Glossary of Medieval Art and Architecture

catacomb Subterranean burial chamber used during the Roman Empire. Catacombs were used for burial, not only by Christians, but they are usually associated with Christianity because the Christians held services in the catacombs while they were still persecuted by the Romans (First to early fourth centuries A.D., though the persecution was not always severe at all times during this period). Some of the catacombs are decorated with Christian paintings.

Compare with crypt
See also: sarcophagus, mausoleum, memorial brass

Click here for pronounciation.

Room in the catacomb of Callistus
Rome, Italy

Crypt of S. Caecilla showing corridor
Catacomb of Callistus,Rome, Italy

Cross Section showing rooms and corridors
Catacomb of Callistus,Rome, Italy

Images adapted from Walter Lowrie, Monuments of the Early Church (New York:The Macmillan Company, 1901).

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Created by Jane Vadnal 05/97