The catacombs were underground
burial places for Christians. They were built outside the walls of the city. It was
against the law to bury bodies within the city of Rome. Sixty known catacombs can be found
along the Appian Way.
The early burial sites were
simple marked graves. Later they became large systems of galleries with linking passages.
Bodies were placed in spaces
that were between 16 to 24 inches high and 47 to 59 inches long. These spaces were cut in
soft tufa rock. Bodies were clothed, wrapped in linen, and sprinkled with ointments. They
were then sealed with a slab that was inscribed with the name of the deceased, date of
death, and a religious symbol.
When Christianity became the
established religion of the Roman Empire in 313 A. D. burial places were moved above
ground to the cemeteries that we see today.