portrait of St. Agnes is richly adorned with gems, and even the   499
earliest examples of the Madonna is bedizened in Byzantine style with
a necklace of pearls.[810] The following engraving from D’Agincourt
illustrates the tasteless drapery and coiffure which awakened such
intense patristic indignation.

  [Illustration: Fig. 129.--Bellicia fedelissima virgo qve vixit annos
   xviii, (_sic._)

     Belicia, a most faithful virgin who lived eighteen years.]

The simplicity of the funeral rites of the primitive Christians is
indicated by the character of the sepulchral monuments of the
Catacombs. No “storied urn or animated bust,” nor costly mausolea,
were employed to commemorate those who slept in Christ. A narrow
grave, undistinguished from the multitude around save by the name of
the deceased, or by the emblem of his calling, or symbol of his faith,
and most frequently not even by these, sufficed, in the earlier and      500
purer days of the church, for the last resting-place of the saints. As
wealth increased and faith grew cold, more attention was given to the
external expression of grief or regard for the departed; and the
chambers, at first rudely hewn from the tufa, became ornamented with
stucco and frescoes, and lined with marble slabs, and the inscriptions   501
became more turgid and artificial. The superstitious veneration paid
to the relics of the saints in later days led to the adornment of
their sepulchres; and during the period of the temporal supremacy of
Christianity, the posthumous ostentation of the rich was manifested in
their costly sarcophagi and funeral monuments.[811]

All immoderate grief for the departed was regarded as inconsistent
with Christian faith and hope. “Our brethren are not to be lamented
who are freed from the world by the summons of the Lord,” says
Cyprian, “for we know they are not lost, but sent before us. We may
not wear the black robes of mourning while they are already clothed
with the white raiment of joy. Nor may we grieve for those as lost
whom we know to be living with God.”[812] Nay, the day of their death
was celebrated as their _Natalitia_, or their true birthday--their
entrance into the undying life of heaven. The primitive believers were
not, however, insensible to natural affection, as many of the
inscriptions already given fully prove; but they were sustained by a
lofty hope and serene confidence in God.

The early Christian burial rites were entirely different from the pomp
and pageantry of grief which characterized pagan funerals. When the
spirit had departed, the body was washed with water and robed for the
grave in spotless white, to represent, Chrysostom suggests, the soul’s
putting on the garment of incorruption. In later times costly robes of   502
silk and cloth of gold were employed for the burial of the wealthy,
against which practice Jerome strongly inveighs. “Why does not your
ambition cease,” he exclaims, “in the midst of mourning and tears?
Cannot the bodies of the rich return to dust otherwise than in
silk?”[813] The body was also frequently embalmed, or at least
plentifully enswathed with myrrh and aromatic spices, after the manner
of the burial of Our Lord. This was especially necessary in the
Catacombs on account of the frequent proximity of the living to the
dead. We find frequent allusions to this practice in the Fathers.[814]
It was a pagan reproach that the Christians bought no odours for their
persons nor incense for the gods.[815] “It is true,” says Tertullian,
“but the Arabs and Sabeans well know that we consume more of these
costly wares for our dead than the heathen do for the gods.”[816]

The nearest relatives or pious friends bore the corpse to the grave,
and committed it as the seed of immortality to the genial bosom of the
earth, often strewing the body with flowers, in beautiful symbolism of
the resurrection to the fadeless summer of the skies.[817] In times of   503
persecution the privilege would often be purchased with money of
gathering the martyrs’ mangled remains, and bearing them by stealth,
along the pagan “Street of Tombs,” to the silent community of the
Christian dead.[818] Instead of employing the pagan _nænia_, or
funeral dirge, and _proeficæ_, or hireling mourners, the Christians
accompanied the dead to their repose with psalms and hymns,[819]
chanting such versicles as, “Return to thy rest, O my soul;” “I will
fear no evil, for thou art with me;” “Blessed are the dead that die in
the Lord.”[820] Frequently, as will be hereafter seen, the _agape_ or
eucharist was celebrated at the grave.

The heathen buried their dead by night on account of the defilement
the very sight of a funeral was supposed to cause. The Christians
repudiated this idolatrous notion, and, except when prevented during
times of persecution, buried openly by day, that the living might be
reminded of their mortality and led to prepare for death.

We have thus seen the immense superiority, in all the elements of
true dignity and excellence of primitive Christianity to the corrupt     504
civilization by which it was surrounded. It ennobled the character and
purified the morals of mankind. It raised society from the ineffable
slough into which it had fallen, imparted tenderness and fidelity to
the domestic relations of life, and enshrined marriage in a sanctity
before unknown. Notwithstanding the corruptions by which it became
infected in the days of its power and pride, even the worst form of
Christianity was infinitely preferable to the abominations of
paganism. It gave a sacredness previously unconceived to human life.
It averted the sword from the throat of the gladiator, and, plucking
helpless infancy from exposure to untimely death, nourished it in
Christian homes. It threw the ægis of its protection over the slave
and the oppressed, raising them from the condition of beasts to the
dignity of men and the fellowship of saints. With an unwearied and
passionate charity it yearned over the suffering and sorrowing
every-where, and created a vast and comprehensive organization for
their relief, of which the world had before no example and had formed
no conception. It was a holy Vestal, ministering at the altar of
humanity, witnessing ever of the Divine, and keeping the sacred fire
burning, not for Rome, but for the world. Its winsome gladness and
purity, in an era of unspeakable pollution and sadness, revived the
sinking heart of mankind, and made possible a Golden Age in the future
transcending far that which poets pictured in the past. It blotted out
cruel laws, like those of Draco written in blood,[821] and led back      505
Justice, long banished, to the judgment seat. It ameliorated the
rigours of the penal code, and, as experience has shown, lessened the
amount of crime. It created an art purer and loftier than that of
paganism; and a literature rivaling in elegance of form, and
surpassing in nobleness of spirit, the sublimest productions of the
classic muse. Instead of the sensual conceptions of heathenism,
polluting the soul, it supplied images of purity, tenderness, and
pathos, which fascinated the imagination and hallowed the heart. It
taught the sanctity of suffering and of weakness, and the supreme
majesty of gentleness and ruth.

     [740] Some of these occur also on pagan tombs.

     [741] This, it will be remembered, was the name of Augustine’s
     son, whose early death he so pathetically laments.

     [742] Compare also the classic names Diodorus, Herodotus,
     Athenadorus, Heliodorus, Apollodorus, Isidorus--the gift of Zeus,
     of Here, of Athene, of the Sun, of Apollo, of Isis; and Diogenes,
     Hermogenes--born of Zeus, of Hermes; also the beautiful German
     names Gottlieb, Gottlob--Beloved of God, Praise God, etc.

     [743] Compare the Puritan names: Accepted, Redeemed, Called, More
     Fruit, Kill Sin, Fly Debate, and even lengthy texts of Scripture.
     See Neal’s _Puritans_, ii, 133, third foot note. In New England
     graveyards may still be found such names as Assurance, Faith,
     Hope, Charity, Patience, Perseverance, and all the cardinal
     virtues, together with Tribulation, and others still more
     ominous. Mr. Wellbeloved is the name of a living person. See also
     the French _Bien Aimé_, etc.

     [744] Compare the funeral totems, the beaver, the bear, or eagle,
     of the American Indians. The Greeks also had similar names:
     Lycos, a wolf; Moschos, a calf; Corax, a raven; Sauros, a lizard,

     [745] Sometimes a sort of pun or play upon words occurs, as the
     DVLCIOR VSQVE--“Here lies Glyconis. She was sweet by name,
     her disposition also was even sweeter.” HEIC EST SEPVLCHRVM
     PVLCRVM PVLCRAE FEMINAE--“Here is the beautiful tomb of a
     beautiful woman.” Much of the paronomasia is lost in translation.
     Another conceit is giving the name of the deceased acrostically
     in the initial letters of the lines, an invariable symbol of
     degraded taste. See De Rossi, No. 677, A. D. 432.

     A few examples of Gothic names occur, as Bringa, Uviliaric,
     Erida, (is it Freda?) Ildebrand. In Gaul these are more striking,
     as Ingomir, Hagen, and the like.

     [746] Quia solum in libro vitæ describi avebant.--_Inscrip.
     Antiq._, p. 545.

     [747] See chap. ii, p. 419.

     [748] Various titles of honour occur in these epitaphs, generally
     applied to the Consuls, occasionally to the deceased, and
     indicated by initial letters as above, and as follows: VI., _Vir
     Illustris_, “An Illustrious Man;” VD., _Vir Devotus_, or
     _Devotissimus_, “A Devout, or Very Devout Man;” VC., _Vir
     Clarissimus_, FC., _Femina Clarissima_, “A Most Distinguished Man
     or Woman;” VH., _Vir Honestus_, FH. _Femina Honesta_, “An
     Honourable Man or Woman;” VSP., _Vir Spectabilis_, “A Very
     Notable Man;” VP., _Vir Perfectissimus_, “A Most Eminent Man;”
     VD., _Vir Doctissimus_, “A Most Learned Man.”

     [749] _Apol._, 46.

     [750] It may not be uninteresting to notice some of the trades
     and occupations mentioned in pagan epitaphs. They are of a much
     wider range than those of the Christians, indicating that the
     latter were a “peculiar people,” excluded from many pursuits on
     account of their immoral or idolatrous character. Besides
     occupations like those above mentioned, we find such examples as
     QVADRIGARIVS, “A charioteer;” CVRSOR, “The runner;” MAGISTER
     LVDI, “Master of the Games;” MINISTER POCVLI, “Toast master;”
     DOCTOR MYRMILON, “Teacher of the gladiators,” DERISOR, or SCVRRA
     CONVIVIORVM, “Buffoon, or clown of the revels;” STVPIDVS GREGIS
     VRBANAE, “Clown of the city company of mountebanks.” We have also
     “Commissioner of the Hadriatic Company;” CVRATOR ALVEI ET RIPARVM
     MARIS, “Curator of the river channel and sea banks;” MENSOR
     PVBLICVS, “Public measurer;” VILICVS SVPRA HORTOS, “Steward over
     gardens;” CAESARIS PRAESIGNATOR, “Imperial Notary;” INVITATOR,
     “Agent.” We notice, too, others, as NVMVLARIVS, “A banker;”
     EXONERATOR CALCARIVS, “Lime dealer;” LANARIVS, “Wool-worker;”
     “Salt and wine merchant;” CVBICVLARIVS, “Keeper of the Couch;”
     SVTORIAE, “Shoemaker’s furnisher;” FVNARIVS, “Rope maker;”
     NEGOTIATOR LENTIC · ET CASTRENIAR · “A Camp Grocer and Sutler;”
     REDEMPTOR AB AERE, “Contractor in Brass;” FABER FERRARIVS, “Iron
     Worker;” NEGOTIATOR LVGDVNENSIS ARTIS, “A Dealer in Lyons wares,”
     not silks, as the phrase would now mean, but pottery; EXACTOR
     TRIBVTORVM, “Tax gatherer;” and the FANATICVS in the temple of
     Isis, _i. e._, one hired to stimulate the zeal of the votaries by
     wild and frantic gestures, attributed to the inspiration of the
     deity. We find also epitaphs of actors, dancers, pantomimists, of
     one of whom, a young girl, it is said, CVIVS IN OCTAVA LASCIVIA
     SVRGERE MESSE COEPERAT--a horrible circumstance to mention on her

     [751] Tertullian bases his apology for the Christians on the
     blamelessness of their character, refutes the accusations against
     them, and challenges proof. The unworthy members of the
     community, he says, are only as moles or freckles on the body, or
     as a fleecy cloud on a sunny sky, affecting not its general
     character.--_Ad Nationes_, 5.

     [752] Compare, in Propertius’ elegy on Cornelia, the line

               Viximus insignes inter utramque facem.

     “I lived spotless from the kindling of my marriage torch to that
     which lit my funeral pyre.”

     [753] The text and translation are as given by Burgon.

     [754] Dr. Northcote indeed asserts that “there are actually more
     instances of _alumni_ among the sepulchral inscriptions of
     the Christians than among the infinitely more numerous sepulchral
     inscriptions of the pagans.” (Page 136.) The accompanying Greek
     examples are characteristic of the class: ΠΡΟΚΛΗ ΘΡΕΠΤΗ, “To
     Procla, an adopted daughter;” ΠΕΤΡΟϹ ΘΡΕΠΤΟϹ ΓΛΥΚΥΤΑΤΟϹ ΕΝ ΘΕΩ,
     “Peter, a most sweet adopted son, in God.”

     The titles _mamma_ and _tata_, sometimes in their diminutive
     forms _mamula_ and _tatula_, equivalent to our mamma and papa,
     occur in Christian and pagan epitaphs.

     [755] The expression _papasantimio_ was erroneously translated
     “most holy Pope” by Paoli and Fea, but their mistake was long
     since pointed out. Maitland, and Bishop Kip who followed him,
     fell into the same error. De Rossi severely criticises the former
     as “most ignorant of the whole controversy, known even to
     blear-eyed and barbers.”--Totius controversiæ, vel lippis ac
     tonsoribus notæ, ignarissimus.--_Inscrip. Antiq._, p. 177. The
     translation above given is that of Dr. McCaul.

     [756] This example and translation are from Maitland. It will be
     observed that Domnina must have been married before her
     fourteenth birthday. Several notices of early marriages occur, as


     “Viscilius to Nice, his rib, who was of thirty-one years (of age)
     more or less, of which she passed with me fifteen years.” The use
     of _costa_ for _uxor_ is doubtless an allusion to Genesis ii, 21.
     We read also of Felicissima, QVAE VIXIT ANNVS LX · QVAE FECIT CVM
     VIRO SVO ANNVS XLV--“Who lived sixty years, who passed with her
     husband forty-five years;” and of Januaria, L · F · QVAE VIXIT PL
     · M · ANN · XXVIII · C · MARITV · FEC ANN XV · M · XI · D · X--“A
     praiseworthy woman, who lived twenty-eight years, more or less;
     she passed with her husband fifteen years, eleven months, ten
     days.” She was, therefore, married when about twelve years of
     age. The earliest date of marriage we have noticed is the
     MENSES VIIII · DIES XVII.--“Virginius, to the well-deserving
     Constantia, his chaste consort, with whom he lived eight years,
     who lived eighteen years, nine months, seventeen days.” She was
     less than eleven years old when married. It must be borne in
     mind, however, that marriage still occurs at a very early age in
     these southern latitudes, as both sexes attain nubile years much
     sooner than in northern climates. But this precocious maturity is
     followed, especially in females, by a premature decline. Like the
     brilliant flowers of their own fervid clime, they early bloom and
     quickly fade.

     [757] We have also illustrations of the fatal facility of divorce
     under the Empire, and of the domestic strife and crime resulting
     therefrom. In the following epitaph a discarded wife laments the
     murder of her child by the usurper of her rights: MATER FILIO
     most affectionate son, the wretched mother, plunged in perpetual
     grief by the poison of his step-mother, (raised this slab.)”
     There is also a curious inscription, written jointly by two
     living husbands to the same deceased wife, in which she is
     designated, CONIVX BENE MERENTA (_sic_)--“A well-deserving
     consort.” Another slab is dedicated to both the wife and the
     concubine--VXORI ET CONCVBINAE--of a Roman lictor.

     [758] In like manner, with more tender sentiment than we would
     have expected in the stolid monarch, George II. was, in
     accordance with his own request, laid in death beside his good
     and gentle consort long deceased, and the partition between them
     removed, “that their dust might blend together.”

     [759] Several of these examples are translated from Kenrick.

     [760] While yet alive, Domitian was called, Our Lord and
     God--_Dominus et Deus noster_.

     [761] A licentious poet, recognizing this moral corruption as the
     cause of national decay, exclaims:

               Hoc fonte derivata clades
               In patriam populumque fluxit.

     [762] Origen, _Contra Cels._, i, 67. Cf. Jus. Mar., _Apol._, ii,
     61, and Tert. _Apol._, and _Ad. Nat._, passim.

     [763] Tertul., _Apol._, 22.

     [764] Fabri deorum vel parentes numinum.--Prudentius,
     _Peristeph._, Hymn x, 293.

     [765] Tertul., _De Idol._, vi.

     [766] The martyr Lucian chose to die rather than to eat things
     offered to idols.

     [767] _Hist. of Eur. Morals_, ii, 34.

     [768] The _Pædagogus_ of Clement of Alexandria was prepared
     as a guide or “Instructor” to those who were striving to free
     themselves from pagan customs, and to conform their lives to the
     Christian character.

     [769] _Apol._, c. 39.

     [770] Nemo compellitur, sed sponte confert.--_Apol._, c. 39.

     [771] _Ibid._, 42.

     [772] _Ibid._, 14.

     [773] _Pædag._, ii, 13.

     [774] _Hom._ in 2 Tim.

