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tions and symbols, and what the lessons have seen and often explored the cemeof these ancient cemeteries?
tery of Priscilla, lately discovered and We propose, in answering these ques- cleared on the Salarian Way, at the third tions, to present a summary of the whole mile-stone from the city. This, from its subject.
extent, and its many various paths, I call It will not be necessary, we trust, to by no more appropriate name than a subask the reader to excuse the roughness of terranean city. From the entrance onour cuts; they would hardly be compatible ward opens out a principal street, wider with the subject and scenes of our re than the rest. Others diverge from it at marks were they finer ; they are used only frequent intervals; these again are separas “illustrations," and we may be allowed ated off into narrower ways and blind to insert them, in addition to the more alleys. Moreover, as is the case in cities, elegant engravings, given in other col- broader spaces open out in particular spots,
each like a kind of forum, for holding the The ground-plan, already presented, may sacred assemblies; these are adorned with afford some idea of this subterranean city images of the saints. Apertures have of the dead, and yet a very inadequate likewise been pierced (though now blocked one, for it is an outline (from Arringhi's up) for receiving the light from above. “ Roma Subterranea”) of only a portion The city was amazed at discovering that of the immense labyrinth—that known as she had in her suburbs long-concealed the Cemetery of St. Calixtus. At least towns, now filled only with sepulchers, fifty different cemeteries have been enu but once Christian colonies in days of permerated, and how far these may be con secution." nected by crypts and galleries is unknown ; Our countryman Cole, the artist, visited it is absolutely impossible to explore them them during a sojourn at Rome : “ I have thoroughly ; the passages are exceedingly seen that to-day," he says, " which will intricate, and many of them have been be a lasting subject of thought—which has rendered impassable by rubbish, and then made an impression on my mind that can the peril from the caving in of the walls, never be effaced—the Catacombs of St. rendering all return hopeless, haunts the Agnes. The entrance, about two miles explorer amidst their dark and endless out of the Porta Pia, is by a flight of
Professor Silliman says that they steps, partly antique, I believe. At the extend twenty miles to Ostia, the port of bottom, we found ourselves in a narrow Rome, in one direction, and twelve miles passage cut in the tufa rock. On either to Albano in another. Bishop Kip says: hand were excavations in the walls, of “ It is certain that many miles from the various dimensions, which contain the church of St. Sebastian," where he entered bones of the early Christians. For two them, “there are openings into the Cata- hours we wandered in these gloomy recombs ; but whether they communicate gions. Now and then we came to a chapel. with those which are entered at that place, The passages were, in general, about six it is impossible to determine. The prob- feet wide, and from five to twelve high, ability is, that all this section of country arched, and sometimes plastered. The without the gates of Rome is excavated cells are in tiers, one above another. so as to form a perfect labyrinth of pas- Many of them were open, and disclosed sages. They resemble a subterranean city the moldering bones of those who flourwith its streets and alleys, and so encircle ished in the first centuries of the Christhe walls, that they have been called the tian Church. Others were closed by tiles, encampment of the Christian host besieg- or slabs of marble with cement, which aping pagan Rome, and driving inward its peared with the impressions of the trowel mines and trenches with an assurance of as fresh as yesterday. Here were the refinal victory."" Old Baronius describes mains of the early martyrs of Christianity. them as they appeared in his day, when You know them by the small lamp, and they were but partially explored. They the little phial or vase which once conwere," he says, not only used for the tained some of their blood. These vespurpose of burying the dead, (whence they sels were inserted in the cement that sealderive their name,) but likewise in time ed up their graves. Impressions of coins of persecution as a hiding-place for Chris- and medals, and the date of the interment, tians. Wonderful places are these! We are also to be seen in the cement, with in
scriptions marked with the point of the from it, between two graves, is a small trowel, usually the name of the individual, square hole, designed probably to contain with the words, in pace,' or dormit in the vial or cup mentioned by Cole, of pace.' What pictures cannot the im- which more hereafter. agination paint here ! Yet nothing is so Bishop Kip describes minutely the impressive as the reality; scenes where areas or chapels referred to in our quotaChristian hope triumphed over affliction ; tion from Baronius. They are mostly where the ceremonies of their holy relig- mere expansions of the passages. The ion were performed far from the light of earliest are extremely rude, with the day. The chapels are generally orna graves of the martyrs cut into the soft mented with pictures, some of which are stone of the wall on every side. Here in good preservation. They are rudely the first Christians of Rome held their executed, but with some spirit.”
