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branch, which the seer of the Apocalypse puts into the hands of the elect as the sign of victory; the anchor, the figure of hope; the lyre, denoting festal joy, sweet harmony; the cock, an admonition to watchfulness, with reference to Peter's fall; the hart, which pants for the fresh-water brooks; and the vine, which, with its branches and clusters, illustrates the union of the Christians with Christ according to the parable (John xv. 1-6),
and the richness and fullness of Christian life. "What the early Christians felt," says Dean Stanley, "was a new moral influence, a new life stealing through their veins, a new health imparted to their frames, a new courage breathing in their faces, like wine to a weary laborer, like sap in the hundred branches of a spread
ing tree, like juice in the thousand clusters of a spreading vine."
is the fish. This can only be properly underTHE most favorite symbol in the Catacombs stood from the Greek word for fish, which is IXOTE (ichthys). This is a pregnant anagram containing the initial letters of the words: Ιησούς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υιός Σωτήρ — i.e., Jesus fore, was an allegorical designation of Christ in Christ, Son of God, Saviour. The fish, therehis character (the Son of God) and his mission (the salvation of the world).
At the same time, the fish was also the symbol of the Christian saved by the great Fisher of Men from the sea of the world. It thus combined the ideas of the Redeemer and the redeemed. It reminded the Christian also of the water of baptism, with its regenerating effect upon the soul. Tertullian says: "We little fishes (pisciculi) are born by our fish (secundum Ichthyn nostrum), Jesus Christ, in water, and can thrive only by continuing in water' (that is, if we are faithful to our baptismal vows).
In some pictures the mysterious fish is swim
ming in the water with a plate of bread and a cup of wine on his back, with evident allusion to the Lord's Supper.
The oldest Ichthys monument, so far as known, was discovered in 1865, in the cemetery of Domitilla, a hitherto inaccessible part of the Roman Catacombs, and is traced by De' Rossi to the first century.
The symbol of the fish continued to be used till the middle of the fourth century. After this date it occurs only occasionally, as a reminiscence of olden times.
THE most important remains of the Catacombs are the pictures, sculptures, and epitaphs.
The pictures are painted on the wall and ceil
MOSES STRIKING THE ROCK. (FROM CATACOMBS OF ST. SATURNINUS. END OF THIRD CENTURY.)
ing, and represent Christian symbols, scenes of Bible history, and allegorical conceptions of the Saviour. A few are in pure classic style, and betray an early origin, when Greek art still flourished in Rome; but most of them belong to the period of decay. Prominence is given to pictures of the Good Shepherd and those biblical stories which exhibit the conquest of
faith and the hope of the resurrection, as Jonah and the whale, Moses smiting the rock, Daniel in the lions' den, and the resurrection of Lazarus. The mixed character of some of the Christian frescoes may be explained partly from the employment of heathen artists by Christian patrons, partly from old reminiscences. The Etrurians and the Greeks were in the habit of painting their tombs, and Christian Greeks early saw the value of pictorial language as a means of instruction. In technical skill the Christian art is inferior to the heathen, but its subjects are higher and its meaning is deeper.
The two most interesting pictures are those of the Good Shepherd and of Orpheus, which express those aspects of our Saviour which afforded most comfort to the early Christians. They combine the nobler reminiscences of heathenism with the new religion and make them subservient to Christian ideas.
The allegorical representation of Christ as the Good Shepherd is found not only in the Catacombs but also on household furniture, rings, cups, and lamps. Nearly one hundred and fifty such pictures have come down to us. The shepherd, an appropriate symbol of Christ, is usually represented as a handsome, beardless, gentle youth, in light costume, with a girdle and sandals, with the flute and pastoral staff, carrying a lamb on his shoulder, and standing between two or more sheep that look confidently up to him. Sometimes he feeds a large flock in green pastures. If this was the popular conception of Christ, it stood in contrast with the contemporaneous theological idea of the homely appearance of the Saviour, and anticipated the post-Constantinian conception.
The picture of Orpheus is found twice in the cemetery of Domitilla, and once in that of Callistus. One on the ceiling in Domitilla, apparently from the second century, is especially rich. It represents the mysterious singer,
seated in the center on a piece of rock, playing on the lyre his enchanting melodies to wild and tame animals- the lion, the wolf, the serpent, the horse, the ram at his feet and the birds in the trees. Around the central figure are several biblical scenes,- Moses smiting the rock, David aiming the sling at Goliath, Daniel among the lions, the raising of Lazarus. The heathen Orpheus- the reputed author of monotheistic hymns (the Orphica), the center of so many mysteries, the fabulous charmer of all creation - appears here either as a symbol and type of Christ himself, or, like the heathen Sibyl, as an antitype and unconscious prophet of Christ, announc
RESTORATION OF SAME.
ing and foreshadowing him as the conqueror of all the forces of nature, as the harmonizer of all discords, and as the ruler over life and death.
Two sacraments are represented, the Lord's Supper and Baptism. The Lord's Supper was first celebrated in connection with the Agapæ or Love-Feast, in imitation of the Jewish Passover. A picture in the Catacombs exhibits the Saviour in the midst of the disciples reclining around the table, instituting the Holy Communion.
Of baptism there are several pictures. The catechumen stands in water or rises out of the water, while the baptizer stands on the shore, completing the act or helping the baptized. River baptism, or, as the "Teaching of the Apostles" has it, baptism "in living (running) water, was the favorite mode in the first three centuries, in imitation of Christ's baptism in the Jordan. In the age of Constantine special baptisteries were built."
