Sometimes the type of rock in which underground cemeteries were opened has led to the supposition of preexisting quarries, as in the catacombs of St. Gennaro at Naples, which have wide tunnels almost like those produced by the extraction of building-stone. But close study of the relative chronology of the various zones of the catacombs, and esp. of the way in which the rooms were cut in the rock, reveals that the intention was funerary from the beginning, while not ruling out commercial use of the resulting material. In more than one place this appears to have been extracted not haphazardly, but cut in large square blocks, from which smaller blocks suitable for building could be obtained. Switzerland Map Created by the Christians, the subterranean cemeteries reveal a typology that we may call characteristic, though not exclusive. Analogies occur in Etruscan tombs, where the known funerary rooms were often supplemented by short galleries with tombs set into the walls; a small cemetery with ambulatories just like those of the Christians has been found at Anzio, with objects dating it to the 3rd c. BC; Jewish catacombs have locules and arcosolia like the Christian ones we will now describe. Besides, the need for space would easily suggest the solution of underground galleries with tombs dug into the walls. Access was by a ladder or, more rarely, an entrance dug in the side of a hill. The ladder, called in epigraphy and literary documents descensus, catabaticum, scala, generally had high and awkward steps, but better access did exist, esp. during the period of peace near venerated tombs, called introitus ad martyres, when great crowds of pilgrims began to frequent the cemeteries. Such were, e.g., the grand staircase of the cemetery of Calepodius, that of the anonymous basilica of the Via Ardeatina, and that of the small hypogeum basilica of SS. Marcellinus and Peter. The width of the galleries dug at the foot of the entrances is proportionate to the nature and hardness of the rock: in the fragile tufa of Rome and Latium, it is generally from 80 to 150 cm.; elsewhere, as at Naples, Sicily and Malta, it reaches greater widths. In small catacombs in the country or in minor centers, the advance of the ambulatories is disorderly and without prearranged design, while in the necropolises of the great cities the galleries are straight and arranged to form various types of networks. The most common systems from the 3rd c. on are in the shape of a comb or a gridiron. In the former, a gallery was dug at the foot of the entrance, following its direction or at right angles to it; from this the decumanus, as it were, of the necropolis numerous galleries branch off at right angles on each side like cardines. In the gridiron system, ambulatories were dug corresponding to the confines of the land possessed above ground and were then joined by transverse galleries so as to exploit the whole area the law permitted excavation only under the property. The galleries, called cryptae by the ancients, were initially two or three meters high, with ceilings generally flat but sometimes arched. The tombs were rectangular cavities in the walls, one above another, the same length as the bodies they were to receive and more or less deep.
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