simple worship, sheltered from the purWe insert a rough engraving of the suit of the persecutor. It is not improbopening of one of the larger galleries. able, as Bishop Kip intimates, that men The light is seen at the entrance; on the who had seen our blessed Lord, worshipright and left are examples of the graves, ed him here with the earliest Christians in three tiers; there is also a lateral pas- of the eternal city. In time these “chapsage blocked up to prevent the visitor from els” were improved in their architectural losing himself in its windings. Not far style. Their stone roofs were ed,
In the cut, which we give below, the recess for the body, at the extremity of the chapel, is partitioned by a cancellated slab of marble, which is now partly shattered. The largest of these chapels will admit about eighty persons.
We have already described the graves as inserted in the walls of the galleries. They were inclosed by a thin marble slab, sometimes by terra-cotta, fastened to the walls by cement. We give, on the opposite page, an engraving of two graves, one of which is open, exposing to view the skeleton remains; the other being yet sealed with three slabs of cotta. The reader will notice the cup and palm, rudely cut, per
haps scratched upon the stone by the trowel and holes excavated in them for the ad- of the untutored mason, probably a poor mission of light. These openings are yet member of the persecuted brotherhood. frequently seen in the Campagna; they “ It was thus,” says Bishop Kip, “ that on are mentioned often in the "Acts of the these slabs were cut the Christian emblems Martyrs." It is recorded, for instance, which the early followers of our Lord so that a Christian maiden named Candida much delighted to use, and there too they was martyred by being thrown through one scrawled the brief epitaphs by which, in of these light openings into the crypt and that age of fear and persecution, they overwhelmed with stones.
marked the resting place of the brethren. Subsequently, when the Church had While everything around speaks of suffertriumphed in the city, and fallen, alas, as ing, it tells also of the simple earnest faith well as triumphed, these refuges of her of men, with whom the glories of the next first heroes became the resorts of super- world had swallowed up all the pains of stition and the scenes of votive honors. their brief mortal pilgrimage." Some of the chapels were highly orna- The bishop entered the Catacombs, as mented. As early as A. D. 400, the tomb of Hippolytus was decorated with “Parian marble and precious metals. The roof was extended and vaulted, and the skill of the artist exhausted in representing sacred subjects on the walls.”
The above engraving of one of the later and improved chapels contrasts with the rude outline presented in our last cut.
It presents a noble architectural effect, • An instance,” says Bishop Kip, “of the ‘arched monument,'— a grave cut like a sarcophagus from the rock, and an arch constructed above it.”
we have said, at the Church of St. Sebas- | above, merely to show that for the body tian; this section is considered by anti- resting there they expected a share in the quarians to have been the earliest occu- glory of the resurrection. Very many of pied by the Christians, and is therefore the graves are those of children, and the most interesting to the Christian visit- sometimes a whole family are interred toor. We may add Bishop Kip's descrip- gether. The cavities were cut into the tion, to those already given from Baro- soft stone, just large enough for the body, nius and Cole; he felt the inspiration with a semi-circular excavation for the of the place : “The intricate passages head, and the opening was closed with a cross and recross, often not more than thin slab of marble. It was, indeed, a three feet wide, and so low that we were most interesting scene, as we followed the obliged to stoop. The difficulty of fol- old monk with his trailing garments and lowing them is greater from the fact, that noiseless tread through these dark and they are generally constructed in three silent passages.
