Columbarium (so called from its resemblance to a dove-cote) was a Roman vault with recesses for the funereal ashes. It is an utterly untenable view, that this distinctively pagan arrangement, essentially belonging to the practice of burning the dead, which was held by the Christians in such abhorrence, is ever found within the limits of, or in close connection with, a Christian catacomb. The misconception has arisen from the fact that the Christian excavators in carrying forward their subterranean galleries not unfrequently came into contact with the walls of a heathen columbarium. As soon as this unintentional interference with the sanctity of the tomb was discovered, thefossores proceeded to repair their error. The gallery was abruptly closed, and a wall was built at its end to shut it off from the columbarium. Padre Marchi (Monum. Primit. page 61) describes his discovery of a gallery in the catacombs of St. Agnes closed in this way with a ruined wall, oil the other side of which was a plundered columbarium. This is probably the true explanation of the fact that a passage has been found connecting a large heathen tomb full of columbaria, on the Via Appia, near the Porta San Sebastiano, with a catacomb. See Rostell, Beschreib. d. Rom, page 389; Raoul-Rochette, Tubleau des Catacombes, page 283.

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