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century; and the year of the emperor, | vidua Dei,” of one among whom we read on which was enjoined for the dating of all her epitaph that she “never burdened the public acts by Justinian, A.D. 537, scarcely Church;" here also do we find proof of the in any instance occurs before that period. dedication of females, the “ ancilla Dei," or We follow with interest in those chiselled “ virgo Dei,” — first type of the consecrated lines the last traces of the existence, and the nun, - sometimes, it seems, so set apart by gradual dying out, of that proud institution, the vows of their parents from infancy. Inthe Roman consulate; the unostentatious teresting is it to trace the growth of a feellanguage of these Christian epitaphs here ing which, from the utterance of prayer for supplying the last monumental evidence to the dead, passed to the invoking of their inthis once great historic reality. The con- tercessions for the living, - as “ Vivas in sulate proper to Rome expired in the year Deo et roga ;” and the recommending of 531, after being held in the last instance by their spirits to some specially revered saint, De ius Paulinus; in the following year, rather as a formula of pious valediction however, reappearing when assumed by than the expression of anything like dogma Belisarius after his Italian victories. From in regard to human intercessors, as, - In 534 to 544, only one consul (for the Eastern nomine Petri, in pace Christi.” Empire) is on record ; and in that last year The faith of the primitive Church as to the office was suppressed by Justinian, the Divine Being, her Founder and Head, though once more assumed, in his own per- is clear, as in letters of light, on these monson, by an emperor, namely Justin in 566: umental pages: we read it (to cite one reup to which date the computation, since markable example) conveyed in the strangethe act of suppression, had been according ly confused Latin and Greek not unfreto the years (as we see in these epitaphs) quently found among Christian epitaphs, * post Consulatum Basilii” (after the consu- with the following distinct utterance, late of Basilius), who had last held that office at Constantinople. Curious in this lapidary ΖΗΣΗΣ IN ΔΕΟ ΧΡΙΣΤΟ YΛH IN HAKE style is the use of the epithet“ divus,” long given to defunct emperors without scruple, i. e., Mayest thou live in God Christ, as a mere civil honour, by their Christian Sylva, in peace ;” we read it in the formu. subjects. Together with characteristics of las where this holy Name is otherwise acbrevity and simplicity, we notice, in these companied with what declares belief — as, epitaphs, a serene spirit of resignation that " in Christo Deo," or "in D. Christo;" or in never allows vent to passionate utterance; the Greek – εν θεω Κυρειο Χειστω (sic). the word “dolens " is the strongest expres. Again, alike distinctly expressed in other sion of sorrow, and this but rarely occur- formulas, at the epitaph's close, as " in pace ring:
As the colder formalities of the classic et in ” – with the monogram XP, implying lapidary style were gradually laid aisde, the obvious sequel, “ Christo;" also in the ecstatic ejaculations of prayer and hope rudely traced line with which one inscripwere admitted -“ Vivas in Deo," most tion finishes : “Nutricatus Deo Cristo ancient in such use; “ Vive in æterno; marturibus ;” in one curious example of " Pax spiritu tuo;" " In pace Domini dor- the Latin languages decline : “Regina vimias,” frequently introduced before the pe- bas in Domino zesu ;” and in the Greek riod of Constantine's conversion, but later cxovs, sometimes at the beginning, evifalling into disuse; “ In pace” continu- dently intended as dedication in the name ing to be the established Christian formula of God. Alike clearly, though less fre
though also found in the epitaphs of quently, enounced is the worship of a DiJews; while the “ Vixit in pace,” very vine Spirit, as an aspect, or in more strict rare in Roman inscriptions, appears com- theologic phrase, Person of the Deity, e. g., monly among those of Africa and of several in pace cum spiritu sancta” (sic) “ vibas French cities, -- otherwise, that distinctive in Spiritu sanc.” And indeed no moral phrase of the pagan epitaph, “ Vixit” (as if truth could be more convincingly established even in the records of the grave to present by monumental proof than the unanimous life rather than death to the mental eye), belief with which the Church, at this first does not pertain to Christian terminology. and purest phase in her history, directed Various usages of the primitive Church, im- adoring regards to the “ Logos,” the perfect portant to her history, are attested by these Image of the Father, as true and essential epigraphs - as the classification of the cler- Deity. gy into bishops, priests, deacons, acolytes, Below the surface of the Roman Camexorcists ; and the recognition of another pagna, it is supposed that from 800 to 900 revered class, the pious widows, “matrona | miles of excavated corridors, interspersed
with chambers in various forms, extend their late as between 418–22, passing some time
worked, but quite unsuitable for building)
in which all "Roman catacombs are exca“Hic habitasse prius sanctos cognoscere vated, except those of St. Pontianus, outdebes."