     [775] _Epitaph. Paulæ._

     [776] Greg., _Dial._, iii.

     [777] _Vita Cypr._

     [778] Euseb., _H. E._, ix, 8.

     [779] Apud nos inter pauperes et divites, servos et dominos,
     interest nihil.--Lactant., _Div. Inst._, v. 14, 15.

     [780] The arena, once crimson with human gore, is now consecrated
     by the cross of Christ, and a Christian service is weekly
     celebrated on the spot where a pagan emperor sought to crush the
     infant church.

     [781] Under Trajan, renowned for his clemency, ten thousand men
     fought in the games which lasted one hundred and twenty-three
     days. To stimulate the jaded minds of the spectators men were
     impaled, crucified, and burned to death.

     [782] The _De Spectaculis_ of Tertullian is an elaborate argument
     concerning the idolatrous origin and character of the theatre. He
     describes, in language applicable to much of the “sport” of
     modern times, the human wild beasts, passion-blind, agitated by
     bets, and out of themselves with excitement. “You have nobler
     joys,” he says to the Christians. “Be startled at God’s signal,
     roused at the angel’s trump, glory in the palms of martyrdom.
     Would you have blood too? There is Christ’s,” (sec. 29.) “He
     expatiates on the grandeur of the spectacle when the world, hoary
     with age, shall be consumed; contrasts with the theatre the sight
     of poets, players, philosophers, and kings in agonies and flames;
     and exults in the triumph of Christ,” (sec. 30.)

     [783] Tertul., _De Spectac._, sec. 26.

     [784] _De Idol._, c. 19.

     [785] Navigamus ... et militamus, et rusticamus, et
     mercamur.--_Apol._ c. 42.

     [786] Implevimus ... castra ipsa.--_Ibid._, c. 37. The story of
     the Thundering Legion, composed entirely of Christians, is unable
     to withstand the destructive criticism of modern times. The
     following is the epitaph of a military commander: VITALIANVS
     MAGISTER MILITVM, QVIESCIT IN DOMINO. We have already seen that
     of an officer--DVX MILITVM--who suffered martyrdom under Adrian.

     [787] Euseb., _H. E._, viii, 4. No one in either the civil
     or military service of the emperor was eligible for ordination
     even as a deacon.--Bingham, _Orig. Eccl._, iv, 3, sec. 1.

     [788] Hostes Cæsarum, hostes populi Romani.--_Celsus_, lib.

     [789] Christianus nullius est hostis, nedum imperatoris.--_Ad
     Scapulum_, i.

     [790] Nec ulla res aliena magis quam publica.--_Apol._, c. 38.

     [791] Honores et purpuras despiciunt ipsi seminudi.--In _Munic.
     Felix_, viii.

     [792] Infructuosi in negotiis dicimur.--Tert., _Apol._, 42.

     [793] _Ibid._

     [794] Sat., vi, 20.

     [795] Epig., vii, 6.

     [796] Epist., cxi.

     [797] The names of Penelope, Andromache, Alcestis, and Antigone
     will be forever illustrious types of the domestic virtues.

     [798] The Fathers frequently contrasted the few heathen vestal
     virgins with the multitude of Christian celibates. The Christian
     emperors and the early councils resolutely repressed harlotry,
     drunkenness, wanton dancing, and immodest plays and books.

     [799] Conc. Nic., 8; Ancyra, 19; Laodic., 1; Neo Caes., 3.

     [800] Tertul., _Contr. Marc._, iv, 34, etc.

     [801] Tertullian wrote a special treatise on the subject--_De
     Monogamia_. The injunction that a bishop should be the husband of
     _one_ wife was regarded as a prohibition of a second marriage.
     Some of the Fathers, however, dissented from this view, as
     Hermes, (_Pastor_, ii, 4); Augustine, (_De Bono Viduitatis_, 12).
     On many pagan tombs occurs the word _univiræ_--“Once married.”
     There are several examples of wives in the prime of their youth
     and beauty devoting themselves to retirement on the death of
     their husbands, as the wives of Pompey, of Drusus, and of Lucan.

     [802] The beauty and dignity of Christian wedlock are nobly
     expressed by Tertullian in the following passage, addressed to
     his own wife: “How can I paint the happiness,” he exclaims, “of a
     marriage which the church ratifies, the sacrament confirms, the
     benediction seals, angels announce, and our heavenly Father
     declares valid! What a union of two believers--one hope, one vow,
     one discipline, one worship! They are brother and sister, two
     fellow-servants, one spirit and one flesh. They pray together,
     fast together, exhort and support one another. They go together
     to the house of God, and to the table of the Lord. They share
     each other’s trials, persecutions, and joys. Neither avoids nor
     hides any thing from the other. They delight to visit the sick,
     succour the needy, and daily to lay their offerings before the
     altar without scruple or constraint. They do not need to keep the
     sign of the cross hidden, nor to express secretly their Christian
     joy, nor receive by stealth the eucharist. They join in psalms
     and hymns, and strive who best can praise God. Christ rejoices at
     the sight, and sends his peace upon them. Where two are in his
     name he also is; and where he is, their evil cannot come”--_Ad
     Uxorem_, ii, 8. He thus describes the difficulties which a
     Christian woman married to an idolater must encounter in her
     religious life: “At the time for worship the husband will appoint
     the use of the bath; when a fast is to be observed he will invite
     company to a feast. When she would bestow alms, both safe and
     cellar are closed against her. What heathen will suffer his wife
     to attend the nightly meetings of the church, the slandered
     supper of the Lord, to visit the sick even in the poorest hovels,
     to kiss the martyr’s chains in prison, to rise in the night for
     prayer, to show hospitality to stranger brethren?”--_Ibid._

     [803] Jungere cum infidelibus vinculum matrimonii prostituere
     gentilibus membra Christi.

     [804] _Ad Ux._, ii, 2-9. Jerome says that women married to
     heathen become part of that body whose ribs they are.--_Cont.
     Jovin._, i, 5.

     [805] Secret marriages were forbidden, nor might this union take
     place without the approbation of the earthly as well as of the
     heavenly parent.--Tert., _Ad. Ux._, ii, 9.

     [806] “Guard against drunkenness as against hemlock,” says
     Clement of Alexandria, “for both drag down to death.”--_Pædag._,
     i, 7.

     [807] _De Cultu Feminarum_, ii, 3-13: “The wife should weave
     her own apparel,” says Clement of Alexandria, referring to Prov.
     xxxi, 10-31. This is also the etymological meaning of the English
     word wife.

     [808] _Pædag._, ii, 8.

     [809] _Ep._ 54: “Polire faciem purpurisso” he exclaims, “et
     cerusa ora depingere, ornare crinem, et alienis capillis turritam
     verticem struere.” Cyprian suggests that the Almighty might not
     recognize them at the resurrection. They should not dye their
     hair or clothes, as violating the saying that “thou canst not
     make one hair white or black;” and God had not made sheep scarlet
     or purple.--_De habitu Virginum_, 14-16. “Nevertheless,” says
     Clement, “they cannot with their bought and painted beauty avoid
     wrinkles or evade death.” Tertullian denounces their
     flame-coloured heads, “built up with pads and rolls, the slough
     perhaps of some guilty wretch now in hell.”--_De Velendis
     Virginibus_, ii, 17. “One delicate neck,” he says, “carries about
     it forests and islands”--_saltus et insulæ_; that is, their
     price.--_Ibid._, i, 9. At the court of the Eastern Empire,
     effeminacy and oriental luxury still further degraded the
     Christian character. Clement of Alexandria denounces with
     indignation the extravagance and vice of the so-called Christian
     community of that city. The wealth that should have been devoted
     to the poor was expended in gilded litters and chariots, splendid
     banquets and baths, in costly jewelry and dresses. Wealthy
     ladies, instead of maintaining widows and orphans, wasted their
     sympathies on monkeys, peacocks, and Maltese dogs.--_Pæd._, iii,
     4. “Riches,” he adds, “is like a serpent which will bite unless
     we know how to take it by the tail.”--_Ibid._, 6. He compares the
     Alexandrian women to “an Egyptian temple, gorgeous without, but
     enshrining only a cat or crocodile: so beneath their meretricious
     adorning were concealed vile and loathsome passions.” The
     sumptuary laws of the Theodosian code prohibited the use of gold
     brocade or silken tissue, (x, tit. 20; xlv, 10.)

     [810] See Fig. 90. See also _oranti_ in Fig. 82.

     [811] This lapidary extravagance was censured, as seeming to
     imply that the sepulchres were the receptacles of the souls
     rather than of the bodies.--Ambr., _De Bono Mortis_.

     [812] Cypr., _De Mortal._, 20. See also Augustine’s pathetic
     account of the death of his mother, Monica--Premebam oculos ejus
     et confluebat in præcordia moestitudo ingens,
     etc.--_Conf._, ix, 12.

     [813] Father Marchi found, along with some charred bones,
     supposed to be relics of St. Hyacinth, some threads of gold
     tissue, as if the martyr’s remains had been wrapped in this
     costly material. He also perceived an aromatic odour on opening
     some graves. Occasionally large lumps of lime have been found
     bearing the marks of the linen in which they were wrapped. Its
     caustic nature would hasten the destruction of animal tissue.

     [814] An cadavera divitum nisi in serico putrescere
     nesciunt.--_Vit. Pauli._ Arringhi has a chapter on the
     subject, (lib. i, c. 23,) Cadavera unguentis et aromatibus

     [815] Non corpus odoribus honestatis.--Ap., _Minuc._, p. 35.
     Jerome urges the substitution of the balsam of alms-deeds and

     [816] Thura plane non emimus, etc.--_Apol._, 42. “You expect
     your women will bury your body with ointments and spices,” said
     the heathen judge to the martyr Tarachus; to prevent which he
     condemned him to be burned.

     [817] In later times similar rites were paid to the tomb. “We
     will adorn the hidden bones,” sings Prudentius, “with violets and
     many a bough; and on the epitaphs and the cold stones we will
     sprinkle liquid odours.”--_Cathem._, x.

     [818] See Euseb., _H. E._, vii, 16 and 22. They were often
     denied the privilege.--_Ibid._, v, 1. Eutychianus, a Roman
     Christian, is said to have buried three hundred and forty-two
     martyrs with his own hands.

     [819] Ψάλλοντες προπέμπετε αὐτοὺς, κ. τ. λ.--_Constit. Apos._,
     vi, 30. Hymnos et Psalmos decantans, etc.--Hieron., _Vit. Pauli_.

     [820] Chrys., _Hom._, 4, _in Hebr._ The following inscription
     indicates that the corpse was sometimes brought to the Catacombs
     some time before burial; probably immediately after death, as in
     Italy it is now taken to the church. _Pecora dulcis anima benit
     in cimitero Marturorum, vii, idus Jul. Dp. Postera die_--“Pecora,
     a sweet soul, came (was brought) to the cemetery of the martyrs
     on the 9th of July; was buried the following day.”

     [821] The Christian emperors prohibited the branding of felons on
     the forehead on the ground “that the human countenance, formed
     after the image of heavenly beauty, should not be defaced.” They
     also exempted widows and orphans from taxation, and contributed
     to their support.

                            CHAPTER IV.                                  506


We gain from the testimony of the Catacombs most important information
as to the organization of the church during the early Christian
centuries. We see on every side records of an efficient ministry of
different grades and dignities, yet wholly unlike that vast
hierarchical system which claims to be its lineal descendant. We
discern also evidences of a well-ordered administration of the
sacraments and ordinances of religion, simple and unadorned, yet
instinct with spiritual life and power, compared with which the
gorgeous ritual and lifeless pomp of Romanism are more akin, in
outward form at least, to the pagan homage of the Bona Dea, or to the
mysteries of Mithras, than to Christian worship. So complete is this
testimony as to the ministry and rites of the primitive church, that
Dr. Northcote remarks that, “even if all the writings of the Fathers
had altogether perished, we might almost reconstruct the whole fabric
of the ecclesiastical polity from the scattered notices of these
sepulchral inscriptions.”[822]

The somewhat complex ecclesiastical organization which we discover was
probably a gradual development with the growth of the church, and not
in its entirety the creation of the earliest times; the inscriptions
referring to the subject, it must be remembered, being all or chiefly    507
of post-Constantinian origin. The earlier books of the Apostolical
Constitutions, which are probably of the second century, say almost
nothing about the different grades of the ministry; but in the later
ones, probably of the fifth century, a full blown sacerdotalism
appears. Cornelius, bishop of Rome in the middle of the third century,
records the existence of a graduated clergy like that indicated in the
inscriptions of the Catacombs,[823] whose gradations Clement of
Alexandria compares to the different ranks of the hierarchy of

The highest office in the church of the Catacombs was that of the
bishop--the chief pastor[825] or overseer of the flock of Christ. But
this position was rather a preeminence of toil and peril than of
dignity and honour. The supreme head of the Roman hierarchy, who lays
claim to the attributes of deity himself, and sits in the seat of God
as his vicegerent and infallible representative on earth, finds no
precedent for his lofty assumptions in his humble predecessors of the
primitive ages. These were in reality what he is only in
name--_servi servorum Dei_. Even the title of bishop occurred but
seldom. Neither Bosio, Fabretti, Boldetti, nor any other of the early
explorers of the Catacombs, found a single example of it. The tomb of
the first Roman bishop bore simply the name LINVS. In the so-called
“papal crypt” the title first appears, but in the contracted form,       508
ΕΠΙ and ΕΠΙϹ, and without any symbol of superior dignity whatever. The
name of a bishop was first made a note of time in the latter part of
the fourth century, as in the epigraphic formulæ _Sub Liberio
Episcopo_--_Sub Damaso Episcopo_--During the episcopate of Liberius,
(A. D. 350-366,) of Damasus, (A. D. 366-384.) But this distinction was
also conferred on other bishops than those of Rome. Thus, in the year
A. D. 397, we find the expression _Pascasio Episcopo_. Now, as there
was no Roman bishop of that name, Pascasius must have presided over
some of the adjacent sees, of which we know that there were many
independent of Rome.[826]

The word _papa_, or pope, does not occur in the Catacombs till at        509
least the latter part of the fourth century. It appears first spelled
_pappas_, and applied to Damasus, in the margin of an inscription by
that bishop, in honour of Eusebius.[827] But De Rossi admits that this
is a badly executed reproduction, of the sixth or seventh century, of
a previous inscription; so this title may very well belong to that
late period. This is all the more probable from the phraseology of the
very first line of this inscription: DAMASVS EPISCOPVS FECIT EVSEBIO
EPISCOPO ET MARTYRI--“Damasus, bishop, (not pope,) to Eusebius, bishop
and martyr.” Hilary (461-467) calls himself bishop and servant of
Christ--“_Episcopus et famulus Christi._” In an epitaph of A. D. 523,
Hormisdas is called merely DOMINVS PAPA--that is, “honoured father,”
or “pope,” which is probably the first application of this phrase in
Christian epigraphy. In another, of date A. D. 563, John III. is
designated as the “most blessed father John”--_Beatissimus papa

But even this title, invested with such awful dignity and supreme
authority in later days, was at first only an expression of familiar
and affectionate respect, not peculiar to the bishop of Rome, nor
indeed first applied to him. Its earliest use is attributed to
Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, in the latter part of the third         510
century.[829] The Roman clergy address the bishop of Carthage in their
letters as “the blessed pope Cyprian.”[830] Tertullian applies the
name to any Christian bishop.[831] Jerome addresses Augustine, bishop
of the little African diocese of Hippo, as the _Beatissimus papa
Augustinus_,[832] and applies the same phrase to the superior of a

The rapid extension of Christianity in the metropolis of the empire
enhanced the influence and dignity of the Roman bishops.[834] With the
increase of wealth and decay of piety these dignitaries became
ambitious and worldly, arrogant and aspiring, and laid the foundations
of that vast system of spiritual despotism which for centuries crushed
the civil and religious liberties of Europe. Nevertheless, as late as
the end of the sixth century, Gregory the Great, although zealous for
the episcopal dignity, resents the claim of John of Constantinople
to the title of oecumenical bishop in the striking words: “This I        511
declare with confidence, that whoso designates himself universal
priest, or, in the pride of his heart, consents to be so named, he is
the forerunner of Antichrist.”[835] His successors of Rome have not
shrunk from this malediction, but, in assumption of this universal
supremacy, have placed their feet on the neck of kings, parcelled out
empires, and conferred crowns at their pleasure.[836]

The next rank in ecclesiastical dignity was that of the Presbyters.[837]
There was not that distinction in the primitive ages between their
office and that of the bishops that afterward arose. Bishop Pearson      512
represents their power and dignity as greater the nearer we ascend to
the apostolic times. Their principal functions were the administration,
in association with the bishops, of the sacraments, the enforcement of
discipline, the preaching of the word, and the pastorate of the
church. Their epitaphs in the Catacombs and basilicas are frequently
very brief, as the following: LOCVS GERONTI PRESB--“The place of
(_sic_)--“Here is placed Leontius, a presbyter.” Sometimes the title
is expressed in a contracted form, thus: HIC QVIESCIT ROMANVS PBB. QVI
SEDIT PBB · ANN · XXVIII · M · X.--“Here reposes Romanus, a presbyter,
who sat a presbyter twenty-eight years ten months.”[838] Boldetti
gives the epitaph of ACATIVS PASTOR, who was probably a presbyter, his
title expressing his pastoral office. The following, of date A. D.
471, which is more elaborate than usual, is of some historical


     Felix, the presbyter, placed here, reposes in peace, whose pure
     faith, probity, sagacious vigilance, when known, so pleased the
     illustrious Leo of the pontiffs,[840] that, repairing the roof of   513
     the venerable St. Paul’s after its fall, he trusted to him the
     renewal of the hall of so great a work.

