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One of the ornately decorated 4th century arcosolia in the Hypageum of Via Dino Compagni (Via Latina Catacomb) in Rome. The figure of the frescoes is Tellus, the Roman goddess of the earth, after whom this tomb is also named.
The 15th century arcosolium of Martín Vázquez de Arce, in the wall of the Cathedral of Sigüenza, Spain. Like most post-Roman era arcosolia, this tomb is above ground. The alabaster figure on the lid of the sarcophagus is the famous el doncel de Sigüenza, "the boy of Sigüenza".

An arcosolium is an arched recess used as a place of entombment. The word is from Latin arcus, "arch", and solium, "sill" (literally: "place of state").

Early arcosolia were carved out of the living rock in catacombs. In the very earliest of these, the arched recess would be be cut to ground level. Then, a low wall would be built in the front, leaving a trough (the cubiculum) into which the body would be placed. A flat stone slab would then over the chamber containing the body, thus sealing it. The stone slab would occasionally also serve as a memorial altar. In the later arcosolia, the arched recess would be carved out to about waist height. Then, the masons would cut downwards to make the chamber into which the corpse would then be placed. In effect, the trough was then a sarcophagus with living rock on five of its six faces. As before, a flat stone slab would then seal the chamber.

From the 13th century onwards, and continuing into the Renaissance, arcosolia were built above ground, particularly in the walls of churches. In these post-Roman era recesses, which were built of brick and marble, the sarcophagii are usually separated from the arch. These tombs are highly ornamented in the styles of those periods;[1] the Flamboyant Gothic, Plateresque, and High Renaissance styles are all represented.

References and bibliography

  1. ^ Cross, F. L. (ed.) (1957) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford U. P.; p. 80
  • Leclercq, H. (1907) in: Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie; v. 1,i, coll. 2774-87
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ARCOSOLIUM (from Lat. arcus, arch, and solium, a sarcophagus), an architectural term applied to an arched recess used as a burial place in a catacomb.


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