Arcosolium

Arcosolium

is a term supposed to denote those tombs hewn in the rock of the Catacombs of Rome (and( elsewhere) in which there is an arched opening above the portion reserved for the deposition of the body, the grave being dug from above downwards into the reserved portion below the arch. Others suppose it to mean the sepulchral chambers, or cubicula, in which the great majority of these tombs are found. In the tombs of this kind the receptacle for the corpse was sometimes covered by a slab of marble, or sometimes a marble sarcophagus was inserted. In a few cases the sarcophagus projects forward into the chamber, and the sides of the arch are continued to the ground beyond the sarcophagus. Such slabs or sarcophagi have been supposed to have served as altars during the period of persecution, as being the resting-places of saints or martyrs, and in some instances this may have been the case; but the far greater number of these tombs are, no doubt, of later date, being simply the monuments used by the wealthier class. The bishops and martyrs of the 3d century were placed, not in these arcosolia, or monumenta arcuata, but in simple loculi-excavations in the wall just large enough to receive a body placed lengthwise. In the 4th and 5th centuries the humble: loculus was altered into the decorated monumentum arcuatum, and the whole sepulchral chamber, in many cases, was richly adorned with incrustations of marble, with stucco, and with paintings. An excellent example of this is afforded by the chamber in' the Cemetery of Calixtus, in which the remains of the popes Eusebius (309- 311) and Miltiades (or Melchiades, 311-314) were placed, a part of which is represented in the annexed wood-cut. In the walls of this chamber are three large aircosolia, in front of one of which was a marble slab, with an inscription by pope Damasus commemorating pope Eusebius. The whole chamber has been richly decorated with marble incrustations, paintings, and mosaics. These decorations it would seem reasonable to assign to pope Damasus, who undoubtedly set. up the inscription. In the year 1859, in the Cemetery of St. Calixtus, an unviolated. arcosolium was discovered; in this a marble sarcophagus was found, in which lay a body swathed in numerous bands of linen exactly in the manner shown in the early representations of the raising of Lazarus. These arcosolia were often decorated with paintings, either on the front of the sarcophagus or on the wall above it. One of the most remarkable instances is the tomb of St. Hermes, in the catacombs near Rome called by his name. The tombs of this class are more usually found in the cubicula, or small chambers, than in the galleries of the catacombs; in the former, two, three, or more are often found. Martigny seeks to draw a distinction between those found in the cubicula, which he thinks may often: or generally be those of wealthy individuals made at their own cost; and those in the so-called chapels or larger excavations, which lie thinks were constructed at the general charge of the Christian community. In' one such chapel in the Cemetery of St. Agnes, near Rome, there are eleven such tombs. It is claimed that such chapels, specially connected with the veneration of martyrs, do not usually date from an earlier period than the 4th or 5th century.

 
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