It appears that sometimes the primitive presbyters engaged in secular
callings. Thus, an inscription from the Catacomb of Callixtus reads,
ΔΙΟΝΥϹΙΟϹ ΠΡΕϹΒΥΤΕΡΟϹ ΙΑΤΡΟϹ--“Dionysius, presbyter and physician.”
Another, of date A. D. 533, commemorates a deacon, who was also,
perhaps before ordination, a senator and soldier. One found in Galatia
presbyter and silversmith.” Hyacinthus, a Roman presbyter of the third
century, was also an officer of the imperial household. Tertullian
complains that some engaged in idolatrous trades were promoted to
ecclesiastical offices.[841] Eusebius mentions a presbyter of Antioch
who was head-master of one of the principal schools of the city.[842]
Sozomen tells of bishops Zeno and Spiridion, who continued, the one to
weave linen, the other to keep sheep, after elevation to the episcopal
office.[843] Indeed, the fourth council of Carthage (A. D. 398)
decreed that the clergy might devote their leisure to trade or
husbandry, that the church might have greater resources for

The next grade in ecclesiastical rank was that of the deacons. They      514
acted generally as assistants of the bishops and presbyters,
especially in the distribution of the charities of the church.[845]
They also took part in the administration of the eucharist, but not in
its consecration. Before the appointment of lectors they read, and
occasionally expounded, the Scriptures to the congregation, like the
modern lay preachers. They also acted as instructors or catechists of
the catechumens of the church. They are frequently designated
_Levitæ_,[846] from the fancied analogy of their functions to those of
the Levitical order among the Jews. In the church at Rome there were
only seven deacons, in accordance with the number originally appointed
in the church at Jerusalem; but in other cities the number was not
thus limited.[847] Of inferior dignity were the ὑποδιάκονοι, or
sub-deacons, who assisted the deacons in the discharge of their lower
functions, as the care of the sacramental vessels, and the like.

Several epitaphs of both these classes have been found among the early
Christian inscriptions. They are generally very brief, as the
following: IVL DIACONVS--“Julius, the deacon;” DEPS · FELIX ·            515
DIAC--“Felix, the deacon, buried (Mar. 11, A. D. 435);” LOCVS
EXVPERANTI DIACON--“The place of Exuperantus, the deacon.” Beneath the
church of Sts. Cosmo and Damien was found the following: HIC
Abundantius, deacon and martyr.”[848]

The following are characteristic epitaphs of sub-deacons: HIC QVIESCIT
Appianus, a sub-deacon, who lived thirty-two years, twenty-nine days;”
of Marcellus, a sub-deacon of the sixth district,[849] conceded to him
and his posterity by the most blessed Father John,[850] who lived
sixty-eight years, more or less.” (A. D. 564.)

The first rank of the inferior officers of the church was that of the
lectors or readers. It was their duty to read in the congregations the
appointed lessons from the Holy Scriptures.[851] The office was held
in peculiar honour, young men of noble family, especially, aspiring to
its dignity. Thus the Emperor Julian, in his youth, was a reader of
the church at Nicomedia, as was also his brother Gallus.[852]
Candidates for the office were ordained by the ceremony of delivering    516
the Gospels into their hands. According to one of the Novels of
Justinian,[853] they were required to be not less than eighteen years
of age, but examples occur of their appointment as early as seven or
eight years old.[854] Probably the latter were dedicated by their
parents, like Samuel, to the service of God from their infancy,[855]
and graduated through the inferior offices to those of greater dignity
and influence. In the Western church they soon ceased as a distinct
rank, but they lingered in the conventual orders till a comparatively
late period.

The following are epitaphs of lectors from the Catacombs and
INP--“Equitius Heraclius, who was in this world nineteen years, seven
months, twenty days, a reader of the second district. (His parents)
made this for themselves and their well-deserving son, in peace;”
a reader of the church of Faciolus, a friend of the poor;” MIRAE
PVDENTIANA QVI VIXIT ANN. XXIIII--“Here rests Leopardus, of wonderful
innocence and remarkable goodness, a reader of the church of
Pudentiana, who lived twenty-four years;” HIC REQVIESCIT IN SOMNO
VIXIT ANNOS PLM · XLVIII--“Here rests, in the sleep of peace, Cælius
Laurentius, a reader of the holy church of Æclanum, who lived
forty-eight years, more or less.”

The acolytes were another class which is discontinued in the
protestant communion. As the name implies,[856] they were the
servitors of the church, and had charge of the lamps and other
ecclesiastical furniture. They were probably the offspring of the
increasing pomp and dignity of the bishops, to whom they acted as
personal attendants, especially in public processions and religious
festivals. The only dated epitaphs of acolytes extant are of a
comparatively late period. De Rossi thinks the following of the sixth
or seventh century.[857] The simplicity of the primitive church had
long since passed away. (P)ACE ABVNDANTIVS |ACOL| · REG · QVARTAE |TT|
MARCI--“In peace, Abundantius, an acolyte of the fourth district,
of the church of Vestina, who lived thirty-three years. Buried in
peace on the birthday of St. Mark.”

The office of exorcist, from the occult and mysterious nature of its
functions, was one that from the first was liable to abuse. It appears
to have been known in the synagogue, and even there to have been
usurped for base and venal purposes.[858] A battle between supernal
and infernal powers seems to have been coincident with the conflict      518
between Christianity and paganism. The Christians believed the oracles
and idols of the gods to be animated by dæmons, who frequently usurped
possession also of human beings. Tertullian,[859] Origen,[860] and
others of the Fathers, claim that any private Christian could exorcise
these dæmons by faith and prayer. It was probably a spiritual gift
like that of “tongues,” which was granted for a special purpose and
afterward withdrawn, perhaps on account of its abuse. This mysterious
function did not become a distinct office till the latter part of the
third century, when the exorcists were set apart by special ordination,
and furnished with special forms of adjuration. This rite was then
generally performed with solemn ceremonial before the baptism of
converts from paganism. It was accompanied by prayer, insufflation,
imposition of hands, and the sign of the cross, in order to deliver
the subject from the dominion of the Prince of Darkness, and to
consecrate him to the service of God. In later days this office became
subject to frightful abuse, and all the grotesque and horrible
adjuncts of exorcism of the Roman church--the charms, conjurations,
wearing of scapulars and relics, incensings and sprinklings, were
introduced--rites which find their analogues only in the magical
incantations of the medicine-men of the Caffre Kraal or the Indian
lodge.[861] “The best exorcism,” says Tertullian, “is by watchfulness    519
and prayer to resist the devil, and cast out evil thoughts.” The
following are epitaphs of exorcists: IANVARIVS EXORCISTA--“Januarius
IOHANNIS EXHORCISTA (_sic_)--“Here rests, in the sleep of peace,
Cælius John, an exorcist.”

The energumens, or possessed persons, were committed to the especial
care of the exorcists, who employed them in the secular service of the
sanctuary, as sweeping and cleaning the church, “lest idleness should
become a temptation for Satan to molest them.” There is no indication
of the existence of this unhappy class of persons in the church of the
Catacombs, at least so far as monumental evidence is concerned.

A very numerous class in the economy of the primitive church was that
of the fossors, or grave-diggers, by whose labours these vast
labyrinths were excavated. They seem to have had especial charge of
the subterranean cemeteries, and we have had numerous examples of the
transfer and sale of graves under their authority.[862] They had also
a quasi-ecclesiastical rank, and were subject to ecclesiastical
discipline. “The first order of the clergy,” says Jerome, “is that of
the fossors, who, after the manner of holy Tobit, are employed in
burying the dead.”[863] They probably also assisted the regular clergy   520
in the celebration of the funeral rites. The melancholy office of this
pious confraternity, always a sad necessity of humanity, was
particularly so to the persecuted church of the Catacombs.

The excavations were evidently under one directorate, so symmetrical
and uniform is their character. A considerable degree of architectural
skill is exhibited in the construction and adornment of the
subterranean chapels, many of which are of quite ornamental design,
and in the excavation of the multitude of galleries and different
levels of this vast city of the dead, proving that the fossors were no
mean civil engineers. They were also probably the artists of the rude
inscriptions. The office seems sometimes to have been hereditary, as
we find as many as three generations of fossors in the same family. We
have seen examples of the numerous frescoes representing these lowly
diggers at work, often like miners, by the light of a lamp, or
surrounded by the implements of their calling.[864] The following are
characteristic epitaphs of this class: MAIO FOSSORI--“To Maius, the
fossor;” FELIX FOSSOR VIXIT ANNIS LXII--“Felix, the fossor. He
lived seventy-two years;” DIOGENES · FOSSOR · IN · PACE ·
DEPOSITVS--“Diogenes, the fossor, buried in peace.”

With these were probably confounded in the earlier ages the ostiarii,
or door-keepers. Their office was one of great trust and
responsibility in times of persecution, when the Christian worship had
often to be celebrated in secret, and protected from the intrusion of
spies or of the profanely curious heathen. It was their duty to
distinguish between the faithful and scoffers and traitors, and to
give private notice of the secret assemblies of the Christians. The
following inscription of the sixth century, as restored by De Rossi,     521
commemorates a similar office in the basilica: LOC · DECI ·
CVBICVLARI · HVIVS · BASILICAE--“The place of Decius, custodian
of this basilica.” We have also the epitaph of a _mansionarius_,
a similar officer.[865]

An exaggerated commendation of the supposed superior sanctity of         522
single life has long been a prominent characteristic of Romanism. A
natural corollary of this notion was the enforced celibacy of the
clergy.[866] Upon the Procrustean bed of this iron rule Rome has not
scrupled to bind the tenderest and most sacred affections of the human
soul. This cherished, but, as all history proves, most pernicious
practice, has been the secret of much of the marvellous power of the
priesthood and of the religious orders. The suppression of the
domestic affections but intensified their devotion to the cause of the
church, which took the place of both wife and child, and engrossed all
their thoughts and all their energies. They became a priestly caste,
animated by a strong _esprit de corps_ superior to the claims of
kindred or of country. But, as might have been anticipated, this
anti-natural system led to frightful abuses and corruptions, and to
the most flagrant innovations.

The notion of the greater sanctity of celibacy was derived, not from
the teachings of our Lord or the apostles, who recognized the
essential purity of marriage; but probably, as Milman suggests, from
the early heresy of the Gnostics, of which this doctrine was a
prominent characteristic.[867] “There was no enforced celibacy during
the first three centuries,” says the judicious Bingham.[868] Indeed,     523
marriage was regarded as enjoined on bishops, elders, and deacons, by
the counsel of St. Paul.[869] The occasional passages of Scripture, in
which for temporary and special reasons a single life is recommended,
were in course of time wrested from their obvious meaning to a more
general application; and in the writings of some of the Fathers,
marriage was regarded as a necessary evil, only to be tolerated for
the perpetuation of the race, and on account of the infirmity of the
weak. It was not till the fourth century that the church adopted the
doctrine of devils spoken of by St. Paul as “forbidding to marry.” The
earliest ecclesiastical legislation on the subject was at the Spanish
council of Elvira, A. D. 305, which commanded ecclesiastics who were
married to separate from their wives--_abstinere se a conjugibus
suis_--thus ruthlessly putting asunder those whom God had joined.
The synods of Ancyra and Neo Cæsarea, held ten years later, and also
one of the so-called apostolic canons of the same date, reversed this
decree, and forbade any ecclesiastic to put away his wife on the plea
of religion, under penalty of excommunication, which action was
confirmed by the great council of Nice.[870] Successive attempts to
extirpate the tenderest human instincts only led to their illicit
gratification, and to the scandals arising from the admission of
_mulieres subintroductæ_, or, in other words, of concubines. So          524
demoralized did the clergy thereby become, that during the Middle
Ages, as Mr. Lea remarks, “though, the ancient canons were
still theoretically in force, they were practically obsolete
every-where.”[871] At length Luther led the great emancipation of the
clergy from this burden, so unutterably grievous to many a tender
conscience; and removed the stigma of disgrace from those domestic
relations which God, who setteth the solitary in families, so signally

There is no trace of the ascetic spirit or celibate clergy of the
Church of Rome in the inscriptions of the Catacombs. On the contrary,
numerous epitaphs commemorate the honourable marriage of members of
every ecclesiastical grade. Thus, in the highest rank, Gruter[872]
gives the following, which is thought to be that of Liberius, bishop
of Rome, who died A. D. 366, and who was sometimes known by the name
of Leo:

         INVIDIA INFELIX TANDEM COMPRESSA QVIESCIT                       525

     My wife Laurentia made me this tomb; she was ever suited to my
     disposition, venerable and faithful. At length disappointed envy
     lies crushed; the bishop Leo survived his eightieth year.

De Rossi gives the following, of a bishop’s son, of date A. D. 404.
The relationship is boldly acknowledged, and not yet disguised under
the phrase _nepos_ or nephew: VICTOR IN PACE FILIVS EPISCOPI VICTORIS
CIVITATIS VCRENSIVM--“Victor, in peace, son of Bishop Victor, of the
city of the Ucrenses.” The following, of date A. D. 445, was found at
Narbonne: RVSTICVS · |EPIS| · |EPI| · BONOSI · FILIVS.... “Bishop
Rusticus, son of Bishop Bonosus.”

There are also numerous inscriptions in which presbyters and deacons
lament the death of their wives, “chaste, just, and holy.” “Would to
God,” exclaims a writer in the _Revue Chrétienne_, “that all their
successors had such.” The following are examples: GAVDENTIVS ·
SANCTISSIMAE FEMINAE--“Gaudentius the presbyter, for himself and his
wife Severa, a chaste and most holy woman;” LOCVS BASILI PRESB ET
FELICITATI EIVS.... “The place of Basil the presbyter, and of
Felicitas, his (wife).” Observe also the tender recognition of family
IACET IN PACE PATRI SOCIATA--“Once the happy daughter of the presbyter
Gabinus, here lies Susanna, joined to her father in peace.”

We have already seen the epitaph of “Petronia, the wife of a deacon,
the type of modesty,” with whom were buried two of her children.[873]
The following, of similar character, is accompanied by the epitaph of    526
a deacon on the same stone, probably the husband who so tenderly
lamented the loss of his faithful consort.


     Maria, the wife of a deacon, ever well-pleasing to me. That
     departure of thine prostrated the hearts of thy friends, leaving
     perpetual tears and grief to us. Chaste, grave, wise, simple,
     venerable, faithful. God fulfilled thy wishes; for thee thy
     husband, thee thy children bewail, nor did death bear any away
     from thee. (A. D. 451.)

Epitaphs are also found indicating the prevalence of marriage in the
inferior ecclesiastical ranks, as in the following examples: CLAVDIVS
the reader, and Claudia Felicissima, his wife;”[874] IANVARIVS
EXORCISTA · SIBI · ET · CONIVGI · FECIT--“Januarius, the exorcist,
made this for himself and his wife;” TERENTIVS · FOSOR · (_sic_) ·
PRIMITIVE (_sic_) · CONIVGI · ET · SIBI · --“Terentius, the fossor, for
Primitiva, his wife and himself.”

The primitive church early availed itself of the services of godly
women, a sort of female diaconate, for the administration of charity,
the care of the sick, the instruction of the young, and of their own
sex, and to carry the light and consolations of the gospel into the
most private and delicate relations of life, for which these gentle
ministrants possessed facilities denied to the other sex. They are       527
frequently mentioned in the writings of the Fathers under the names of
διάκονοι,[875] deaconesses, _viduæ_, widows, or _ancillæ Dei_,
handmaids of God. In apostolic times they were required to be of the
mature age of sixty years;[876] but widows, and even the unmarried,
were subsequently admitted into this class as early as forty,[877] or
even twenty,[878] years of age. The unmarried, however, assumed no vow
of perpetual celibacy,[879] nor of conventual life, but lived
privately in their own homes, employed in offices of piety and mercy.
The growing esteem of celibacy, however, in the fourth and fifth
centuries, invoked ecclesiastical censure for the abandonment of the
lofty vantage ground of virginhood;[880] but the Imperial law granted
liberty of marriage, if the order had been entered before the age of     528
forty. How different the practice of Rome in binding young girls, in
the first outburst of religious enthusiasm, or the first bitterness of
disappointed hope, by irrevocable vows to a death-in-life, and
indissolubly riveting those bonds, no matter how the chafed soul may
repudiate the rash vow, and writhe beneath the galling yoke. The
consecrated virgin of the early church, instead of the ghastly
robings, like the cerements of the grave, in which the youthful nun is
swathed, the symbol of her social death, wore a _sacrum velamen_, or
veil, differing but little from that of Christian matrons, and a
fillet of gold around her hair. The custom, now part of the Romish
ritual, of despoiling the head of its natural adorning, was especially
denounced by some of the ancient councils.