THE GOOD SHEPHERD. (FROM CRYPT OF LUCINA.)
archæologists see in that figure the earliest entrance into Jerusalem, Daniel among the representation of the Virgin Mary praying for lions, and the capture of St. Paul. sinners; others interpret it as the mother church, or as both combined.
THE works of sculpture are mostly found on sarcophagi. Many of them are collected in the Lateran Museum. Few of them date from the ante-Nicene age. They represent in relief the same subjects as the wall-pictures, so far as they could be worked in stone or marble, especially the resurrection of Lazarus, Daniel among the lions, Moses smiting the rock, and the sacrifice of Isaac.
Among the oldest Christian sarcophagi are those of St. Helena, the mother of Constantine (d. 328), and of Constantia, his daughter (d. 354), both of red porphyry, and preserved in the Vatican Museum. The sculpture on the former probably represents the triumphal entry of Constantine into Rome after his victory over Maxentius; the sculpture on the latter, the cultivation of the vine, probably has a symbolical meaning.
The richest and finest of all the Christian sarcophagi is that of Junius Bassus, Prefect of Rome A. D. 359, and five times consul, in the crypt of St. Peter's in the Vatican. It was found in the Vatican cemetery (1595). It is made of Parian marble in Corinthian style. The subjects represented in the upper part are the sacrifice of Abraham, the capture of St. Peter, Christ seated between Peter and Paul, the capture of Christ, and Pilate washing his
BAPTISM OF A BOY.
hands; in the lower part are the temptation of Adam and Eve, the suffering of Job, Christ's
"Homely phrases, but each letter
Of the Here and the Hereafter."
To perpetuate, by means of sepulchral inscriptions, the memory of relatives and friends, and to record the sentiments of love and esteem, of grief and hope, in the face of death and eternity, is a custom common to all civilized ages and nations. These epitaphs are limited by space, and often provoke rather than satisfy curiosity, but contain, nevertheless, in poetry or prose, a vast amount of biographical and historical information. Many a graveyard is a broken record of the church to which it belongs.
The Catacombs abound in such monumental inscriptions, Greek and Latin, or strangely mixed (Latin words in Greek characters), often rudely written, badly spelt, mutilated, and almost illegible, with and without symbolical figures. The classical languages were then in process of decay, like classical eloquence and art, and the great majority of Christians were poor and illiterate people. One name only is given in the earlier epitaphs; sometimes the age, and the day of burial, but not the date of birth.
More than fifteen thousand epitaphs from the first six centuries in Rome alone have been collected, classified, and explained by De' Rossi, and their number is constantly increasing. Benedict XIV. founded, in 1750, a Christian museum, and devoted a hall in the Vatican to the collection of ancient sarcophagi. Gregory XVI. and Pius IX. patronized it. In this lapidarian gallery the costly pagan and the simple Christian inscriptions and sarcophagi confront each other on opposite walls, and present a striking contrast. Another important collection is in the Kircherian Museum, in the Roman College; another in the Christian Museum of the University of Berlin. The entire field of ancient epigraphy, heathen and Christian, in Italy and other countries, has been made accessible by the industry and learning of Gruter, Muratori, Marchi, De' Rossi, Le Blant, Böckh, Kirchhoff, Orelli, Mommsen, Henzen, Hübner, Waddington, and McCaul.
The most difficult part of this branch of archæology is the chronology (the oldest inscriptions being mostly undated). Their chief interest for the church historian is their religion, so far as it may be inferred from a few words.
The keynote of the Christian epitaphs, as
compared with the heathen, is struck by Paul in his words of comfort to the Thessalonians, that they should not sorrow like the heathen, who have no hope, but remember that, as Jesus rose from the dead, so God will raise them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus.
Hence, while the heathen epitaphs rarely express a belief in immortality, but often describe death as an eternal sleep, the grave as a final home, and are pervaded by a tone of sadness, the Christian epitaphs are hopeful and cheerful. The farewell on earth is followed by a welcome from heaven. Death is but a short sleep; the soul is with Christ and lives in God; the body waits for a joyful resurrection,- this is the sum and substance of the theology of Christian epitaphs. The symbol of Christ (Ichthys) is often placed at the beginning or end to show the ground of this hope. Again and again we find the brief but significant words: "In peace." "He [or "she"] sleeps in peace." "Live in God" [or "in Christ"]. "Live forever." "He rests well." "God quicken thy spirit." "Weep not, my child; death is not eternal." "Alexander is not dead, but lives above the stars, and his body rests in the tomb." "Here Gordian, the courier from Gaul, strangled for the faith, with his whole family, rests in peace. The maid servant, Theophila, erected this."
At the same time, stereotyped heathen epitaphs continued to be used (but of course not in a polytheistic sense), as, "Sacred to the funeral gods" [or " to the departed spirits"]. The laudatory epithets of heathen epitaphs are rare, but simple terms of natural affection very frequent, as, "My sweetest child"; "Innocent little lamb "; " My dearest husband"; "My dearest wife"; "My innocent dove"; "My well-deserving father" [or "mother"]; A. and B. "lived together" [for 15, 20, 30, 50, or even 60 years] "without any complaint or quarrel, without taking or giving offense." Such commemoration of conjugal happiness, and commendations of female virtues, as modesty, chastity, prudence, diligence, frequently occur also on pagan monuments, and prove that there were many exceptions to the corruption of Roman society as painted by Juvenal and the satirists.
Some epitaphs contain a request to the dead in heaven to pray for the living on earth. At
[The illustrations in this article, with the exception of the flasks and lamps, are copied from "The Catacombs of Rome," by Théophile Roller, by permission of the publishers, V. A. Morel & Co., Paris.]