Historical region of Country
Deposition. Christians always practiced burial, never cremation. Upon arrival at the tomb, the stretcher was placed on the ground, and the family took leave of the dead with a kiss. For an important person there would be a funeral eulogy; in all cases an acclamation. For Monica’s funeral rites a mass was celebrated near the tomb before interment, a custom not attested in other cases. Denver Map The body was laid in the tomb on a bed of flowers and fragrant herbs, and covered with quicklime: the tomb was then closed and sealed. An identifying sign was put on it, perhaps an inscription on the enclosing slab giving the name, day, month and sometimes year of depositio. The funerary banquet refrigerium celebrated nearby closed the funeral.
II. Remembrance of the dead. The funeral ceremonial was periodically renewed, though only in part, and completed in particular aspects. The elements that made up these commemorations were: 1. In pagan times, portraits of the dead appeared in the funeral procession and were preserved in patrician dwellings; among Christians, this was formally prohibited as idolatrous Cypr., Quod idola dii non sint. 2. The period of mourning that followed burial involved a commemorative celebration of the deceased on the 3rd, 7th, 9th, and 30th or 40th day: essentially a funeral banquet and celebration of the Eucharist. These rites had parallels among pagans and Jews; they were related to ancient beliefs about the formation of the embryo and the decomposition of the corpse.
3. Annual celebrations. First, the personal anniversary of the deceased. Among pagans the celebration was that of birth: natalitium; among Christians that of death: h`me,ra gene,qlioj, natale or dies natalis. Tertullian says expressly that, in commemorating the dead, Christians had replaced the day of birth by that of death Cor. 3,3. There were also communal commemorations for all the deceased. While the rosalia and violatio seem to have had little following among Christians as feasts of the dead DACL 15, 8-9, this was not so for the parentalia, which ended 22 February with the caristia: the period of mourning lasted ten days, followed on the eleventh by a feast in which the family gathered around its dead. All these celebrations, personal and communal, included a mass and a banquet.
4. Mass for the dead. This Christian custom is universally attested on the third day Act. Iohan. ed. Bonnet, I, 156; Pallad., Hist. Laus. 21; Const. App. 8,42, ed. Funk, I, 552; Evodius, in Aug., Ep. 158,2. The anniversary mass is explicitly attested by Tertullian Cor. 3,3; Exh. cast. 11,1; Monog. 10,1, but there is indirect testimony in texts on the anniversaries of the martyrs Saxer, Morts, martyrs, reliques , 105- 107, 171-173: qui potest plus potest minus. At these masses the names of the dead, individually or as a group, were included in the reading of the diptychs Saxer, 162-165.
5. Funerary banquets. These had different names in different times and places: refrigerium, convivium, etc.; and different menus, in which bread, fish, wine, water, sometimes milk, gruel occupied an important place. Sobriety does not seem to have been a rule: Tertullian speaks of people returning drunk from elegant dinners Test. an. 4,3-6; Augustine, of copious libations and revelry Ep. 22,3. Indeed, guests in banquet scenes in catacombs have a merry air. We may state that the custom was general: texts and monuments prove it. These banquets were intended both to nourish the dead, as certain funerary furnishings demonstrate channels for libations, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among the living on the one hand, and between the living and the dead on the other. Over time there were attempts to turn them into love-feasts, or at least occasions for charity. The custom survived long, if under different forms.
The form finally taken by ceremonies for the dead, in their totally Christinaized aspect, must be sought in the Ordines romani and, later, in the Romano-Gallican rituals of death: as these show, it was the church that cared for Christians, accompanying them with its prayers from last illness to the tomb and beyond, in the hope of the resurrection.