Porta Portese, and of St. Valentine,
on the Flaminian Way, which are in a soil
suggestions and blindness to historic fact,
critics assume, in the tenth, others in the
twelfth century; first published about of the Saviour, with marked characteristics 1471), enumerates, indeed, twenty-one cata- of the Byzantine school, suggest origin combs. Flavio Biondo, writing in the fif- certainly not earlier than the sixth or sevteenth century, mentions those of St. Cal- enth, if not so late as the eight century. lixtus alone; Onofrio Panvinio, in the six- The practice of frequenting these cemeteenth century, reckons thirty-nine; Baro- teries for prayer, or for visiting the tombs nius, at date not much later, raises the num- of martyrs, continued common till the ninth, ber to forty-three. Those of St. Priscilla, nor had entirely ceased even in the thirentered below the Salarian Way, belonging teenth century, being certainly more or less to that mother of the Christian Senator Pu- in prevalence under Honorius III. (1217dens, who received St. Peter; also those of 27). Yet the process of transporting the SS. Nereus and Achilleus, near the Appian bodies of martyrs from these resting-places Way, have been referred to an antiquity to the city, for safer and more honoured correspondent with the apostolic age; and interment, had begun under Pope Paul I. if those called after St. Callixtus were (757–67), who took such precaution against indeed formed long anterior to that Pope's the pious frauds practised by the Longoelection, A.D. 210, we may place them second bards, whilst investing Rome, led by Astolin chronologic order. That several continued phus, - a king particularly bent upon relicin use as cemeteries long after the first impe- stealing : so devout in this respect were the rial conversion, is evident from the fact that fierce invaders of papal territory. At later Constantine's daughter ordered the embel- mediæval periods the Catacombs fell into lishment and enlargement of those called af- oblivion, till their ingresses became, for the ter St. Agnes, which became in consequence most part, unknown even to the clergy; and more than ever frequented - 80 to say, fash- one of the earliest records of their being ionable - as a place of interment during the visited in later ages is found in the names of fourth century: a circumstance manifest in Raynuzio Farnese (father of Paul III.) and the superior regularity and spaciousness of the companions who descended with him, still corridors; in the more laboured execution, read, beside the date 1490, in the Callixtan but inferior style, of paintings seen in those Catacombs. Not till late in the next cencatacombs. Other facts relevant to the tury was the attention of savans directed by story of later vicissitudes may be cited : new lights from science, and through the Pope Damasus (v. Baronius, anno 384) or- revived study of antiquity, towards this dered a platonia (pavement of idilaid mar- field of research; subsequently to which bles) for that part of the Callixtan Cata- movement, excavations were carried on at combs in which for a certain time had lain intervals from 1592 to 1693; the most imthe bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul. Pope portant and fruitful in results being the John III. (560–78), who abode for a time labours of the indefatigable Bosio, who, (v. Anastasius) in the Catacombs of ss. after patient toils, pursued enthusiastically Tiburtius and Valerian, ordered all such hy- for thirty-three years, died (1600) without pogees as had suffered from barbarian spol completing the work projected for trans iation to be repaired; also .provided that a mitting their profits to posterity. Its first regular supply of bread, wine, and lights publication was in 1632, under the title, should be furnished from the Lateran Basil- * Roma Sotterranea," compiled from Bosio's ica for the celebration still kept up on MSS. by Severano (an Oratorian priest); Sundays at the altars of these subterraneans. and a few years subsequently another OraTowards the end of the sixth century, torian, Arringhi, brought out, with additions, .:St. Gregory the Great indicated, among the same work translated into Latin. Next places of assemblage for the faithful on the followed (1702) the inscriptiones Andays of the Lenten Stations,” organized tiquæ ” of Fabretti
, official custode to the by him with much solemnity and concourse, Catacombs ; and the learned work, “ Cimisome of the cemeteries as well as principal teri dei Santi Martiri " (1720), by Boldetti, churches of Rome. The evidences of art the fruit of thirty years labours, surpassed may be here cited, to prove comparative all hitherto contributions on this subject
modernness in decorative details : the nim- alike in vivacity of description, extensive i bus, for instance, around the heads of saintly knowledge, and well-sustained argument.
