Fossarii

Fossarii

(or Fossores), the term by which the grave-diggers or sextons of the early Church were designated. The term fossor is of frequent occurrence in the inscriptions of the catacombs. 'The most common appearance of the term is in the later epitaphs, which testify to the purchase of graves from individuals of this class. The burial of the departed was probably at first a work of Christian charity, performed without fee or reward by their surviving brethren. Afterwards, when the Church had become more numerous, it was carried out at the public expense under the special care of the presbyters of the "titles" of Rome. When Christianity became the established religion, the fossores evidently established a kind of property in the catacombs, which authorized them to sell graves either to living persons for their own burial, or to the friends of the deceased. This state of things seems, to have had a widespread but transient existence. A fossor's pick has been discovered by De' Rossi in the cemetery of Callistus, much oxidized, but still recognizable. See Martigny, Dict. des Antiq. Chretiennes, s.v.

 
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