On each side of us were stories, so that you constantly meet with the yawning graves. For a moment they steps which ascend or descend. At times, seemed to open, as the taper we carried however, they expand into apartments brought them into the little circle of light, arched overhead, and large enough to and then, as we passed, they closed again contain a small company. On each side in the darkness. We were wandering are cavities in which were placed the among the dead in Christ, who more than bodies of the dead, and small apertures sixteen centuries ago were borne to their where lamps were found. But few sar rest. Around us were the remains of cophagi were discovered here, and these some, who, perhaps, had listened to the probably date from the fourth century, voices of apostles, and who lived while when persecution had ceased, and more men were still upon the earth who had of the higher classes had begun to hand in seen Jesus of Nazareth, as he went on their adherence to the faith. Before this, his pilgrimage through the length and no pomp or ceremony attended the burial breadth of Judea. It was a scene, howof the Christians, when their friends hastily ever, to be felt more than to be described laid them in these dark vaults. They —a place in which to gather materials for sought not the sculptured marble to in- thought for all our coming days, carrying close their remains, but were contented us back, as it did, to the earliest ages of with the rude emblems which were carved our faith—ages when the only strife was,
as to who should be foremost in that con them, and we doubt not most correctly ; test through which their Lord was to but when they were wrought no one can inherit the earth' The holy spirit of even conjecture. Similar evidences of a the place—the genius loci-seemed to im- mighty primeval race are traced, not only press itself
upon all. They were hushed throughout the southern part of Italy, but into a reverential silence; or, if they spoke, in Sicily, the Isles of the Mediterranean, it was in low and subdued tones. Yet in Greece and Asia Minor-Cyclopean and we were glad to ascend the worn steps, Pelasgian monuments and the quarries and find ourselves once more in the church whence they were derived. above. We noticed, indeed, that the cor The rocky earth about Rome is easily ners we turned in these intricate passages worked; it consists of puzzolana, volwere marked with white paint to guide us, canic or sandy rock, well adapted for the yet a sudden current of air extinguishing excavation of long galleries.” At the our lights would make these signs useless, advent of Christianity the disciples in the and from the crumbling nature of the rock eternal city found in them at once asylums there is always danger of the caving in from persecution, sanctuaries for worship, of a gallery, or some other accident, which and graves for their dead. They became, might involve a party in one common as we have quoted from an eloquent writer, fate. We were told, indeed, that no “ the encampment of the Christian host longer ago than 1837, a school of nearly besieging pagan Rome, and driving inward thirty youth, with their teacher, de- its mines and trenches, with an assurance scended into these Catacombs on a visit, of final victory.” It is probable that the and never reappeared. The passage Arenarii, or sand-diggers and quarrymen through which they entered, and which the lowest class of the people—became has since been walled up, was pointed out the first Christians of Rome; they knew to us. Every search was made, but in the labyrinthine passages of the subterravain ; and somewhere in these labyrinths nean city; and thus was provided a refuge they are moldering by the side of the for the Church in the “fiery trials ” of its early disciples of our faith. The scene early persecutions. Bishop Kip, whose which then was exhibited in these dark fervid and devout spirit seems always passages, and the chill which gradually congenial with his theme, asks—“ May crept over their young spirits as hope we not trace in this the hand of a protecting yielded to despair, could be described only Providence? The Church was about to by Dante, in terms in which he has por- enter the furnace of affliction, and to be trayed the death of Ugolina and his sons encircled by the rage of the adversaries; in the Tower of Famine, at Pisa." here, then, had previously been provided a
Such is a rapid glance at this terra sure refuge, where it could abide until the sancta—these vast subterranean regions. storm was overpast. This was the cradle Before referring more fully to their in- of the infant community. And, perhaps, scriptions and the deductions to be drawn we may go a step further, and assert, that from them, let us cast our glance back a while the Church in Rome owed much of little over their history. Their origin is the rapidity of its triumph to the protection lost in the obscurity of the distant vista. afforded by the Catacombs, by furnishing They are the remains of a period anterior a place of refuge where the faithful gento the founding of Rome. Under the name erally had a secure retreat, in later times of Etruscans, historians speak of a people the lessons taught by these ancient sepulwho, like the Aztecs of our own Conti- chers must have long served to arrest the nent, preceded all authentic history on the progress of innovation, as the Roman Italian peninsula. Ruins, massive ruins, Christians beheld recorded, before their which would have required these stupen- eyes, evidences of the faith held in dous quarries, remain to attest their great- their fathers' day, and in the old time ness; but their language is undeciphered before them.' That the Catacombs were, as unintelligible as that on the marvelous throughout, well known to the early monuments of Central America. The Christians, is evident; for all parts bear museums of Italy are crowded with mon trace of their occupancy.
We meet on uments of their art; but these reflect no every side with tombs and chapels, paintrevelation of their epoch. These amazing ings and inscriptions, and for three hunexcavations about Rome are attributed to dred years the entire Christian population