catacombs

While in Rome we visited some of the catacombs. The early Church of Rome might well be called the Church of the Catacombs. When the persecutions began and intensified under Nero, the Christians found that they could retreat into these labyrinthine networks of tunnels to escape the pursuit of Roman soldiers wishing to turn them in to the authorities. The Early Church developed a vast support network and series of hiding places based on the catacombs.

There are some 60 catacombs near Rome, in which some 600 miles of galleries have been traced. These galleries are about 8 ft high by 3-5 ft wide, containing on either side several rows of long, low, horizontal recesses, one above another like berths in a ship. In these the dead bodies were placed and the front closed, either by a single marble slab or several great tiles laid in mortar.

Both pagans and Christians buried their dead in these catacombs. When the Christian graves have been opened the skeletons tell their own terrible tale. Heads are found severed from the body, ribs and shoulder blades are broken, bones are often calcined from fire. But despite the awful stories of persecution, the inscriptions breathe forth peace, joy & triumph.
Here are a few:
“Here lies Marcia, put to rest in a dream of peace.”
“Being called away, he went in peace.”
Remember when reading these inscriptions the story the skeletons tell of persecution, of torture, and of fire.

But the full force of these epitaphs is seen when we contrast them with the pagan epitaphs, such as:
“Live for the present hour, since we are sure of nothing else.”
“Once I was not. Now I am not. I know nothing about it, and it is no concern of mine.”

The most frequent Christian symbols on the walls of the catacombs, are, the good shepherd with the lamb on his shoulder, a ship under full sail, harps, anchors, crowns, vines, and above all the fish.

The Christian Church spread throughout the world largely as a result of the persecutions by the Romans. What Satan intended for evil God gave these brave Christians an eternal home with Him. No more sadness, no more pain, filled with peace & victory.

We look forward to embracing our ancient courageous brothers and sisters in Christ.
Mac & Mary