A richer form of burial is the arcosolium. In an arcosolium the enclosing slab is not vertical but horizontal and is surmounted by an arched niche in earliest times, sometimes rectangular. Very often the arcosolium was decorated with frescoes. This type of tomb was used especially in cubicula, New York Subway Map small rooms opening onto the sides of the galleries as family or corporate tombs, like family funerary chapels in modern Italian cemeteries. In some regions they were closed with doors and bolts, traces of which remain. Cubicles have the most varied forms: square, rectangular, apsed, round, polygonal. They seem to imitate surface mausoleums. They may be double cubiculum duplex, sometimes even triple or quadruple. They have flat or domed ceilings deep or shallow, cross vaults, barrel vaults. Often they are embellished with columns at the corners, with niches for lights, decorative cornices, shelves for the offerings and funeral meals. These meals were called refrigeria and were characteristic of the cult of the dead among the pagans as well. In the cemeteries of various regions we find rooms set up for such commemorative rites: benches for the guests, wells and water channels, special round tables in the center of the rooms as at Malta, cathedrae as in the Coemeterium Maius of Rome, symbol of the invisible presence of the deceased at the meal celebrated in his honor. Going underground allowed the development of huge cemeteries. Even when the areae possessed were still restricted, as in the 3rd c., space could be multiplied by deepening the galleries, which reached 5 or 6 meters in height, or by creating other levels above or beneath the original. The first choice was in fact made for the best layer of tufa, not that most close to the surface. For ventilation and light, vertical shafts were opened, called luminaria, which could pass through several levels and illuminate several rooms at once through bold embrasures. These light inlets impressed visitors, as we can read in the pages where Jerome relates his youthful visits to the Roman cemeteries Comm. in Ezech. XII, 40: PL 25, or Prudentius’s verses in his description of the cemetery of St. Hippolytus Peristeph. XI, 153-168: PL 60, 547-548. Particular types of tombs in the underground cemeteries include oven tombs with locules dug perpendicular to the wall so that only the short side is visible; shaft tombs with a large number of tombs in the walls and often in the base of a shaft dug in the ground; the funerary dormitories of St. Thecla at Rome, filled with hundreds of capuchin tombs one over another up to the ceiling and then walled up; the polysomous arcosolia characteristic esp. of Sicily, with as many as 20 or more arches side by side under a vault like a gallery; the baldacchino tombs of the island of Malta and E Sicily outside Syracuse, made of a sarcophagus dug from the rock and joined to the vault of the cubicle or of the ambulatory by four small columns at the corners; the window tombs very frequent in Malta and very rare elsewhere, which are little rooms with arcosolia or funeral benches inside, accessible only by a window about half a meter square, blocked after each deposition by a stone slab. There was also a great variety of tombs in surface cemeteries, which existed above every catacomb and functioned together with them or, more frequently, were the only type of necropolis in lands where the ground was unsuitable for excavation.
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