There are several of the early Christian inscriptions illustrative of
these various classes of consecrated women, of which the following are
examples: OC · TA · VI · AE · MA · TRO · NAE · VI · DV · AE · DE ·
I.--“To the matron Octavia, a widow of God;” HIC QVIESCIT GAVDIOSA
a most distinguished woman, a handmaid of God, who lived forty years
and five months,” (A. D. 447); IN HOC SEPVLCHRO REQVIESCIT PVELLA
VIRGO SACRA B · M · ALEXANDRA--“In this tomb rests a girl, a sacred
virgin, Alexandra, well deserving;” HOC EST SEPVLCRVM SANCTAE LVCINAE
VIRGINIS--“This is the sepulchre of the holy virgin Lucina”--this,
however, may not indicate a special class. AESTONIA VIRGO PEREGRINA
QVAE VIXIT ANNOS XLI; ET · DS · VIII (_sic_)--“Æstonia, a travelling     529
virgin, who lived forty-one years and eight days”--she was probably a
member of a distant church, received on a letter of recommendation,
FVRIA HELPHIS (_sic_) VIRGO DEVOTA--“Furia Elpis, a consecrated
virgin.” In the fifth century this consecration sometimes took place
at an early age, as the following example, of date A. D. 401: PRIE
XII TANTVM ANCILLA DEI ET CHRISTI--“On the day before (the Calends of)
June Prætiosa went to her rest, a young maiden of only twelve years of
age, a handmaid of God and of Christ.”[881]

There is no trace in the inscriptions of the Catacombs of that ascetic
spirit from which, in the fourth and following centuries, sprang the
strange phenomena of monachism, with its important influence for
blended good and evil on the future of Christendom. _That_ was rather
the result of the decay and corruption of primitive Christianity, and
of the despair of mankind as to its regenerative power upon the world.
Hence, multitudes fled from the immedicable evils of society to the
solitude of the desert or the mountain.[882] Primitive Christianity,
on the contrary, was eminently cheerful and social in its character.
It consecrated the family life, and developed, to a degree before
unknown, the domestic virtues.

The care of the primitive church for the religious teaching of the
young and of heathen converts is abundantly exemplified in the           530
inscriptions of the Catacombs. The catechumens, or learners, as the
word signifies--the “Cadets of Christianity”--were a distinctly
recognized class for whose instruction especial provision was made. It
consisted of the children of believers born in the church, and
therefore peculiarly under its care; and also of converts from
paganism, who needed to be weaned from their errors, and taught the
doctrines of Christianity before admission to the sacraments of
baptism and the holy eucharist. For the latter, as a safeguard against
the rash assumption of the Christian vows and the danger of subsequent
apostacy, a certain probation was prescribed.[883] The candidates were
taught the Holy Scriptures, and a formal confession of faith, probably
similar to the ancient creed in which the Christian belief of the
church has for so many centuries been expressed. These instructions
were given by the bishop himself as chief catechist; and also by the
presbyters, deacons, lectors, and other members of the inferior
ministry. Deaconesses and aged women acted as instructresses of their
own sex; and one of these was always present during the questioning of
the female catechumens by the male catechists.

The following engraving represents a chamber in the Catacomb of St.
Agnes, which, it is conjectured, was employed for the instruction of
the female catechumens. On either side of the doorway are seats or
chairs hewn out of the solid tufa, which were probably occupied by the
catechist and the presiding deaconess. The low stone bench running
around the remaining walls of the chamber would conveniently             531
accommodate the _audientes_, or hearers, as they were called.

  [Illustration: Fig. 130.--Chamber in the Catacomb of St. Agnes,
   with seats for Catechists and Catechumens.]

Some Roman Catholic writers have asserted that these chambers were
confessionals: but the chairs are too far apart if one was for the
confessor and the other for the penitent, especially with an open door
between; and too near, from the liability of the confessions being
overheard, if each was a confessional; and in either case the
necessity for the stone bench cannot be conceived. In some chambers,
probably for the male catechumens, there is only one tufa chair, no
deaconess being present.

Another curious chamber in the Catacomb of St. Agnes communicates with
the one adjacent to it by a circular opening cut through the tufa wall   532
about breast-high. It is conjectured that this was for the purpose of
allowing the catechumens to hear the public instructions of the
faithful without witnessing the celebration of the sacraments. The
zeal of the candidates would thus be the more inflamed,[884] that they
might be found worthy of admission to the fulness of Christian
privilege and to the sacred mysteries hidden from the uninitiate and
the unworthy. The following epitaph from the Lapidarian Gallery
commemorates a youthful catechumen: VCILIANVS BACIO VALERIO QVE BISET
· (_sic_) ANN VIIII · MEN · VIII · DIES XXII CATECVM--“Ucilianus to
Bacius Valerius, a catechumen, who lived nine years, eight months and
twenty-two days.”

The ordinance of baptism receives several illustrations from the
monumental evidences of the Catacombs. There are numerous epitaphs of
neophytes--a term applied only to newly baptized persons--which
indicate that this Christian rite was administered at all ages from
tender infancy to adult years; in the latter case the subjects being
probably recent converts from heathenism. The following are examples
of this class: TEG · CANDIDIS NEOF Q · VXT · M · XXI--“The tile of
Candidus, a neophyte, who lived twenty-one months;” FL · IOVINA · QVAE
· VIX · ANNIS · TRIBVS · D · XXX · NEOFITA · IN PACE--“Flavia Jovina,
who lived three years and thirty days, a neophyte, in peace;” MIRAE
Preditus to Flavius Aurelius Leo, a neophyte of wonderful industry and
goodness, who lived six years, eight months, eleven days;” ROMANO
IN PACE--“To the well-deserving neophyte Romanus, who lived eight
years and fifteen days; he rests in peace.” We have already seen the
epitaph of Junius Bassus, who died a neophyte at the age of forty-one,
and shall presently observe other instances of adult baptism.[885] We
find also the epitaph of “two innocent brothers, one a neophyte, the
other, one of the faithful.”

In course of time the rite of baptism degenerated into a superstitious   534
charm, and was regarded as a mystical lustration which washed away all
sin and was essential to salvation.[886] This change probably resulted
from a reaction against the Pelagian heresy, which denied the
necessity of baptism, and from the rhetorical exaggeration by the
Fathers of the spiritual efficacy of this sacrament.[887] The church
of the Catacombs, while duly administering the rite of baptism, did
not, after the manner of the Church of Rome and other modern extreme
sacramentalists, invest it with regenerative power, nor regard its
involuntary omission as excluding the body from consecrated ground and   535
the soul from heaven.[888]

Sometimes, by a beautiful metonyme derived from its spiritual
significance, baptism is indicated as the palingenesis, or new birth,
of which it is the appropriate symbol. The following is a
characteristic example of this usage: ... CAELESTE RENATVS AQVA
(_sic_)--... “Born again of heavenly water,” (A. D. 377.)[889] We read
also of a certain Mercurius, who is described as a boy born and dying
in the same year, aged twenty-four. The allusion is to the spiritual
regeneration symbolized by baptism. With reference to this he was but
a boy--_puer_--at the time of his death.[890] This rite was also
called illumination, and we find in the Catacombs the epitaphs of
persons said to be thus “newly illuminated.”

The testimony of the Catacombs respecting the mode of baptism, as far
as it extends, is strongly in favour of aspersion or affusion. All
their pictured representations of the rite indicate this mode, for
which alone the early fonts seem adapted; nor is there any early art
evidence of baptismal immersion. It seems incredible, if the latter
were the original and exclusive mode, of apostolic and even Divine
authority, that it should have left no trace in the earliest and most
unconscious art-record, and have been supplanted therein by a new,
unscriptural, and unhistoric method. It is apparent, indeed, from the
writings of the fourth and fifth century, that many corrupt and
unwarranted usages were introduced in connection with this Christian
ordinance that greatly marred its beauty and simplicity. It is           536
unquestionable that at that time baptism by immersion was practised
with many superstitious and unseemly rites. The subjects, both men and
women, were divested of their clothing, to represent the putting off
the body of sin; which, notwithstanding the greatest efforts to avoid
it, inevitably provoked scandal. They then received trien immersion,
to imitate, says Gregory Nyssen,[891] the three days’ burial of
Christ; or, according to others, as a symbol of the Trinity. The rite
was accompanied by exorcism, insufflation, unction, confirmation, the
gift of milk and honey, the administration of the eucharist even to
infants, the clothing in white garments, and carrying of lighted
tapers, to all of which a mystical meaning was attached.

But in the evidences of the Catacombs, which are the testimony of an
earlier and purer period, there is no indication of this mode of
baptism, nor of these dramatic accompaniments.[892] The marble font
represented in the accompanying engraving, now in the crypts of St.
Prisca within the walls, is said to have come from the Catacombs, and
to have been used for baptismal purposes by St. Peter, himself; in       537
corroboration of which legend it bears the somewhat apocryphal
inscription--|SCI| · PET · BAPTISMV · (_sic._) The tradition at least
attests its extreme antiquity; and its basin is quite too small for
even infant immersion. Other fonts have been found in several of the
subterranean chapels, among which is one in the Catacomb of Pontianus,
hewn out of the solid tufa and fed by a living stream. It is 1·45
metres long, ·92 metres wide, and 1·11 metres deep, but is seldom near
full of water. It is obviously too small for immersion, and was
evidently designed for administering the rite as shown in the fresco
which accompanies it. (See Fig. 132.) The following inscription, from
the Lapidarian Gallery, seems to have come from some such font, and
perhaps contains a reference to the scripture, “Arise and be baptized,
OMNE SIMVL ABLVIT VNDA--“The living stream cleanses the spots of the
body as well as the heart, and at the same time washes away all

  [Illustration: Fig. 131.--Baptismal Font.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 132.--The Baptism of Our Lord.]                    538

Immediately over the font in the Catacomb of Pontianus is the
elaborate fresco of the baptism of Our Lord, figured above. He is
represented standing in the river Jordan, while John pours water upon    539
his head, and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. An angel
stands by as witness of the rite, and in the foreground a stag, the
emblem of a fervent Christian, is drinking at the pure stream.[894]

  [Illustration: Fig. 133.--Baptismal Scene.]

In a very ancient crypt of St. Lucina is another partially defaced
baptism of Christ, attributed to the second century, in which St. John
stands on the shore and our Saviour in a shallow stream, while the
Holy Spirit descends as a dove. On the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus
Christ is also symbolically represented as baptized by affusion. The
annexed rude example from the Catacomb of Callixtus, probably of the
third century, also clearly exhibits the administration of the rite by
pouring.[895] It is accompanied by a representation of Peter striking
water from the rock, an emblem, according to De Rossi, of the waters
of baptism sprinkling the sinful souls that come thereto. A similar      540
example also occurs in the cemetery of St. Prætextatus.

In ancient sarcophagal reliefs in the Vatican are representations of
small detached baptisteries of circular form, crowned with the
Constantinian monogram. These were necessarily of sufficient size to
accommodate the number of persons who were baptized at one time,
generally at Easter,[896] and were placed outside of the basilica to
indicate the initiatory character of baptism as the entrance to the
church of Christ.[897] In the early mosaics representing baptismal
scenes, the rite is invariably administered by affusion, as in the
baptistery of San Giovanni at Ravenna, in the beginning of the fifth
century, in Sta. Maria in Cosmedin, at Ravenna, in the beginning, and
in the ivory relief on the episcopal chair of Maximinus, at the end,
of the sixth century.[898] So, also, a later example in the Lateran      541
basilica represents Constantine kneeling naked in a laver, and
Sylvester pouring water on his head.[899] This is also the method
indicated in several medals, bas reliefs, frescoes, and mosaics, in
almost every century from the fourth, through the Middle Ages,
indicating a continuous tradition, even when immersion may have been
practised, of a different mode of baptism.

The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was the most sacred and consoling
rite of the primitive church. It was at once the emblem of the
Christian’s highest hopes, and the sublime commemoration of the
ineffable sacrifice on which those hopes depend. It was the focus in
which concentrated all their holiest thoughts, kindling the whole soul
into a flame of adoring love.[900] It was the central act of worship,
around which all their solemn devotions gathered, and to which they
all looked. The sublime thought of the atonement of Christ and of
salvation through his death, shone ever star-like over their souls,
illumining even the sepulchral gloom of these subterranean crypts.
Daily,[901] or as often as the vigilance of their foes in times of
persecution would permit, the faithful met in the silent halls of        542
death, far from the “madding crowd’s ignoble strife,” to nourish and
strengthen their souls for fiery trial, and often for the red baptism
of martyrdom, by meditation on the passion of their Lord and partaking
of the emblems of his death.

Therefore, in ever-recurring and appropriate symbolism, was this holy
rite set forth upon the walls of the Catacombs. Its direct
representation, however, was carefully avoided; and its sacred meaning
was hidden from the profane gaze of the heathen under a veil of
allegory and emblem, which was, nevertheless, instinct with
profoundest significance to the initiated. Thus, we find
representations of seven men eating bread and fish, which are
interpreted as the repast of the disciples by the sea-shore when Our
Lord manifested himself in the breaking of bread, and, indirectly, as
symbols of the holy eucharist.[902] They are not at all analogous to
the pictures of pagan funeral banquets, to which they have been
compared, but which are entirely foreign to Christian thought. The
miracles of turning water into wine, and of the multiplication of the
loaves, were also regarded as types of the eucharist, which was,
doubtless, frequently symbolized under these figures. We have seen a
copy of the remarkable fresco, twice repeated in the Catacomb of St.
Lucina, of a fish bearing a basket of bread on its back, and in the
midst what seems to be a chalice of wine.[903] This is considered one
of the most ancient emblems of this sacred rite. This view derives
singular corroboration from a passage in Jerome, which speaks of
carrying the body of Christ in a basket made of twigs, and his blood     543
in a chalice of glass.[904] The eucharist is also evidently symbolized
in the representations of fish and sheep carrying small loaves of
bread in their mouths. These are sometimes marked with a decussate
cross, as was done to facilitate fracture during administration.

The first Christian altars were tables of wood, which, in times of
persecution, could be easily removed from house to house in which
worship was celebrated. The entire absence of any thing corresponding
to the pagan sacrificial altar was made the subject of heathen
reproach.[905] In a painting found in the Catacomb of Callixtus, which
Dr. Northcote describes as “the sacrifice of the Mass, symbolically
depicted,” a man stands with hands outstretched, as if in act of
consecration, over a three-legged table, on which are bread and a
fish, while opposite stands a female figure in the attitude of prayer.
In an adjoining chamber a precisely similar table is represented, but
without the accompanying figures.[906] These tables were placed, not
against the wall like a Romish altar, but set out from it, so that the
ministrant could stand behind it looking toward the congregation.
In the “papal crypt” of the Callixtan Catacomb the sockets for the       544
four feet of the table thus set out from the wall are distinctly
visible, and Bosio and Boldetti both found examples of altars standing
in the middle of the _cubicula_. This was also their position in
the oldest basilicas of Rome.

In the sixth century a general council decreed that the altars should
be of stone. This transition had already taken place in the Catacombs,
and arose from the employment of the slab covering the grave in an
_arcosolium_ for the administration of the eucharist. This practice
led to an increased veneration for the relics of the saints; and soon
the presence of these relics became essential to the idea of an
altar.[907] To this custom Prudentius refers in his hymn for
Hippolytus’ day.

        “Illa sacramenti donatrix mensa, eademque
           Custos fida sui martyris apposita:
         Servat ad æterni spem Judicis ossa sepulchro
           Pascit item sanctis Tibricolas dapibus.
         Mira loci pietas, et prompta precantibus ara.”

     “That slab gives the sacrament, and at the same time faithfully
     guards the martyr’s remains; it preserves his bones in the
     sepulchre in hope of the Eternal Judge, and feeds the dwellers by
     the Tiber with sacred food. Great is the sanctity of the place,
     and it offers a ready altar for those who pray.”

