I. Origin. Use by Christians of surface or underground areae for the burial of only the faithful, to the exclusion of others, goes back only to the last decades of the 2nd c., or at least only from that time do we have sure proofs of their existence. Our earliest literary reference is in Tertullian Ad Scap. 3, who speaks of the areae sepulturarum nostrarum that had aroused the hostility of the pagan mob. Cleveland Metro Map The same author Apolog. 39, 5-6 shows how the faithful financed the burial of the poor through a common fund fed by voluntary monthly offerings. Nor do any monuments go back to an earlier time: in fact, the progress of studies has modified the 1stc. and early 2nd-c. dates frequently assigned in the past to products of early Christian funerary art. Even the recent discoveries of 1st-c. Palestinian ossuaries displaying signs of Christianity objects of lively debate by archaeologists have not revealed the existence of community cemeteries of that era, but at most of individual Christian burials in common areae. At first this was the usual practice of Christians in all parts of the empire. At Rome, it is well documentable in the necropolis beneath the Vatican basilica, where the apostle Peter was laid, followed by other believers within or next to the mausoleums of pagan families. One of these families, the Julii, once converted, transformed their small funerary chamber by decorating it with Christian mosaics. St. Paul was also buried in a pagan cemetery on the Via Ostia; the tomb of the Christian Telesphorus was found in the pagan necropolis of Porto.
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