figures, indicates date subsequent to the Only next in merit and authority is the fourth century; and in the Callixtan Cata- "Sculture e Pitture Sacre" (Sacred combs the figure of St Cecilia, attired in Sculptures and Paintings from the Cemecumbrous finery, jewelled head-dress, and teries of Rome"), by Bottari (1737–54), necklace, as also those of $S. Urban and an illustrated work evincing thorough acCornelius, besides a sternly expressive head quaintance with its theme. The “ Manners
of the Primitive Christians,” by the Do- of SS. Peter and Paul side by side, usually minican Mamachi, one of the most valuable as busts, and with not the slightest indicaarchæologic publications from the Roman tion of superiority in one over the other press (1752), comprises, though not dedicat- apostle, rather, indeed, a perfect parity ed to this particular range, a general re- in honours and deserts, as implied in the view of catacomb-monuments, together with single crown suspended, in some instances, others that throw light on the usages or over the heads of both; or in their simulideas of the early Church. Interesting, taneous crowning by the Saviour, whose though incomplete, is the contribution of figure is hovering above the pair alike thus the Jesuit father, Marchi, “ Architettura honoured at the Divine Master's hand. Bedella Roma Sotterranea Christiana,” or tween these two apostles is often placed the “ Monuments of Primitive Christian Art in Virgin, or some other female saint, espethe Metropolis of Christianity " (1844), cially Agnes, admitted to like honour; and which the writer only lived to carry to the in certain examples, either Mary or another close of one volume, exclusively dedicated to female, in attitude of prayer, appears on a the constructive and topographic aspects of larger scale than the apostles : such naive. bis subject -- this publication having been treatment being intended to convey the idea suspended, long before his death, owing to of relative, not, of course, absolute honour, the defection of subscribers after that year and very probably (as indeed is Garrucci's '48, so fatal to the interests of bis religious inference), expressing the still loftier ideal order. The merit of his argument, in of the Church, personified in the prayerful throwing light on its theme, is, that it en- Mother as the great earthly intercessor, suptirely sets at rest the question of supposed ported by the chief witnesses to divine docconnection between the Christian Catacombs trine. It may be assumed that the origin and pagan arenaria ; and establishes that in art of that supreme dignity assigned to in no one instance were the former a mere the Virgin Mother (a source of such anticontinuance or enlargement of the latter, evangelic superstition in practice), may be as neither could the quality of soil in which referred simply to this tendency of idealizthese cemeteries were opened have served ing, not so much her person, as her position for building, nor their plan and dimensions amidst the hierarchic grouping, - thus to have permitted the extracting of material personify the intercessory office, the link for such purposes. One could not, indeed, formed by prayer between simple-minded desire clearer refutation of the theory re- faith and theologic infallibility. Mary also specting the identity of the two formations appears on other tazze, standing between than that wbich meets the eye in the St. two trees, or between two columns, on Agnes Catacombs, – ascending in which which are perching birds, symbols of the from the lower story, that originally formed beatified spirit, or of the resurrection; and for Christian purposes, we enter the pagan in one instance only do we see the nimbus arenaria above those corridors sacred to the round her head proof that this represendead, this higher part being totally distinct tation at least must be of comparatively late in plan and in the dimensions of winding origin.* Among other uncommon subjects, passages, as requisite for extracting the fine we see Daniel giving a cake to the dragon, pozzolana sand
from the book, “ Bel and the Dragon," conAnother valuable illustration to the same sidered by Protestants apocryphal (found range of sacred antiquities is the work by also among reliefs on Christian sarcophagi); Padre Garrucci, " Vetri Ornati” (“Glasses and — striking evidence to the influence adorned with Figures in Gold, from the from that pagan art still overshadowing the Cemeteries of the Primitive Christians”), new faith in its attempts at similar modes with engravings of 318 tazze, all presenting of expression - Dædalus and Minerva sugroups or heads. gilt by a peculiar process perintending groups of labourers at differon glass. As to the use of these, Garrucci differs from Buonarotti and others, who as- * The nimbus was originally given, in Christian sume all such vessels to have served for art, to sovereigns and allegoric personages generally,
as the symbol of power, distinction; but with this sacramental purposes; his view referring difference, that round the heads of saintly and ormany of them to remoter periods -- to the thodox kings or emperors, it is luminous or gilded; second and third, instead of exclusively to green, or blue. About the middle of the third cen. the fourth century, as was the conclusion of tury it begins to appear, and earliest on these glasses, previous writers. Among the figured de- to the heads of angels, to the 'evangelists, to the signs on these glasses are several of great other apostles; and finally, to the Blessed Virgin significance; and of their subjects one of and all saints, but not as their invariable attribute
till the seventh century (v. Buonarotti, “ Vasi An. the most frequently repeated is the group | tichi”).