After the consecration of the elements by the presbyter or bishop, the
communion in both kinds was administered to the faithful by the
deacons in the formula of its institution which we still use.[908] The
consecrated elements[909] were sent to any who were sick, by the hands   545
of deacons or acolytes, as is still the practice in the Greek and
Armenian churches. In the Acts of St. Stephen, we read of a young
martyr who chose to be beaten to death by a Roman mob, rather than
disclose the sacred treasure entrusted to his care. This practice in
time degenerated into the superstitious administration of the
_viaticum_ as a preparation for the soul’s journey to the
spirit-world. Some of the gilt glasses, before described, are thought
to have been used as patens and chalices for the celebration of the
eucharist. With the increasing wealth and more gorgeous ritual of the
church, gold and silver vessels, adorned with costly gems and rarest
workmanship, took the place of the humbler material of the primitive

Another beautiful institution generally associated with the
celebration of the eucharist in primitive times is that of the
_agape_, or love-feast. In a subterranean chapel in the Catacomb
of Marcellinus and Peter is an exceedingly interesting representation    546
of the observance of this custom, shown in the following engraving.

  [Illustration: Fig. 134.--Ancient Agape.]

Three guests, it will be perceived, sit at the semicircular table, at
the ends of which preside two matrons personifying peace and love,
with their names written above their heads. An attendant supplies them
with food from a small table in front, on which are a cup, platters,
and a lamb. The inscriptions, according to Dr. Maitland, should be
expanded thus: IRENE DA CALDA[M AQVAM]--“Peace, give hot water;” and
AGAPE MISCE MI [VINVM CVM AQVA]--“Love, mix me wine with water;” the
allusion being to the ancient custom of tempering wine with water, hot
or cold.

Numerous other representations of this devout feast at which Love and
Peace preside attest its general observance. It would be a touching
symbol of Christian unity to the persecuted saints, and would unite
still closer hearts bound together by common dangers and a common
hope. All the distinctions of rank were then forgotten. Gathering by     547
stealth in these subterranean crypts from the imperial palace and the
lowly abode of poverty, they break bread together in the solemn
presence of the dead in token of their common brotherhood in Christ.
The slave of a Roman master, but the freedman of Christ, and the
patrician convert, the intellectual Greek and the once bigoted Jew,

         Celebrate the feast of love,
         Antedate the joys above.

This beautiful institution, first mentioned by Jude as the “feasts of
charity,”[911] was usually observed in connexion with the eucharist,
though not necessarily a part of it. It dates from the earliest period
of the church,[912] and its corruptions among the Corinthians called
forth the sharp rebuke of the Apostle Paul.[913]

Tertullian thus describes its character in the second century: “Our
supper, which you accuse of luxury, shows its reason by its very name;
for it is called _agape_, which, among the Greeks, signifies
love. It admits of nothing vile or immodest. We eat and drink only as
much as hunger and thirst demand, mindful that the evening is to be
spent in the worship of God. We so speak as knowing that God hears.
After washing our hands and bringing lights, each is asked to sing to
God according to his ability, either from Scripture or from his own
mind. Prayer also concludes the feast.”[914] He calls it also a supper
of philosophy and discipline, rather than a corporeal feast. At the
close collections were made for widows and orphans and for the poor,
many of whom would be thrown out of employment by their renunciation
of idolatrous trades; also for prisoners and for persons who had         548
suffered shipwreck.[915] It is doubtless the _agape_ which Pliny
describes as “the common and harmless meal”[916] of the Christians,
and at which, according to Lucian, their “sacred conversations”[917]
were held. Clement of Alexandria calls the _agape_ “the banquet of
reason, a celestial food, and the supper of love; the pledge and proof
of mutual affection.”[918]

The primitive church carefully guarded the celebration of the
eucharist and _agape_ from the pryings of idle curiosity or the
perfidy of heathen malevolence, lest the name of God should be
blasphemed, or the goodly pearls of salvation be trampled beneath
swinish feet. But this very secresy and mystery became the occasion of
the vilest slanders and aspersions. The Christians were accused of
celebrating these rites with the most abominable orgies--feasting on
human flesh and infants’ blood, and committing nameless crimes of
still deeper dye. “They charge us,” say the martyrs of Lyons, “with
feasts of Thyestes, and the crimes of Oedipus, and such abominations
as are neither lawful for us to speak nor think.” The blameless
believers were denounced as the very dregs of society, a skulking and
darkness-loving race, meeting by night for profane conjuration and
unhallowed banquets, as despisers of the gods, haters of mankind, and
mockers at holy things,[919] and were confounded with pestilent          549
sorcerers who in midnight caves practiced their foul incantations
against human life.[920] These accusations arose partly, it is
probable, from distorted accounts of the holy communion of the body
and the blood of Christ, interpreted as a literal partaking of the
corporeal substance; partly from the vile practices of the
Carpocratians and other heretics; but chiefly from the malice of the
heathen themselves, judging the character of the Christian mysteries
from the obscene orgies of Venus and Bacchus.

Tertullian indignantly resents the vile calumnies, and shows them to
be monstrous and absurd. “We are daily beset by foes,” he exclaims,
“we are daily betrayed, we are often surprised in our secret
congregations; yet who ever came upon a half-consumed corpse among us,
or any other corroborations of the accusations against us?”[921] He
retorts upon the heathen the charge of infanticide, human sacrifice,
and unnatural crimes, and contrasts therewith the purity of the
Christian character. Minucius Felix also attests the modest and sober
character of the Christian feasts, which they celebrated with chaste
discourse and chaster bodies.[922]

In course of time the _agapæ_ lost in great measure their religious
character, and were employed for the anniversaries of the martyrs,
and for marriage and funeral occasions.[923] They were still             550
further desecrated by their substitution for pagan festivals, in
order, as St. Augustine remarks, “that the heathen might feast with
their former luxury, though without their former sacrilege.”[924]
These “pious hilarities” thus degenerated, in the fourth and fifth
centuries, into convivial banquets and wanton revelry--a scandal and
disgrace to Christendom, and provoked the indignant censure of the
Fathers. “It is absurd,” says St. Jerome, “to honour with feasting the
saints who pleased God with their fasts.” St. Augustine vehemently
condemns those “who inebriate themselves in honour of the martyrs, and
place even their gluttony and drunkenness to the account of
religion.”[925] “These drunkards persecute the saints as much with
their cups,” he says, “as the furious pagans did with stones.”[926]
The good bishop of Nola, greatly scandalized at these semi-pagan
revelries, painted with holy pictures the church of St. Felix, that as
the ignorant peasants gazed more they might drink the less. It has
been suggested that probably the pious figures in the gilt glasses of
the Catacombs were designed for the same purpose; but many of their
mottoes were of a highly convivial character, calculated rather to
promote the revelry in which they were doubtlessly employed. Both the
_natalitia_ and the _agapæ_ at length became so obnoxious in
character as to excite the taunts of the pagans and the condemnation     551
of the more devout and thoughtful Christians. The abuse of the latter
beautiful institution became so intolerable that it became the object
of repressive decrees of successive councils till it was finally
abolished. The council of Elvira (A. D. 305) prudently forbade the
presence of females at these nocturnal meetings in the Catacombs.[927]
That of Laodicea (A. D. 361) enacted that the _agapæ_ should not
be celebrated in churches. The council of Carthage (A. D. 397) forbade
the clergy attending them, and the council of Trullo (A. D. 706)
prohibited their celebration at all, under penalty of excommunication.

This beautiful symbol of Christian unity was revived in spirit by the
founder of Methodism; but, to guard against the corruptions into which
it had previously fallen, the elements of its celebration were
restricted to bread and water. A similar custom is also observed among
the Moravian brethren, from whom, probably, Wesley borrowed it. It has
also been transmitted from primitive times by the Nestorian Christians
of the Malabar coast.[928]

We have thus endeavoured to give a faithful transcript of the
testimony of the Catacombs relative to primitive Christianity. We have
seen how consonant it is with the teachings of Holy Scripture, how
opposed to all the institutions and dogmas of Rome. We have only to
compare the buried relics of the past with the living present above
ground to see at a glance the infinite contrast between the church of    552
Christ and that of Antichrist. Could the simple bishops of the
primitive ages behold the more than regal state and oriental pomp in
which, surrounded by armed halberdiers, amid the blare of martial
music and thunder of the guns of St. Angelo, their successor of to-day
rides in his golden chariot from his stately palace to the majestic
fane of St. Peter--the grandest temple in the world--they would feel
it difficult to perceive therein any resemblance to their own humble
and often persecuted estate, or to the pure and spiritual religion of
the meek and lowly Nazarene. Could they witness the almost idolatrous
homage which he receives, throned in state, tiaraed with a triple
crown, presenting his foot for the humiliating osculation of bishops,
cardinals, ambassadors, and pilgrims from every land; could they
behold him summoning from the ends of the earth the prelates of Roman
Catholic Christendom to record a decree of his personal infallibility
and freedom from human error; they would regard as blasphemous these
unhallowed assumptions, and denounce, as the prophetic Antichrist, him
who laid claim to these awful attributes.[929]

Above the lowly sleepers in the crypts of the Vatican swells the
mighty dome which Michael Angelo hung high in air; lofty chant and
pealing anthem thrill through the vast expanse; polished shafts of
porphyry, jasper, and costliest marble gleam around; priceless           553
paintings and rarest sculpture by the hand of genius afford a still
richer adorning; at an altar blazing with gold and gems a human priest
in many-coloured vestments daily repeats, as he dares assert, the
ineffable sacrifice of Christ; from four hundred cross-crowned
campaniles baptized and consecrated bells ring forth the hours of
prayer; at a thousand shrines the multitude adore, they vainly think,
the real presence of the Redeemer; and perfumed incense evermore
ascends, not to the many gods of the Pantheon, but to the still more
numerous saints of the Roman calendar. But we feel that all the
kingdoms of the world, and all the glory of them, were a poor
compensation for the loss of the primitive simplicity, purity, and
spiritual power of the humble service of the Catacombs. We turn away
from the gorgeous ritual and hollow pomp to those lowly crypts where
the Christian hymn of a persecuted remnant of the saints ascended from
beside the martyr’s grave, as the truer type of Christ’s spiritual
temple upon earth. In these chambers of silence and gloom we find the
evidences of that undying life of Christianity which we seek in vain
amid the living death of that city of churches and of priests--the
Apostolic See of Christendom--the vaunted seat of Christ’s vicegerent
upon earth. With a deeper significance than that with which it was
first uttered, we adopt the language of Tertullian, and exclaim,

     [822] Northcote’s _Catacombs_, p. 140.

     [823] Euseb., _Hist. Eccles._, vi, 43. The hierarchical
     subdivisions in the Greek church are vastly more elaborate. Thus
     we have the patriarch, metropolitan, archbishop, bishop,
     proto-presbyter, super-dean, dean, presbyter, proto-deacon,
     deacon, sub-deacon, and common priest, besides a host of inferior

     [824] _Strom._, vi, 13. “The succession of the early Roman
     bishops,” says Stillingfleet, “is as muddy as the Tiber
     itself.”--_Irenicum_, ii, 7. It is an historical riddle of
     which it is difficult or impossible to find the solution.

     [825] Eusebius gives this very title, ποιμήν, to Cyprian, (vii,
     3.) They were also called πρόεδροι, προεστώς, and _præsides_, or

     [826] Hippolytus, bishop of Portus, only fifteen miles from Rome,
     and a saint of the Roman calendar, strongly opposed both
     Zephyrinus and Callixtus, bishops of Rome. In the fifth century
     Milan took precedence of Rome, and many other places were of
     equal dignity. The episcopal office was very different from what
     is now implied by the name, and its functions varied little from
     those of the presbyter, save in the general oversight of a
     comparatively limited diocese. Thus in Northern Africa alone were
     four hundred and sixty-six bishops, beside sixty-six vacant sees.
     Clement, bishop of Rome, (_Ep. ad Cor._, 74,) Justin Martyr, and
     other early writers, seem to imply that the terms bishop and
     presbyter were at first permutable. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage,
     addresses his clergy as his co-presbyters--_compresbyteros_.
     Jerome, jealous for his order, asserts the original identity of
     the offices (_idem est presbyter qui et episcopus_) and the
     gradual development of episcopal dignity, from custom rather than
     from primitive appointment, (_Comment. in Titum._) Chrysostom
     asserts the original convertibility of the titles of bishop and
     presbyter--οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τὸ παλαιὸν ἐκαλοῦντο ἐπίσκοποι, καὶ οἱ
     ἐπίσκοποι πρεσβύτεροι.--_Homil._ i, _in Phil._, i. Lord King
     compares the two to the offices of rector and curate, (_Prim.
     Ch._, c. 4,) but Bingham’s High Church notions led him to magnify
     the essential difference between the two, (_Orig. Eccl._, ii, 3.)
     The bishops were elected by the presbyters and the laity jointly.
     Eusebius states that Fabian was indicated for the office by the
     divine portent of a dove descending upon him, (_H. E._, vi, 29.)
     They generally attained this dignity not _per saltum_, but having
     passed through the inferior grades. Cyprian, however, was but a
     neophyte, Eusebius a catechumen, and Ambrose a layman, when
     appointed to the office of bishop. In the course of time, in the
     East the emperors, in the West the kings, usurped the power of
     appointment, a relic of which is seen in the royal _congé
     d’élire_ in Great Britain, so strongly satirized by Carlyle,
     (_Latter-day Pamphlets_.)

     [827] See _ante_, p. 95.

     [828] We have already seen that the inscription of date A. D.
     392, regarded as the epitaph of a “most holy Pope Felix,” was in
     reality that of a foster-father. See _ante_, p. 471. The phrase
     “Apostolic See,” now restricted to Rome, was originally applied
     to every bishop’s seat.--_Bingham_, ii, 2, § 3.

     [829] He speaks of his predecessor in office as “our father,
     (πάπα,) the blessed Hereclas.”--Eu., _H. E._, vii, 7. In like
     manner an epitaph of an African bishop, of date A. D. 475,
     designates him “our father of holy memory”--_Sanctæ memoriæ pater

     [830] Ep. 8. _Cler. Rom. ad Cler. Carth._

     [831] _De Pudicit._, c. 13.

     [832] Ep. 17, 18, 30, etc.

     [833] The synonymous title of abbot is still used in this sense.
     It was applied to the hermit monks of the Orkneys and Iceland,
     and gave the name Papa Strona and Papa Westra to islands of the
     Orkney group.

     [834] Optatus says there were forty churches in Rome in the third
     century. Ammianus describes the almost regal pomp of the bishops
     in the latter part of the fourth century, and records the
     sanguinary struggle for the episcopal dignity between Damasus and
     Ursicinus. The streets were strewn with the slain, and one
     hundred and thirty-seven corpses polluted the sacred precincts of
     a Christian basilica. The primitive church stigmatized simony as
     χριστεμπορείαν, or “selling Christ.”

     [835] Ego autem fidenter dico quia quisque se universalem
     sacerdotem vocat, vel vocari desiderat, in elatione suâ
     Antichristum præcurrit.--_Greg. Max._, Epis. vii, 7-33.

     [836] Gregory III. (731-741) styles himself “the most holy and
     blessed Apostolic Pope”--Sanctissimus ac Beatissimus Apostolicus
     Papa. Boniface VIII. adopted the triple-crowned tiara, to
     indicate the Pope’s dominion over heaven, earth, and hell.

     Dante represents the pope as an all-powerful griffin, symbolical
     of his spiritual and temporal functions, drawing the triumphal
     car of the church.--_Purgatorio, Can._ xxix. Yet in a fresco
     of the seventh or eighth century, of Cornelius, bishop of Rome,
     he is in no way distinguished by costume, insignia, or title from
     Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, who stands beside him.

     [837] The name was not always indicative of age, but of office,
     like the Jewish זְקֻנִים or elders, the Latin _senatores_,
     and the Saxon aldermen.

     Rheinwal, Geisler, Neander, and other eminent German scholars,
     agree that the term bishop originally was merely the official
     title of the presbyter who was chosen to rule or oversee the
     church; and that the latter sat in consistory with the bishop,
     forming the ecclesiastical senate, in which the bishop was simply
     the presiding officer--_primus inter pares_.

     It is worthy of note that the word ἱερεύς, “priest,” that is,
     one who offers sacrifice, is nowhere applied to any
     ecclesiastical rank in the Catacombs, or in the writings of the
     primitive Fathers. It has been left for Romanism, and a
     Romanizing sacerdotalism, to apply to the Christian minister this
     phrase, so opposed to the genius of the New Testament.

     [838] The letters _Pbb._, according to De Rossi, stand for
     _Presbyter benedictus_.

     [839] Felix was probably presbyter of the basilica of St. Paul,
     founded by Constantine A. D. 324, rebuilt by Theodosius and
     Honorius, A. D. 388-395, restored by Leo I., A. D. 440, and again
     by the present Pope, in its ancient dimensions, (four hundred and
     eleven feet by two hundred and seventy-nine.) It is one of the
     noblest basilicas of Rome.

