Page:EB1911 - Volume 05.djvu/516

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497
CATACOMB

catacombs differ materially from those of Rome. They were certainly originally stone-quarries, and the hardness of the rock has made the construction practicable of wide, lofty corridors and spacious halls, very unlike the narrow galleries and contracted chambersCatacombs of Naples. in the Roman cemeteries. The mode of interment, however, is the same as that practised in Rome, and the loculi and arcosolia differ by little in the two. The walls and ceilings are covered with fresco paintings of different dates, in some cases lying one over the other. This catacomb contains an unquestionable example of a church, divided into a nave and chancel, with a rude stone altar and bishop’s seat behind it.

EB1911 Catacomb - Fig. 18.—Fresco Ceiling.jpg
Fig. 18.—Fresco Ceiling. (From Bosio.)

The subjects, beginning at the bottom and going to the right, are—
(1) Moses striking the rock.
(2) Noah and the dove.
(3) The three children in the furnace.
(4) Abraham’s sacrifice.
(5) The miracle of the loaves.


EB1911 Catacomb - Fig. 19.—Plan of the Catacombs of St John, Syracuse.jpg
Fig. 19.—Plan of the Catacombs of St John, Syracuse.
EB1911 Catacomb - Fig. 20.—Plan of Circular Hall, Catacombs of St John, Syracuse.jpg
Fig. 20.—Plan of Circular Hall,
Catacombs of St John, Syracuse.
(From Agincourt.)

At Syracuse also there are very extensive catacombs known as “the Grottos of St John.” They are also figured by Agincourt, and described by Denon (Voyage en Sicile et Malte) and Führer. There is an entire underground city with several storeys of larger and smaller streets,Syracuse.squares and cross ways, cut out of the rock; at the intersection of the cross ways are immense circular halls of a bottle shape, like a glass-house furnace, lighted by air shafts. The galleries are generally very narrow, furnished on each side with arched tombs, and communicating with family sepulchral-chambers closed originally by locked doors, the marks of the hinges and staples being still visible. The walls are in many places coated with stucco adorned with frescoes, including palms, doves, labara and other Christian symbols. The ground-plans (figs. 19, 20), from Agincourt, of the catacomb and of one of the circular halls, show how widely this cemetery differs in arrangement from the Roman catacombs. The frequency of blind passages and of circular chambers will be noticed, as well as the very large number of bodies in the cruciform recesses, apparently amounting in one instance to nineteen. Agincourt remarks that this cemetery “gives an idea of a work executed with design and leisure, and with means very different from those at command in producing the catacombs of Rome.”

Denon also describes catacombs at Malta near the ancient capital of the island. The passages were all cut in a close-grained stone, and are very narrow, with arched ceilings, running very irregularly, and ramifying in all directions. The greater part of the tombs stand on eitherMalta. side of the galleries in square recesses (like the table-tombs of the Roman catacombs), and are rudely fashioned to imitate sarcophagi. The interments are not nearly so numerous as in other catacombs, nor are there any vestiges of painting, sculpture or inscriptions. At Taormina in Sicily is a Saracenic catacomb, also figured by Agincourt. The main corridor is 12 ft. wide, having three or more ranges of loculiTaormina. on either side, running longitudinally into the rock, each originally closed by a stone bearing an inscription.

Passing to Egypt, a small Christian catacomb at Alexandria is described and figured by de Rossi.[1] The loculi here also are set endways to the passage. The walls are abundantly decorated with paintings, one of a liturgical character. But the most extensive catacombsEgypt. at Alexandria are those of Egypto-Greek origin, from the largest of which, according to Strabo (lib. xvii. p. 795), the quarter where it is placed had the name of the Necropolis. The plan, it will be seen, is remarkable for its regularity (figs. 21, 22). Here, too, the graves run endways into the rock. Other catacombs in the vicinity of the same city are described by Pocock and other travellers, and are figured by Agincourt.

EB1911 Catacomb - Fig. 21—Plan of Catacomb at Alexandria.jpgEB1911 Catacomb - Fig. 22.—Section of a Gallery in Catacomb at Alexandria.jpg
Fig. 21.—Plan of Catacomb at Alexandria.
(From Agincourt.)
Fig. 22.—Section of a Gallery in Catacomb
at Alexandria.(From Agincourt.)

Subterranean cemeteries of the general character of those described are very frequent in all southern and eastern countries. A vast necropolis in the environs of Saida, the ancient Sidon, is described in Renan’s Mission en Phénicie, and figured inSidon. Thobois’s plates. It consists of a series of apartments approached by staircases,

  1. Bulletino di archaeologia cristiana, November 1864, August 1865. See also Authorities, below.