ent tasks ; Cupid and Pysche (no doubt "In the hidden chambers of the dead, admitted in appreciation of the profound Our guiding lamp with fire immortal fed.” meanings that illumine that beautiful fable); Achilles and the Three Graces, here intro- We may, perhaps, descend into these duced with some sense not so intelligible. abysses from some lonely spot, whence
This choice of a comparatively gay and the Vatican cupola is distinctly visible; mundane class of subjects seems to confirm and certainly nothing could be more gloriwhat is conjectured by Garrucci, as to cer- ous, from the Roman Catholic point of tain among these tazze being, appropriated view, than the confronting of such a monunot to the sacramental solemnity, but to va- ment to triumphant religion, with the dark rious occasions in domestic life, - the nup- and rudely adorned subterraneans once tials, the name-giving, the baptism, and serving as sanctuaries of the Church subfuneral, besides the Agape, that primitive sequently raised, at this same centre, to blending of the fraternal feast with the eu- such proud supremacy. Another thought charistic rite and communion, so frequently that may spring from this range of antirepresented in catacumb paintings, that quarian study, and invest its objects with show the symbolic viands, the lamp, or the still deeper interest, is that of promise for fish, and loaves marked with a cross, spread something higher than either Catholicism or before companies of the faithful, seated Protestantism, in the Christianity of the round a sigma (semicircular table).
future. As to the literature illustrative of Rome's As to the primitive mode of interment, Catacombs, the last and most precious ad- the early Church may be said to have taken dition a yet incipient work, which may as model the Redeemer's sepulchre - a be expected in its completeness to supply cavern, with entrance closed by a stone, in the fullest investigation of its subject is which but One Body lay; and in the De Rossi's “Subterranean and Christian especially honoured tombs of martyrs, or Rome," executed with all the ability and other illustrious dead, the form called arerudition to be looked for in a writer of cosolium, like an excavated sarcophagus such eminence. We find here the fullest with arched niche above, supplied the history of researches carried out in cata- norma for the later adopted altar of solid combs from the fourteenth to the nine- stone (instead of the plain wooden table in teenth century; the learned author assign- earliest use), with relics inserted in a cavity ing four epochs to the story of these under the mensa; the practice of consecratcemeteries, commencing from apostolic ing the Eucharist over such martyr-tombs times, and successively extending over the having passed into the universal discipline third century,
-over the period of the of the Latin Church, through a decree of newly-attained freedom and peace guar- Pope Felix (269--75,) ordering that henceanteed to the Church through Constantine forth the mass should ever be celebrated (A.D. 312), and over the fifth century, over such burial-places of the holy dead : whence dates the gradual abandonment and decay of all such sanctuaries, owing to
“Altar quietem debitam their then condition, impaired by shocks of
Præstat beatis ossibus," barbarian invasion, devastated by Goths and Lombards, till at last, towards the close of as Prudentius testifies to this ancient usage. the ninth century, they fell into neglect or From the same poet (“Hymn on St. Hipoblivion.
polytus”) we learn that these subterraneans The first impression on descending into were not originally, as now, in total darkcatacombs, when the light of day is sud- ness, but lighted, however dimly, by those denly lost, and the eye follows the dim per- shafts (luminaria) still seen at intervals spective of corridors lined with tier above piercing the soil above our heads, though tier of funereal niches, partially shown by no longer in every instance serving for such torchlight, is one that chills and repels. purpose. The circumstances under which Imagination calls up what reason rejects, they have been rediscovered within modern and sports, as if fascinated, with ideas of times, form a singular detail in their vicisdanger— mysterious, indefinable -- correct- situdes ; and it is remarkable that the period ed, indeed, by the higher associations and of greatest religious conflict among Chrisreminiscences that take possession of the tian nations was that which witnessed the mind in any degree acquainted with that revival of this long-forgotten testimony, past so replete with noble examples from conveyed in monumental language, to the the story of those who here,
faith and practice of the primitive Church.