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Catholic Dictionary




Subterranean galleries used as burial grounds by the Christians of the first centuries. Here, by Roman law, they were immune from disturbance. The tombs of the martyrs buried there became altars for the celebration of the divine mysteries. The disposition and maintenance of the catacombs are now reserved to the Holy See. The best known of these rediscovered cemeteries are in Rome. (Etym. Italian catacomba, a sepulchral vault.)