     [840] According to Bingham, _Pontifex maximus_ was a title
     common to all bishops in primitive times.--_Orig. Eccl._,
     ii, § 6.

     There is here possibly a paronomasia on the word “Leo,” lion of
     the pontiffs. There were sometimes several presbyters attached to
     one church. See De Rossi, _Inscr. Christ._, No. 975.

     [841] Adleguntur in ordinem ecclesiasticum artifices
     idolorum.--_De Idol._, vii.

     [842] _Hist. Eccles._, c. vii, 29.

     [843] _Sozomen_, i, 27, and vii, 28.

     [844] Clericus quantumlibet verbo Dei eruditus, artificio victum
     quærat.--_Conc. Carth._, 4, can. 51. The example of Paul, the
     tentmaker, who, though asserting the right of the ministry to a
     support, yet “wrought with labour and travail night and day,”
     that he might not be chargeable to the church, will occur to the
     reader. Chrysostom, speaking of the rural bishops of Antioch,
     says: “These men you may see sometimes yoking the oxen and
     driving the plough, and again ascending the pulpit and
     cultivating the souls under their care; now uprooting the thorns
     from the earth with a hook, and now purging out the sins of the
     soul by the word.”--_Hom. ad Pop. Antioch._, xix. “How glorious
     to see the gray-haired pastor approach, like Abraham, his loins
     girt, digging the ground and working with his own hands.”--_Hom.
     in Act._, xviii.

     [845] A similar office obtained in the Jewish synagogue, the

     [846] This was especially the case in verse, as the word
     _diaconus_ was unsuitable for hexameters.

     [847] In Constantinople there were more than one hundred deacons,
     and more than ninety sub-deacons.--Justin., _Nov._, iii, 1.

     [848] This was probably a memorial of a later period than the
     times of persecution. The epithet _sanctus_ was not applied
     till comparatively late. The office of deacon, however, was
     particularly obnoxious to persecuting greed. Witness the
     martyrdom of Lawrence the deacon, _antea_.

     [849] Rome was divided into seven ecclesiastical districts
     corresponding to its seven deacons.

     [850] John III., bishop of Rome.

     [851] They are mentioned by Tertullian (_De Præscrip._, c. 41)
     and Cyprian, (_Ep._, 24, 33,) and by many later writers. The
     office was possibly derived from the Synagogue.

     [852] _Socrat._, iii, 1. _Sozom._, v. 2.

     [853] cxxiii, c. 54.

     [854] Leo X. was a priest at seven and a cardinal at ten. Among
     the five hundred clergy destroyed by the Vandal persecution in
     Carthage were many infant readers--quam plurimi erant lectores
     infantuli.--Victor _de Persec. Vandal._, lib. iii.

     [855] On the tomb of a youth of fourteen occurs the words,
     VOTVS DEO, “Dedicated to God.”

     [856] Ἀκόλουθος, “A servant.”

     [857] Cornelius, bishop of Rome in the third century, says there
     were in that church forty-two acolytes, (Euseb., _H.E._, vi, 43;)
     and, according to Eusebius, a great number attended the bishops
     at the council of Nice.

     [858] See the vagabond Jew exorcists of Acts xix, 13. They were
     probably also magicians and soothsayers. Exorcism was common also
     among the pagan soothsayers, with whom the Christians were
     sometimes confounded. It is probable against them that a law of
     Ulpian was directed, condemning those who used incantations,
     imprecations, or, to use the common word of impostors,
     exorcisms--Si incantavit, si imprecatus est, si (ut vulgari verbo
     impostorum utar) exorcisavit.

     [859] _Apol._, 23.

     [860] _Cont. Cels._, vii. Gregory Thaumaturgus, the
     Wonder-worker, won especial fame by his exploits of this
     nature.--_Socrates_, iv, 27. Antony, of Egypt, could detect
     dæmons by the sense of smell!

     [861] A somewhat analogous practice to the ancient exorcism was
     that of touching for king’s evil, for which there was a
     recognized form in the prayer-book of the time of George
     II.--_De Strumosis Attrectandis_. Charles II. “touched” one
     hundred thousand persons.

     [862] See _ante_, p. 132.

     [863] Primus in clericis fossariorum ordo est, etc.--_De Sept.
     Ord. Eccles._ They were also called _lecticarii_, from their
     carrying the corpse on a lectica or bier, and _copiatæ_, a word
     of uncertain origin. Constantine organized the _copiatæ_ into a
     corporation at Constantinople, where they numbered four hundred.
     Compare the _Parabolani_ of Alexandria.

     [864] See Figs. 23, 24.

     [865] With the increase of wealth and the progress of learning in
     the Christian community, the number and variety of clerical
     offices was greatly multiplied, and all the paraphernalia of pomp
     and gorgeous ritual were added. A multitude of inferior
     ecclesiastical dependants hung upon the church, absorbing its
     strength, corrupting its virtue, and degrading its character. The
     knowledge of their very names and offices has become a difficult
     task. Thus we have _sacristarii_, or keepers of the sacred
     vestments and vessels; _cappellani_, or attendants on the altar;
     _matricularii_, or marshals of the public processions;
     _staurophori_, or cross bearers; _ceroferarii_ and
     _thuriferarii_, the bearers of tapers and incense; and
     _parafrenarii_, or coachmen of the higher ecclesiastics--the
     latter, according to Mabillon, being themselves reckoned among
     the clergy. There were also _oeconomi_, or stewards of church
     lands; _thesaurii_, or treasurers of ecclesiastical funds;
     _notarii_, or secretaries; _apocrisiarii_, or legates;
     _cancellarii_, or chancellors; _syndici_, or syndics; and
     _hermeneutai_, or interpreters, chiefly in the Syrian and African
     churches, where the congregation used different
     languages--speaking to the people in an unknown tongue is a
     Romish innovation. Even the offices of highest dignity were
     indefinitely multiplied. There were several orders of
     bishops:--metropolitans, archbishops, patriarchs, primates, and
     exarchs; bishops diocesan, bishops _quiescentes_, that is,
     without charges, and titular bishops with charges _in partibus
     infidelium_; suffragan bishops and _chorepiscopi_; cardinals and
     vicars general; and many other officers of lordly titles,
     princely wealth, and vast political power. But of these we find
     no examples, no prototypes in the epitaphs of the Catacombs, nor
     in the lowly pastors of the persecuted flock of Christ in the
     primitive ages of the church. The application of the title of
     pope with its present signification to the early bishops is a
     ludicrous anachronism and misnomer, as nothing could be further
     from the reality than the idea which it now suggests.

     Like the vine, which, twining round some noble elm, seems to
     enhance its beauty, but in time completely stifles its strength
     in its strangling embrace, so the rank growth of human
     institutions has strangled the life of the goodly tree of Roman
     Christianity, and blighted the promise of its early years. Forms
     of ritual should be but the trellis for the support of a
     spiritual worship; else, better that, like the brazen serpent,
     they be broken in pieces, and, like the body of Moses, buried in
     an unknown sepulchre, than become the objects of idolatrous
     homage or of superstitious veneration.

     [866] It was a primitive and probably correct opinion that all
     the apostles were married except Paul and John--Omnes apostoli,
     exceptis Johanne et Paulo, uxores habuerunt.--Ambros., _ad
     Hilar._; Clem. Alex., _Strom._, iii; Euseb., _H. E._, iii, 30;
     Orig., _Com. in Rom._

     [867] It was probably derived by them from the Essenes and other
     ascetic communities of the East.

     [868] _Orig. Eccles._, iv, 4.

     [869] 1 Tim. ii, 2, 12; Titus i, 6. So the Greek Church still
     understands him, requiring the marriage of its clergy.
     Tertullian, Cyprian, Gregory of Nyssa, Hilary of Poitiers,
     Spyridon, Synesius, and many other distinguished ecclesiastics of
     early times, are recorded to have been married.

     [870] _Socrat._, i, 11; _Sozom._, i, 23. “Marriage is the true
     chastity,” exclaimed the aged bishop Paphnutius.

     [871] _Sacerdotal Celibacy_, p. 162. The satirical songs, tales,
     and scandalous anecdotes concerning the celibate clergy, and the
     denunciations of their vice by successive councils, attest the
     social depravity caused by this system. The ascetic depreciation
     of woman led also inevitably to her moral degradation. She was
     described by some of the monkish writers, who thus slandered the
     memory of their own mothers, as a noxious animal, the very
     essence of evil and gate of hell, whose beauty was a lure of the
     devil and perpetual temptation to sin, and her very presence a
     contamination. The tenderest family ties were severed at the
     fancied call of duty. In Roman Catholic countries woman is still
     immured with almost oriental jealousy, and is denied the
     intellectual emancipation her sex elsewhere enjoys. She may not
     enter the most sacred places of Rome, nor visit the pope, except
     in mourning. There is no music for the female voice in the
     service of the papal chapel.

     [872] _Inscrip. Antiq._, p. 1173.

     [873] See _ante_, p. 428. The following is from Salonæ: FL ·
     (_sic_) SIBI VIVI POSVERVNT--“Flavius Julius, a deacon, and
     Aurelia Meria, his wife, while living, erected this sarcophagus
     for themselves.” See, also, the epitaph of Tettius Felicissimus,
     p. 474.

     [874] The following is from the island of Salamis: Οἶκος αἰώνιος
     Ἀγάθωνος ἀναγνώστου καὶ Εὐφημίας.... “The everlasting dwelling
     of Agatho, a reader, and Euphemia....” She was probably his wife.

     [875] Thus, St. Paul calls Phoebe a διάκονος, translated
     “servant,” of the church at Cenchria.--_Rom._, xvi, 1. The
     Christian _ancillæ quæ ministræ dicebantur_, whom Pliny tortured,
     were probably of this class.

     [876] 1 Tim. v, 9.

     [877] _Concil. Chalcedon_, c. 14.

     [878] Tertul., _de Veland. Virgin._, c, 9. Olympias, a Christian
     matron of Constantinople, of noble rank, widowed at eighteen,
     became a deaconess, and devoted her immense fortune to charity.
     She was long the devoted patroness of the persecuted Chrysostom.

     [879] Cypr., _Ep._, 62.

     [880] The Fathers are enthusiastic in the praise of perpetual
     virginity. “It has the higher dignity, as vessels of gold and
     silver compared to earthenware,” says Jerome.--_Adv. Jovin._ “The
     thirty-fold increase of Scripture,” he asserts, “refers to
     marriage, the sixty-fold to widowhood, but the hundred-fold to
     virginity.”--_Ad Ageruchiam._ “Marriage replenishes earth,” he
     adds; “but virginity, heaven”--Nuptiæ terram replent, virginitas
     paradisum. “These sacred virgins are the necklace of the church,”
     says Prudentius, “and with these gems she is adorned”--Hoc est
     monile ecclesiæ! His illa gemmis comitur!--_Peristeph., H._, 3.
     They became in a mystical sense the spouses of Christ, and Jerome
     blasphemously addresses the mother of Eustochium as the
     mother-in-law of God--Socrus Dei esse coepisti--_Ad Eustoch._
     Both Jerome and Chrysostom, however, acknowledged, and
     unsparingly lashed, the evils to which the celibate system in
     their time had led. “She is the true virgin,” says the latter,
     “who careth for the things that belong to the Lord.”

     [881] In one example, of date A. D. 525, we find the phrase
     NONNAE ANCILLAE DEI, in which we see, perhaps, the origin of our
     word nun. Jerome had previously applied the word _nonnæ_ to
     either widows or virgins professing chastity.--_Ad Eustoch._,
     c. 6.

     [882] See article on “The Rise of Monachism,” by the present
     writer, in _London Quarterly Review_, October, 1873.

     [883] This was not of uniform duration. The Council of Elvira,
     (c. 24,) indeed, prescribed two years, but the length of the
     period varied in different places.

     [884] “Tanto ardentius concupiscantur, quanto honorabilius
     occultantur,” says Augustine, of this very practice.--_In
     Johan._, 96.

     [885] The following _resumé_ of the principal patristic evidence
     on the practice of infant baptism is corroborated by the
     testimony of the Catacombs. We omit the passages from Clement and
     Hermes Pastor, which imply its prevalence in the first century,
     as being rather vague. Justin Martyr, about A. D. 148, speaks of
     persons sixty and seventy years old who had been made disciples
     of Christ (ἐμαθητεύθησαν, the very word employed in Matt.
     xxviii, 19,) in their infancy, (_Apol._, 2,) and compares the
     rite of baptism to that of circumcision.--_Dial. c. Tryph._
     Irenæus expressly speaks of “infants, little ones, children,
     youth, and the aged, as regenerated unto God,” which phrase he
     elsewhere applies to baptism--_Infantes_ et parvulos, et pueros,
     et juvenes, et seniores.--_Lib._ ii, c. 39. Tertullian, indeed,
     in the third century, recommends the delay of baptism, especially
     in the case of infants--Cunctatio baptismi utilior est, præcipue
     tamen circa parvulos--an indication of the Montanist heresy,
     into which he fell, which regarded post-baptismal sins as
     inexpiable.--_De Baptis._, c. 18. The practice, however,
     continued, and Origen expressly asserts that little children were
     baptized for the remission of sins (Parvuli baptizantur in
     remissionem peccatorum--_Hom._, 14, _in Luc._,) which custom, he
     says, the church handed down from the apostles--Ecclesia ab
     apostolis traditionem suscepit.--_Id., in Rom._, v. 6. When the
     question arose, in the third century, not whether baptism should
     be administered to infants, but whether it should be administered
     before the eighth day, Cyprian and a council of sixty-six African
     bishops unanimously decreed that the rite should be denied to
     none, even in earliest infancy--Universi potius judicavimus,
     nulli hominum nato misericordiam Dei et gratiam denegandam.--_Cypr.
     Ep._ 59, _ad Fidum_. “And this,” says Augustine, “is no new
     doctrine, but of apostolic authority”--Nec omnino credenda, nisi
     apostolica esse traditio.--_De Genesi ad Literam._, x. The later
     Fathers abound in similar testimonies. The infant children of
     heathen converts were baptized _immediately_, and the older ones
     when instructed.--_Cod. Justin._, i, 11, _Leg._ 10. Orphans,
     foundlings, and even the children of heathens, received this
     sacred rite. At an early period the eucharist was administered to
     infants, which was of necessity preceded by baptism.

     [886] Hence, when a person died unbaptized, a living substitute
     sometimes received the rite in his stead. Fulgentius indeed
     asserts, that unbaptized children, even if they die “in uteris
     matrum,” are punished with everlasting punishment in eternal
     fire--ignis æterni sempiterno supplicio puniendos.--_De Fide ad
     Petr._, 27. But he alone of the Fathers expresses this
     abominable opinion. Augustine and Ambrose, though insisting
     on the importance of baptism, admit that the faith and
     repentance--fidem conversionemque cordis--of those who die while
     piously preparing therefor may suffice in its stead.--_Aug., de
     Bap._, iv, 22.

     [887] In bold and unwarrantable metaphor some of the Fathers
     speak of the waters of baptism as changed in mystical
     transubstantiation into the very cleansing blood of Christ.

     The prevalence of the Montanist heresy, which regarded as
     inexpiable all sins committed after baptism, led many to postpone
     its reception, although this practice was strongly censured by
     the church. Thus, Constantine remained a catechumen till his
     sixty-fifth year, and received baptism--“ἐμυήθη,” says Sozomen,
     (ii, 34,) literally, “was initiated,”--just before his death. An
     inscription at St. John’s Lateran asserts his baptism by
     Sylvester many years previously: CONSTANTINVS PER CRVCEM VICTOR A
     Döllinger has shown the entirely mythical character of the
     legend.--_Fables respecting the Popes_, etc., by Jn. G. Ign. von
     Döllinger. 1872.

     [888] See the epitaph of an unbaptized catechumen already given.

     [889] In a Christian epitaph from Aquileia, of date A. D. 734, we
     find the scriptural formula--ex aqua et |Spu| renatus--“born
     again of water and the Spirit.”--Muratori, _Nov. Thesaur._,
     p. 1849.

     [890] See McCaul, _Christian Epitaphs_, p. 64.

     [891] _De Bapt. Christ._

     [892] Cyprian argues for the validity of baptism by sprinkling,
     when immersion is inconvenient, as in the case of the sick,
     prisoners, etc., as follows: “In baptism the spots of sin are
     otherwise washed away than is the filth of the body in a secular
     and carnal washing, in which is need of a bath, soap, and the
     like. The heart of the believer is otherwise washed; the mind of
     man is cleansed by the merit of faith”--Neque enim sic in
     sacramento salutari delictorum contagia, ut in lavacro carnali et
     seculari sordes cutis et corporis abluuntur, etc.--_Ep. ad

     Thus, we read that St. Lawrence baptized with only a pitcher of
     water--urceum afferens cum aqua--and by pouring water on the head
     of the subject--fundit aquam super caput.--_Acta Laurentii._
     Tertullian also speaks of the “aspersion of water” in
     baptism--asperginem aquae.--_De Poenitent._, 6.

