The Christians in Rome built the catacombs for the firm believers of the Christian faith. They devoted their lives for their beliefs in Christianity, dying when the Romans were persecuting Christians for not worshipping the Roman Gods. Christian religion moved literally underground and was practiced in secret at its beginnings in ancient Rome because of the persecutions. During this time, the catacombs beneath the city, which were built to house the dead, became a place where underground religion was practiced in secret in fear of the Romans and to be closer to the martyrs who died for their faith.
The religion of the early Christians was literally carved into stone of the walls in the catacombs. In these Roman catacombs you can find an abundance of artifacts, fragments of marble and stone, inscriptions, and biblical images expressing the basic theological beliefs of the Christian faith. (“Religion and…”). The catacombs demonstrate how the early Christians adopted the important beliefs of the Christian faith. They testified their faith everywhere, but it was in the catacombs that those heroic Christians found the strength and support to face the trials and persecutions, as they prayed to God through the martyrs’ intercession. “The Catacombs…”). The catacombs of Rome are a very unique and unusual place, unlike anything else in the world because of their vast art, inscriptions, and artifacts that were found. The secrecy that the Christians had about the catacombs is what’s the most fascinating in which they kept these massive catacombs secret from the Romans. Romans did not bury their dead, but cremated them because in the ancient Roman times, tombs were believed to be a home for the dead, who were not completely cut off from the living. There were numerous burials grounds with various sizes and shapes.
In early times, the tombs were often shaped like an early Roman house. These were used for anniversary feasts and cremation sites. They would then put them in an urn and into a small burial place that was in the wall of a tomb. (“Rome Exposed…”). Christians did not like the idea of burning their dead because Christians believed in a resurrection. At the time, Christians were being persecuted for their belief and the Romans didn’t want the Christians to bury the people they killed next to them. This created a situation in which Christians had to buy land to bury their dead.
They found that there was soft volcanic rock outside the city of Rome and began building their secret burial places in the catacombs instead of buying land. (“Early Christian Catacombs…”). The first catacombs were built by the Jewish community in Rome as cemeteries; the Christian catacombs came nearly a century later. Originally historians believed that the Christian catacombs were thought to be secret places for Christians to meet to escape persecutions; however it was later proven that this was a myth and the Christians were actually using these catacombs as burial tunnels just like the Jewish ones.
The catacombs seemed to grow larger and larger mainly because Christians wanted to be buried near their religious leaders. (“What’s inside Rome’s…”). In the beginning, the secrecy of the catacombs came from the fact that it was originally believed that Christians used these tunnels as secret places to meet to escape persecution. As Georg Simmel says, “Every relationship between two individuals or two groups will be characterized by the ratio of secrecy that is involved in it. ” This relates to us in our daily life also, the question is what would people do to protect their faith?
Like Rome’s Christians, some people would tell lies and hide in secret burial tombs to protect something that they really believe in. This is our humanity, our wellness, and our intelligence. We all have secrets but the number-one reason why people keep secrets or lie is to “keep the peace. ” We hold onto secrets to keep other people happy, safe, set in their vision of the world, and in their vision of us. (Brower, Elena). To the Christians, they wanted to keep the peace with the Romans so they wouldn’t be persecuted. They also wanted to keep them happy so they wouldn’t persecute more Christians.
The Christians wanted to keep these catacombs in secret to have the chance to tell their beliefs and stories they have heard. The art of the catacombs reveals much about the early Christians, who they were and what they believed in. Since Christians could not show their faith openly, they made use of symbols such as those of the dove, the fish, and the good shepherd carrying his sheep. These symbols appear on the walls of the catacombs and on the marble-slabs which sealed the tombs that are in the catacombs. In addition to symbols, the catacombs also have different types of mural paintings.
The paintings in the catacombs show biblical scenes of the Old and the New Testament. These paintings are not simply illustrations of stories from the Bible; however, but rather they are interpretations of the Bible. (“Early Christian Art”). Many people are fascinated by the catacombs because they are drawn to this largely unfamiliar territory, a hidden network of adventure, discovery and even relaxation. They are known as ‘cataphiles’ and the catacombs are their playground. It is a top-secret group for these daring explorers. Catacomb entrances are known only to those brave enough to roam the networks on their own; and break the law.
Explorers like Loic Antoine-Gambeaud and his friends; it is a risk they are willing to take. “I think it’s the collective imagination of someone that knows there is something that’s mysterious going on below Paris. But I don’t think many people have even an idea of what the underground is like,” Antoine-Gambeaud said. (Sealy, Amanda). The catacombs are a very interesting place, because of all the dead bodies and art that is there. It’s full of dead people of our past but it’s a very interesting place that many people in the U. S. don’t know much about it, if anything at all.
Many tourists find these catacombs to be very interesting because it’s unlike anything anyone has seen before. People want to see just how far people will go in order for their beliefs and their stories to be told. Works Cited: “Early Christian Art. ” Early Christian Art (Symbols, Catacombs, Typology). N. p. , n. d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. “Early Christian Catacombs, RomeA . ” Early Christian Catacombs. N. p. , n. d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. “Religion and the Catacombs – CIC. ” Religion and the Catacombs – CIC. N. p. , n. d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. “Rome Exposed – The Romans and Their Dead. ” Rome Exposed – The Romans and Their Dead.
N. p. , n. d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. “The Catacombs: Importance. ” EarlyChristians. org || Catacombs – Importance. N. p. , n. d. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. “What’s Inside Rome’s Ancient Catacombs? ” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, n. d. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. Brower, Elena. “Understanding Why We Keep Secrets. ” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost. com, 16 May 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. Sealy, Amanda. “Loving Life in Paris’ Empire of the Dead – CNN. com. ” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. Simmel, Georg. BrainyQuote. Xplore, n. d. Web. 23 Oct. 2012.