     [893] The so-called _benitiers_, or holy water vessels of
     the Catacombs, were, it is likely, in some cases at least,
     baptismal vases. The Romish “holy water” is probably copied from
     the _aqua lustralis_ of the pagans, which stood at the door
     of the temples, and into which the worshipper on entering and
     leaving dipped his fingers. In striking analogy to Romish usage,
     the pagan priest sprinkled the multitude with the holy dew by
     means of an aspergillum, or light brush--

               Idem ter socios pura circumtulit unda
               Spargens rore levi.

     [894] The nimbus and other characteristics indicate the
     comparatively late date of this picture. De Rossi thinks it not
     earlier than the seventh or eighth century. The ravages of time
     since the above was copied by Bosio have defaced part of the
     angel figure. In a similar group in a Latin MS., of the ninth
     century, the river Jordan flows from two vessels held by two
     boys. In another group at Monza, of the seventh century, the
     baptismal water pours from a vase held in the beak of the divine
     dove upon the head of Christ.

     [895] The figures are a light umber, the falling water a pale

     [896] The neophytes laid aside their white baptismal robes, or
     albs, on the Sunday after Easter, hence called _Dominica in
     albis_. In the following inscription Pascasius, a neophyte of
     six years, is said to have received baptism on Easter eve, and to
     have laid aside his albs one week thereafter in the tomb:
     (_sic_) AD SEPVLCHRVM DEPOSVIT. (A. D. 463.)

     Dr. McCaul notes a striking analogy to Christian forms of
     expression in an epitaph describing pagan initiation: ARCANIS
     PERFVSIONIBVS IN AETERNVM RENATVS--“Born eternally by secret
     sprinklings.” The sprinkling was that of the blood of a bull or
     ram, dripping on the bodies of the recipients of the lustration
     through perforations in a platform beneath which they
     stood.--_Christian Epitaphs_, p. 57.

     [897] Although these in after times became vast buildings, with
     ample provision for baptismal immersion, in the earlier ages they
     were quite small; and, according to Smith’s Classical Dictionary,
     the _baptisterium_ was “not a bath sufficiently large to immerse
     the whole body, but a vessel or labrum containing cold water for
     pouring on the head.”--Art., _Baths_. Eusebius speaks of
     baptisteries without the church “for those who require yet the
     purification and the _sprinklings_ (περιῤῥαντήριον) of water and
     the Holy Spirit.”--_E. H._, x, 4.

     [898] I am indebted for these references to the Rev. Prof.
     Bennett, D.D., of Syracuse University, late of Berlin, Prussia.

     [899] _Ciampini_, Tab. ii, Figs. 3, 4.

     [900] In later times the devout Bernard of Clairvaux thus
     eulogizes the eucharist: “It is,” he exclaims, “the medicine of
     the sick, the way of the wandering; it comforts the feeble and
     delights the strong; it cures disease and preserves health; it
     makes man more submissive to correction, stronger to labour, more
     ardent to love, wiser in foresight, prompter in obedience, more
     devout in thanksgiving. It absolves from sin, destroys the power
     of Satan, gives strength for martyrdom, and, in fine, brings
     every good.”--_Costeri. Institut. Chr._, lib. i, c. 6. It was
     also described as “the bread of angels, spiritual food, the life
     of the soul, the perpetual health of the mind, the antidote of
     sin, and pledge of future glory.”

     [901] Alicubi quotidie alicubi certis intervallis dierum.--Aug.,
     _Tr._, 26, _in Johan._ It was, in a special sense, the “daily
     bread of the soul.”

     [902] “Christ who suffered is the fish which was broiled,” says
     St. Augustine--Piscis assus, Christus passus.

     [903] See Fig. 54.

     [904] Nihil illo ditius, qui corpus Domini canistro vimineo,
     sanguinem portat in vitro.--_Ep._ 4, _ad Rustic._ The
     communion was thus conveyed to those who through sickness were
     absent from its public celebration.

     [905] Cur nullas aras habent?--Minuc., _Octav._ Non altaria
     fabricemus, non aras.--Arnob., _Contr. Gentes_. The Christian
     altars were called indifferently, _Altare_, _ara Dei_, _mensa

     [906] In the Lateran basilica, which is claimed as the head and
     mother of all the churches of Rome--_caput et mater omnium
     ecclesiarum_--is an altar which tradition asserts St. Peter
     made with his own hands, and employed for the administration of
     the Holy Sacrament. The legend attests at least an ancient
     opinion as to primitive usage. Originally only one altar was
     permissible in a church, but under Romish influence the number
     increased to as many as twenty-five, as at St. Peter’s.

     [907] In three or four instances bronze rings are attached to the
     slab, as if to allow its removal for a second interment, or
     perhaps to give a view of the relics of the saint.

     [908] Tertullian carefully guards against the literal
     interpretation of the words of Christ, “This is my body,” by the
     addition, “that is, a figure of my body”--figura corporis
     mei.--_Adv. Marc._, iv, 40. Augustine and others of the Fathers
     also discriminate between Christ’s spiritual and corporeal

     [909] They were called _eulogia_, that is, blessing or
     benediction. In the Jewish cemetery is a representation of sacred
     loaves, probably passover cakes, marked ΕΥΛΟΓΙΑ. The Christian
     representation of a cup doubtless frequently refers to the “cup
     of blessing”--Τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας--mentioned by St. Paul.--1
     Cor. x, 16.

     [910] There is not in the whole range of early Christian
     epigraphy the slightest indication of the Romish doctrine of
     Transubstantiation; which, indeed, as Dr. Maitland remarks, “was
     not distinctly broached till the ninth century.” Some of the
     earlier poets, however, and the more rhetorical of the Fathers,
     allude to a mystical presence of Christ in the eucharist,
     bordering on the modern Romish conception.

     The council of Elvira forbade the acceptance of any gift for the
     administration of the sacraments. How different from Rome’s
     mercenary tariff for the celebration of masses for the dead!

     [911] Ταῖς ἀγάπαις.--Jude, 12.

     [912] Acts ii, 46; vi, 2.

     [913] 1 Cor. xi, 16-34.

     [914] Ita saturantur, ut qui meminerunt etiam per noctem
     adorandum sibi esse; ita fabulantur, ut qui sciunt Dominum
     audire.--_Apol._, 39.

     [915] Jus. Mar., _Apol._, ii; Socrat., _Eccl. Hist._, v, 22;
     Orig., in _Ep. ad Rom._, xvi, 16.

     [916] Cibum promiscuum et innoxium.--_Ep._, lib. x, _ad Traj._

     [917] ἱεροὶ λόγοι.--_Peregrinus._

     [918] _Pædag._, ii.

     [919] Qui de ultima fæce collectis imperitioribus et mulieribus
     credulis sexus sui facilitate labentibus, plebem profanæ
     conjurationis instituunt: quæ nocturnis congregationibus et
     jejuniis solennibus et inhumanis cibis non sacro quodam sed
     piaculo foederantur, latebrosa et lucifugax natio ... deos
     despuunt, rident sacra.--Minuc. Felix, _Octav._ Odio humani
     generis convicti sunt.--Tac., _Ann._, xv. 44.

     [920] Malifica superstitio.--Suet., _Neron._, 16. Comp. Hor.,
     _Sat._, i, 8.

     [921] Quotidie obsidemur, quotidie prodimur, in ipsis plurimum
     coetibus congregationibus nostris opprimimur. Quis unquam
     taliter vagienti infanti supervenit?--_Apol._, c. 7; comp.
     _ad Nat._, i, 10-15.

     [922] Casto sermone, corpore castiore.--Minuc., _Octav._; comp.
     Orig. _Cont. Cels._, vi., Jus. Mar., _Apol._, i, 2.

     [923] Agapæ natalitiæ, agapæ connubiales, and agapæ funerales.
     The pagans, not unnaturally, regarded the latter, like their own
     funeral banquets, as designed to appease the manes of the dead.
     They would doubtless think the same of the modern mortuary masses.

     [924] Non simili sacrilegio, quamvis simili luxu
     celebrarentur.--Aug., _Ep._, 29.

     [925] Qui se in memoriis martyrum inebriant.--Aug., _Cont.
     Faust._, xx, 21. Voracitates ebrietatesque suas deputant
     religioni.--_De Morib. Eccl._, i, 34.

     [926] _Enarr._, in Psa. lix.

     [927] Placuit prohiberi, ne foeminæ in coemeteriis pervigilent,
     eo quod sæpè sub obtentu religionis latenter scelera committunt.

     [928] Among other traces of primitive Christianity among the
     latter are their married clergy and abhorrence of images. “We are
     Christians, not idolaters,” they said to the Jesuit missionaries,
     who presented for their homage images of the Virgin Mary.

     [929] The name of Pius is substituted for Deus in one well-known
     Latin hymn. Another pentecostal hymn to the Holy Spirit is
     addressed directly to the present pontiff. The growth of this
     dogma of infallibility, the distinguished French ecclesiastic,
     Père Gratry, asserts, “was utterly gangrened with imposture.” The
     stultification of the human intellect was never more strikingly
     exemplified than in the dictum of Bellarmine: Vera sunt vera et
     falsa sunt falsa; sed si ecclesia dixit vera esse falsa et falsa
     esse vera, falsa sunt vera et vera sunt falsa.

     [930] _Adv. Praxean._

                               INDEX.                                    555

  Abraham, frescoes of, 289.

  Acclamations to the departed, 441-443;
    pagan do., 444.

  Acolytes, 517.

  Adam, fall of, 224;
    receiving sentence, 225.

  Adornment, female, 497, 498.

  Agape, the, 545;
    abuse of, 550;
    suppressed, 551.

  Agnes, St., Catacomb of, 192-197;
    legend of, 192, 193.

  Altar, 543, 544;
    altar lights, origin of, 378, 379.

  Amphitheatre, games of, 488;
    suppressed, 489.

  Ampullæ, or blood cups (?), 369.

  Anchor, symbolical, 234.

  Anthropomorphism, 352-361.

  Appian Way, 164-166.

  Arcosolia, 25, 30.

  Areas, sepulchral, 37, 56, note [45], 168-171, 183;
    pagan do., 59, 60.

  Arenaria, 38-44, 197, 199.

  Art, early Christian, 203, _et seq._;
    compared with pagan do., 205, 209-213, 391, 392, 480;
    first employment of, 206, 208;
    sprang out of pagan do., 206-208;
    character of, 210, 211;
    pagan influence in, 210-214, 240-243, 303, 364, 388, 391, 480,
    becomes florid, 220;
    avoidance of passion of Christ or martyrs, 227, 273, 274;
    joyous character of, 228;
    symbolism in, 325, _et seq._, see “Symbols”;
    Virgin Mary in, see “Mary”;
    Christ in, see “Christ”;
    God and Holy Ghost in, see “Anthropomorphism”;
    domestic art, 364-366.

  Autun, ichthyic inscription at, 257-259.

  Baptism, 532-541;
    subjects of, 532;
    patristic evidence concerning, 533, note [885];
    mode of, 535, _et seq._

  Biblical Cycle, 282, _et seq._;
    subjects of, see Figs. 62-103;
    grouping of subjects, 283, 339, 340;
    relative frequency of occurrence, 341, note [566].

  Bishops, 507-511, 524, 525;
    compared with presbyters, 508, note [826], 511, note [837];
    see “Martyr Bishops,” and “Pope.”

  Bosio, 152-155.

  Burial clubs, pagan, 66-68;
    Christian, 68-70.

  Burial near martyrs, supposed efficacy of, 128-132.

  Burial, subterranean, why adopted, 50, 54;
    discontinued, 122;
    temporary return to, 122, 123.

  Cain and Abel, 285.

  Callixtus, Catacomb of, 167-183;
    history of, 173.

  Carpenter, implements of, 231.

  Catacombs, origin of word, 11, note [1];
    described by Prudentius, 11, 124;
    by Jerome, 34;
    present appearance of, 12, _et seq._, 37, 44, 45, 195;
    associations of, 13, 14, 45, 46, 201;
    extent of, 14, and note [5], 15;
    entrances to, 15, 16, 170, 189, 191, 195;
    structure of, 11, _et seq._, 168, _et seq._;
    galleries, 16-19;
    loculi, 19-24;
    cubicula, 24-31;
    different levels of, 31-33;
    luminari, 34, 35;
    origin of, 37, 38, 49, and note [31], 55, 56, note [44], 58, 200;
    not pagan arenaria, 38-44;
    geology of, 16, 39;
    perils of exploring, 46-48;
    Jewish, 49-53, 188;
    not offspring of fear, 58;                                           556
    protected by law, 62, 63;
    those of first century, 73;
    reflect history of the church, 99-104, 124, 136, 137;
    a refuge from persecution, 84, 87, note [118], 100-104;
    secret stairway in, 101, 174;
    disuse and abandonment of, 150, _et seq._;
    restoration and adornment of, 124, 136, 137;
    spoliation of, 137, 154;
    destruction of, 145-147;
    Mediæval employment of, 146, 147;
    pilgrimages to, 136, 148, 175, 176;
    re-discovery and exploration of, 150, _et seq._;
    literature of, 151-163;
    present control of, 161;
    principal ones, account of, 164, _et seq._;
    of Callixtus, 167-183;
    of Prætextatus, 183;
    of Sebastian, 184;
    of Domitilla, 189;
    of Nereus and Achilles, _ib._;
    of St. Helena, 190;
    of St. Cyriaca, 191;
    of St. Agnes, 194-197;
    of Alexander, 197;
    of St. Priscilla, 198;
    art of, 203, _et seq._, see “Art”;
    Mithraic tomb in, 214-218;
    symbolism of, 225, _et seq._;
    Biblical Cycle of, 282, _et seq._;
    gilt glasses, etc., of, 362, _et seq._;
    inscriptions of, 395, _et seq._;
    doctrinal teachings of, 415, _et seq._;
    evidences concerning Christian life and character, 453, _et seq._;
    (for last six see _in verbis_);
    summary of testimony, 551-553.

  Catechists, 530-532.

  Catechumens, _ib._

  Cecilia, St., crypt of, 178;
    legend of, 179-181.

  Celibacy of clergy, not a primitive practice, 522-524;
    praise of, 527, 528;
    practice of, 529.

  Character of early Christians, 461-463, 481, 482;
    of pagans, 464, 479-481;
    see “Persecutions.”

  Charity, early Christian, 483-485, 504.

  Christ, youthful aspect of, in art, 342, and note [570];
    traditional appearance of, 343-345;
    patristic testimony concerning, 343-345;
    early images of, 345, and note [584], 346-348;
    miraculous images of, 345, note [585];
    degradation in art-representations of, 347-352.

  Christians, early, rank of, 56, 57, and note [46], 89, 169, 417,
      458-460, 480;
    calumnies against, 548, 549.

  Christianity, spread of, 57, 116-119;
    persecutions of, 70, _et seq._, see _in verbo_;
    triumph of, _ibid._, 496;
    purifies morals, 480;
    cultivates charity, 483-485;
    protects life, 485;
    elevates slaves, 486, 487;
    suppresses games, 488, 489;
    raises woman, 491-493;
    moral triumphs of, 504.

  Clement of Alexandria, quoted, 384, 385, 497, 498, and note [809].

  Clergy, orders of, 507;
    in Greek church, _ib._, note [823];
    bishops, 507-511, 524, 525;
    presbyters, 511-513, 525;
    deacons, 514;
    subdeacons, 515;
    lectors, 515, 516;
    acolytes, 517;
    exorcists, 517-519;
    multiplication of, 521, note [865];
    non-celibate, 522-526.

  Confessional, reputed, 531.

  Conjugal affections, early Christian, 471-474;
    pagan do., 475, 476.

  Constantine, 92, 120, 121.

  Constantinian monogram, 465;
    genesis of, 466-468;
    various forms of, 267-269;
    becomes cross, 270-273, see “Cross.”

  Cornelius, tomb of, 169.

  Cross, true, relics of, 139, note [240], 140, notes [243], [244];
    legend of, 271, 272, and note [456];
    rare in Catacombs, 260;
    pagan abhorrence of, _ib._;
    caricature of, 261, and note [429];
    recognition of in nature, etc., 235, 262, 263;
    supposed mysterious power of, 263, 264;
    pre-Christian, 281, note.

  Crucifixion, not represented in early Christian art, 273;
    symbolically indicated, 274;
    first example of, 275;
    art development of, 275-281.

  Crucifix, genesis of, 279, 280.                                        557

  Cubicula, 24-29, 339, 531.

  Cyprian, quoted, 82, 434;
    death of, 84, note [108].

  Damasus, 123, 175, 406.

  Daniel in the lions’ den, 298, 299.

  Dates of Catacombs, 73;
    of inscriptions, 408-410, 416, _et seq._

  David and Goliath, 394.

  Deacons, 514;
    wives of, 474, 526.

  Deaconesses, 526-530.

  Deaths of persecutors, 93, note [135].

  Decius, persecution under, 81.

  De Rossi, 159, 160, 399, 400, 406.

  Diocletian, persecution under, 89, and note [126], 90.

  Diptychs, 393, 394.

  Divinity of Christ, taught, 449, 450.

  Doctrinal teachings of Catacombs, 415, _et seq._;
    see “Purgatory,” “Resurrection,” “Trinity,” etc.

  Dolls, etc., found in Catacombs, 387.

  Domestic relations, evidence concerning, 465, _et seq._;
    parental relations, 466-468;
      pagan, do., 468-470;
      filial do., 470;
    conjugal do., 471-474;
      pagan do., 475, 476;
    fraternal do., 476;
    friendly do., 476.

  Domine Quo Vadis, legend of, 107, note [160].

  Domitilla, Catacomb of, 55-57, and 57, note [46], 189.

  Doves, symbolical, 236-239, 404.

  Elijah, 294.

  Energumens, 519.

  Epigraphy, Christian, literature of, 399, 400;
    examples of, 401, _et seq._;
    see “Inscriptions.”

  Eucharist, symbols of, 250, 252, 542;
    celebration of, 541-545.

  Filial affection, early Christian, 470.

  Fish, symbolical, 252-260, 378;
    the word a sacred anagram, 252;
    an allusion to baptism, 253;
    a tessara, 255, 389;
    a eucharistic symbol, 256;
    Autun icththyic inscription, 257-259.

  Fonts, baptismal, 537, 538.

  Fossors, 132-135, 519, 526.

  Fraternal affections, early Christian, 476.

  Funeral rites, Christian, 499-502;
    pagan do., 503.

  Future state, doctrine concerning, 417-431;
    pagan do., 436-444.

  Galerius, 91.

  Galleries of Catacombs, 16, _et seq._

  Gallienus, 86.

  Gaume, Abbé, on the Catacombs, 201.

  Gilt glasses, early Christian, 362;
    subjects represented in, 364-367;
    convivial inscriptions of, 367, 368;
    some sacramental, 368;
    dates of, 369.

  God in art, 352-361;
    alleged sarcophagal example of, 354-356;
    symbolized in Catacombs by hand, 290, 356.

  Good Shepherd, the, symbol of Christ, 245-248;
    statue of, 390.

  Graffiti, pagan, 59, 60;
    Christian, 130, 148, 174, 175.

  Graves, see “Loculi.”

  Greek language, use of at Rome, 406, 407.

  Hand as symbol of God, 293, 356.

  Hebrew children, the three, 298, 299.

  Helena, St., Catacomb of, 196.

  Heresy, growth of, 119, note [194].

  Hippolytus, statue of, 392;
    character of, 393.

  Horse, symbolical, 382.

  Iconoclasm, early, 222.

  Ichthyic inscription, 257-259.

  Ichthyic symbol, see “Fish.”

  Ignatius, martyrdom of, 74, note [83], 125.

  Image worship, 222-224.

  Imprecations, pagan, 61;
    Christian, 64, 65.

  Inscriptions, early Christian, general character of, 395, _et seq._;
    associations of, 398;
    collection and classification of, 398-400;                           558
    literature of, _ib._;
    rude examples of, 66, 98, 238, 267, 268, 401, _et seq._;
    barbarous Latinity of, 403, and note [675], 407, 422, 426;
    inverted, 404;
    reversed, _ib._;
    brief, 238, 401-405;
    Greek, 406, 407;
    dates of, 408-410, 416, _et seq._;
    notes of time in, 410-412, 508;
    doctrinal teachings of, 415, _et seq._, see “Purgatory,” etc.;
    concerning future state, 417, _et seq._;
    pagan do., 436-444;
    cheerful character of, 427, 430, 443, 452;
    concerning the doctrine of the resurrection, 431;
    concerning Christian life and character, 453, _et seq._;
    names, expressive, 454-457;
    pagan do., 455, note [742], 457;
    puritan do., 455, note [743];
    evidence of early Christian character, 461-463;
    of pagan do., 464;
    of domestic relations, 465, _et seq._;
    of parental do., 466-468;
    of pagan do., 468-470;
    of filial do., 470;
    of conjugal do., 471-474;
    of pagan do., 475, 476;
    age of marriage, 473, note [756];
    fraternal relations, 476;
    friendly do., 476;
    evidence concerning clerical orders, 506, _et seq._, see “Clergy”;
    concerning Christian rites and institutions, 432, _et seq._, see

  Invocation of saints, first examples of, 426, 446-449.

  Isaac, sacrifice of, 288, 289.

  Jerome, quoted, 36, 450, 498, 502.

  Jews at Rome, 49;
    their Catacomb, 50-54, 188;
    epitaphs of, 53.

  Job, fresco of, 293.

  Jonah, story of, 299-304.

  Joseph, 290.

  Justin Martyr, 76.

  Kip, Bishop, on the Catacombs, 162.

  Labarum, legend of the, 268.

  Lactantius, _De Mort. Persec._, 93, note [135].

  Lamb, symbol of Christ, 249, 250.

  Lamps, early Christian, 376-379.

  Lapidarian Gallery, 395.

  Lawrence, St., martyrdom of, 86, note [112];
    tomb of, 192.

  Lazarus, raising of, 329-331.

  Lectors, 515, 516, 526.

  Literature of the Catacombs, 151-163.

  Loculi, 19-21;
    number of, 21;
    how closed, 22, 23;
    contents of, 23, 24;
    made during life, 65;
    sale of, 132.

  Love-feast, see “Agape.”

  Luminari, 34, 35.

  MacFarlane, on the Catacombs, 45, 161.

  Magi, adoration of, 305, 306.

  Maitland, on the Catacombs, 161.

  Marcus Aurelius, character of, 75, 76.

  Mariolatry, no trace of in Catacombs, 305, 306, 310, 316, 323;
    development of, 312-323.

  Marriage, references to, 304, 305, 471-474, 494-496;
    pagan do., 475, 476, 492, 493;
    age of, 473, note [756].

  Marriott, on the Catacombs, 162.

  Martyr bishops of Rome, 81-87, 94-96.

  Martyrdom of Ignatius, 74, note [83];
    of Polycarp, 76;
    of Perpetua, 79, note [94];
    of Lawrence, 86, note [112];
    (see _antea_ and _postea_);
    the passion for, 112-115;
    effects of, _ib._;
    references to, 372;
    symbols of, 17, 369-375.

  Martyr epitaphs:--of Marius, 75;
    of Alexander, 77, note [89];
    of Sixtus, 85;
    of Marcellus, 94;
    of Eusebius, 95;
    of Sebastian, 96;
    of Lannus, 98;
    see 106, _et seq._;
    of St. Agnes, 193.

  Martyrologies, 110-112.

  Martyrs, number of, 105-108, 178;
    sufferings of, 108-112;
    festivals in honour of, 127;
    adornment of tombs of, 123, 124;
    spoliation of do., 128, 137, 145;
    reverence for, 123-128;
    burial near, 128-132;
    pilgrimages to tombs of, 136, 148;                                   559
    veneration of martyr relics, 124-128;
    translation of, 137, 142, 143, note [246], 144, notes [247], [248].

  Mary, Virgin, legends of, 307;
    in art, 305-314;
    miraculous images of, 317, note [522];
    assumption of, 318, and note [526];
    hymns to, 320.

  Maximin, persecution of, 81.

  McCaul, Dr., on early Christian epigraphy, 162, note [289], 163,
      414, 421, 541.

  Mithraic monument in Catacombs, 214-218.

  Mosaic, 223.

  Moses on Horeb, 290;
    on Sinai, _ib._;
    striking rock, 291, 292.

  Ministry, rites, and institutions of primitive church, 506, _et seq._,
      see “Clergy,” and “Rites.”

  Names, early Christian, expressive character of, 454, 455;
    pagan do., 455, note [742], 457.

  Neophytes, 322, 323, 540.

  Nimbus in art, 208, note [333].

  Noah, story of, 286-288.

  Northcote, on the Catacombs, 161.

  Objects found in Catacombs, 362, _et seq._;
    see “Gilt Glasses,” etc.

  Opisthographæ, 268, 413.

  Oranti, 308-310.

  Pagan epitaphs, 59-62, 396, 397, 413, 414, 434-441, 460, note [750],
      469, 475-478.

  Pagan influence in art, see “Art.”

  Paganism, decadence of, 117;
    social condition of, 479-481.

  Paintings, see “Art,” “Symbolism,” and different subjects of.

  Palm and crown, symbolical, 230;
    reputed sign of martyrdom, 372.

  “Papal Crypt,” 170-178.

  Parental affection, early Christian, 466-468;
    pagan do., 468-470.

  Paul, St., martyrdom of, 200;
    in art, 336-337, and notes [557], [559], [560], [561];
    see “Peter and Paul.”

  Paulinus of Nola, quoted, 221.

  Peacock, symbolical, 240.

  Perpetua, martyrdom of, 79, note [94].

  Perret, his great work on the Catacombs, 158, 159.

  Persecutions, early, cause of, 70, 71;
    Neronian, 71;
    Domitian, 72;
    Aurelian, 76;
    of Commodus, 78;
    of Severus, 79;
    of Maximin, 81;
    Decian, 81, 82;
    Valerian, 83, 84;
    Diocletian, 88-91;
    extent of, 105-108;
    virulence of, 108-113.

  Peter, St., at Rome (?), 53, and note [39];
    denying Christ, 332;
    apprehension of, 335;
    in art, 337;
    cultus of, 338, and note [562];
    relics of, 53, note [39];
    font of, 537.

  Peter and Paul, crypt of, 186-188;
    in art, 336, 337, 365, 367.

  Piani, of Catacombs, 31-33.

  Pilate, 333, 334.

  Polycarp, martyrdom of, 76.

  Pope, the, 509, 511, and notes [835], [836].

  Prayers for dead, unknown in earliest times, 421;
    first example of, 442, 443;
    prayers to the dead, 446-449.

  Prætextatus, Catacomb of, 183.

  Presbyters, 511-513;
    sometimes had secular employment, 513, and note [844];
    married, 525.

  Prudentius, quoted, 11, 110, 115, 124.

  Purgatory, unknown to early Christians, 420, 423, 424, 445, 446.

  Relics, worship of, 124-126, 138-143, 544;
    traffic in, 138, 139;
    supposed efficacy of, 140;
    grotesque Mediæval do., _ib._, notes [243], [244], [245];
    reputed martyr do., 369;
    misinterpretation of, 141-143, 370.

  Resurrection, doctrine of, 430-433.

  Rings from Catacombs, 284.

  Rites and institutions of primitive church:--marriage, 471-474;
    funeral, 499-503;
    baptism, 532-541;
    eucharist, 541-545;
    Agape, 545-551;
    see _in verbis_.

  Romanism, unsupported by early Christian epigraphy, 416-418,           560
    first trace of, 425, 426, 442, 445, 446, 521-524;
    compared with primitive Christianity, 551-553.

  Rome, fall of, 134, 135.

  Romish misinterpretation of relics, 141-143;
    of leaf points, 227;
    of blood cup (?), 370.

  San Greal, the, 141-142, note [245].

  Sarcophagi, 334, 340-342, and 342, note [569].

  Seals, early Christian, 266, 270, 384-386.

  Sebastian, Catacomb and legend of, 184, 185.

  Sepulchral areas, 56, note [44], 59, 60.

  Sepulchres, pagan, 13, note [2], 58;
    sacredness of, 58-63, 69;
    Christian, sacredness of, 63-65, 69;
    violation of, see _in verbo_.

  Sepulture, pagan, 13, note [2], 49, 58-61, 66-68, 169, 389, 390,
    Jewish, 49-54;
    Christian, 499-503.

  Ship, symbolical, 230, 235, 377.

  Slaves and slavery, 486, 487.

  Soldiers, 489, 490.

  Stag, symbolical, 441, 538.

  Stanley, Dean, on the Catacombs, 415.

  Symbolism, 204, 225, _et seq._;
    interpretation of, 220.

  Symbols, phonetic, 229, 230;
    trade do., 231-233, 374;
    symbolical anchor, 234, 235;
    ship, 235, 377;
    crown and palm, 236;
    dove, 236-239;
    peacock, 240;
    phoenix, cock, _ib._;
    stag, 241;
    horse, _ib._, and 382;
    lion, hare, 241;
    vine, balance, 242;
    Good Shepherd, 243-248, 390;
    lamb, 249-251;
    fish, 252-260, see _in verbo_;
    cross, 263-281, see _in verbo_;
    God symbolized by hand, 290, 356.

  Tertullian, quoted, 79, 235, 451, 489, 494, 497, 547.

  Time, notation of, 410-412.

  Thundering Legion, 78, note [90].

  Toilet articles from Catacombs, 385, 386.

  Tombs, violation of, see _in verbo_;
    sacredness of, 58-63, 69.

  Toys from Catacombs, 387.

  Trades, symbols of, 231-234, 274;
    recorded in epitaphs, 459, 460;
    pagan do., 460, note [750].

  Trinity, alleged representation of, 354-360;
    doctrine of, 449-452.

  Valerian, persecution of, 83.

  Vases, early Christian, 380;
    baptismal, 382.

  Veronica, the, 346, note [585].

  Violation of tombs, 59, 61, 64, and note [59], 65, and note [60].

  Virginity, praise of, 527, 528, and notes [880].

  Virgin Mary, see “Mary.”

  Virgins, epitaphs of, 528.

  Wiseman, his “Fabiola,” 158.

  Woman, pagan degradation of, 490-493;
    Christian elevation of, 493-495, and notes [797], [801], [802];
    apparel of, 497, 498.

  Young, the, care of primitive church for, 529, 530.

                              THE END.

                        TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:

Missing periods were added to abbreviations and ends of sentences;
commas were changed to periods in abbreviations; italics were added to
citations in footnotes, where missing in the original; and spacing
between words was adjusted, where necessary. In the index, commas,
semicolons and periods were adjusted so that they were used

Hebrew characters and Greek letters with accents may not display
properly in some e-book readers. Missing accents were added to words
in French.

The “Chi Rho” symbol is indicated with ☧. Words or letters with an
overline are surrounded by pipes, |like this|. Words and phrases in
italics are surrounded by underscores, _like this_. In the inscription
in Footnote [60], ‘T/Y’ represents the letter ‘T’ above the letter ‘Y.’

Page numbers are displayed in the right margin.

Footnotes were renumbered sequentially and moved to the end of the
chapter in which the anchors occur. Footnotes [48] and [52a] are
missing in the original. There are two anchors for Footnote [61], page
66. Missing anchor for Footnote [756] was added. In the Index,
footnote numbers replaced symbols to entries marked ‘note’ or ‘notes.’

Anomalies noted, and left unchanged:

  There are many misspelled words and abbreviations in English, Latin,
    Greek, French, Italian, and German. Some quotations from other
    sources, often in footnotes, do not match the original source.
    Only words that appear to be printer’s errors were adjusted, as
    noted below.
  Occasionally, Greek letters were used to spell words in Latin.
  Hyphenation and spelling are not consistent, e.g. ‘lifetime’ vs.
   ‘life-time,’ ‘Shakespeare’ vs. ‘Shakspeare,’ and ‘ae’ vs ‘æ.’
  On page 147, the reference to ‘Colonna di Rienzi, (1347 - 1354)’ may
    refer to Cola di Rienzi, ca. 1313 - 1354.
  Prices of items quoted in contemporary dollars do not use decimals
    between the dollars and cents, e.g. page 132 and footnote [288].
  There is no illustration on the title page, even though, on page 267,
    a vignette is mentioned as being there.
  On page 520, Roman number ‘LXII’ is identified as ‘seventy-two.’
  The Hebrew in Footnote [845] may be a mistake for פַּרְנָסִים.

Changes to text:

   52 ‘foling’ to ‘following’ ... The following examples ...
  276  duplicate ‘and’ removed ... darkened sun and moon look ...
  414 ‘enentirely’ to ‘entirely’ ... are entirely gratuitous ...
  559 ‘218’ to ‘318’ index entry under ‘Mary, Virgin, assumption of’
      Footnote [107] ‘ποιεῖθαι’ to ‘ποιεῖσθαι’
                      and ‘κοινητήρια εἰσιέμαι’ to ‘κοιμητήρια εἰσιέναι’
      Footnote [247] added ‘a’ to ‘lorsqu’on les a exposés’
      Footnote [455] ‘e’l’ to ‘e l’’ ... La croce e l’ crocifisso ...
      Footnote [738] ‘ἀνεσκολοπισμένὴν’ to ‘ἀνεσκολοπισμένον’ and
                     ‘κύπιος’ to ‘κύριος’
      Footnote [754] ‘GAYKYTATOs’ to ‘GLYKYTATOS’

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