• WordNet 3.6
    • n catacomb an underground tunnel with recesses where bodies were buried (as in ancient Rome)
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Additional illustrations & photos:


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
  • Interesting fact: In 1785, the city of Paris removed bones from cemeteries to ease the overflow of dead people. They took these bones and stacked them in tunnels now known as the Catacombs. You can visit these tunnel attractions and work your way along long corridors, which are stacked with skulls and bones
    • n Catacomb A cave, grotto, or subterraneous place of large extent used for the burial of the dead; -- commonly in the plural.☞ The terms is supposed to have been applied originally to the tombs under the church of St. Sebastian in Rome. The most celebrated catacombs are those near Rome, on the Appian Way, supposed to have been the place or refuge and interment of the early Christians; those of Egypt, extending for a wide distance in the vicinity of Cairo; and those of Paris, in abandoned stone quarries, excavated under a large portion of the city.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n catacomb Originally, the name of a locality near Rome, the “Hollows,” in which the church of St. Sebastian, with extensive burial-vaults, was built; but afterward applied to the vaults themselves, and to similar underground burial-places. The most celebrated of these subterranean vaults are those in and about this spot, the work of the early Christians. They consist of a labyrinth of narrow galleries, from 4 to 5 feet wide, at different levels, excavated in the soft granular tufa underlying the Campagna. In each wall loculi, or berth-like recesses, contained the bodies of the dead. The entrances to these were closed with slabs of stone, carefully sealed, and marked with inscriptions or rude pictures. In some cases small rooms, called cubicula, were set apart for families of distinction in the church, especially for martyrs. Though these catacombs probably served to some extent as places of refuge and concealment for Christians during the earlier persecutions, the original idea of their construction was undoubtedly that they should be used only as burialvaults. The length of the galleries in the Roman catacombs has been variously estimated at from 350 to 900 miles, and the number of bodies there interred is said to be over 6,000,000. Similar underground burial-places are found at Naples, Cairo, Paris, etc. Those of Paris are abandoned quarries extending under a large portion of the city, which were made into a bonery in 1786, when the intramural cemeteries of the city were condemned and the bones were removed thither.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Catacomb kat′a-kōm a subterranean excavation used as a burial-place, esp. the famous Catacombs near Rome, where many of the early Christian victims of persecution were buried: any place built with crypt-like recesses for storing books, wine, &c
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  • Emily Dickinson
    “Drab Habitation of Whom? Tabernacle or Tomb -- or Dome of Worm -- or Porch of Gnome -- or some Elf's Catacomb?”


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
It. catacomba, fr. L. catacumba, perh. from Gr. kata` downward, down + ky`mbh cavity
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
It. catacomba—Late L. catacumbas (prob. from ad catacumbas), prob. from Gr. kata, downward, and kymbē, a hollow.


In literature:

Not skeletons in the closet, but catacombs of distasteful things.
"Eden" by Edgar Saltus
What funeral vault of a royal race can compare with such a catacomb as this?
"The Wine-ghosts of Bremen" by Wilhelm Hauff
The tomb is a vault in the catacomb in the front projection of the base.
"The Scrap Book, Volume 1, No. 6" by Various
Was the conspiracy in the Catacombs betrayed?
"A Struggle for Rome, v. 1" by Felix Dahn
Where are the men of the Catacombs?
"A Struggle for Rome, v. 3" by Felix Dahn
St. Calixtus, catacombs of, 128.
"Reminiscences, 1819-1899" by Julia Ward Howe
From that dungeon, somehow, he managed to escape, and dragged himself into the catacombs.
"Red Nails" by Robert E. Howard
The catacombs are those portions of the ancient stone-quarries under the city which have been used as municipal ossuaries since 1786.
"Paris" by William Walton
Lane had been released at last, in one of the catacomb cemeteries.
"Astounding Stories, August, 1931" by Various
He went down the steps into the Catacombs, and here he spoke the truth to himself.
"Man and Maid" by E. (Edith) Nesbit
In this sense the word "catacomb" has gained universal acceptance, and has found a place in most modern languages.
"Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 5, Slice 5" by Various
In the inscriptions of the Catacombs, no badges of servitude, no titles of honour appear.
"Valeria" by William Henry Withrow
She had stumbled upon South Kensington and wandered in its catacombs of stone and brick.
"A Bed of Roses" by W. L. George
We stood there facing each other, like two kindred ghosts communing amid the quietness of a catacomb.
"The Man Who Couldn't Sleep" by Arthur Stringer
But the great sight we had all come to see was the catacombs.
"The Cruise of the Frolic" by W.H.G. Kingston
Then he wanted to bury himself in the catacombs of Solowetshk.
"The Green Book" by Mór Jókai
One good thing in our present habitation was the fact of its being as completely out of sight as the inmost cavern of the catacombs.
"Willing to Die" by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Is he the kindly, peaceful Christ depicted in the Catacombs?
"Essays Upon Some Controverted Questions" by Thomas H. Huxley
It was now the time of the inundation of the Nile: a few days after their visit to the Catacombs, the river began to rise.
"Shorter Novels, Eighteenth Century" by Samuel Johnson
We seemed to thread our way through the catacombs.
"Told by the Death's Head" by Mór Jókai

In poetry:

Now we, returning from the vaulted domes
Of our colossal sleep, come home to find
A tall metropolis of catacombs
Erected down the gangways of our mind.
"Doom Of Exiles" by Sylvia Plath
Oh! that day of sorrow, misery, and rage,
I shall carry to the Catacombs of Age,
Photographically lined
On the tablet of my mind,
When a yesterday has faded from its page!
"The Story of Prince Agib" by William Schwenck Gilbert
But that day of sorrow, misery, and rage,
I shall carry to the Catacombs of Age,
Photographically lined
On the tablet of my mind,
When a yesterday has faded from its page.
"The Story of Prince Agib" by William Schwenck Gilbert
Yet some poor traces still remain
Of those who here have lived and died;
For underneath this solemn plain
The Christian catacombs still hide,--
A city of sepulchral gloom,
The martyrs' labyrinthine tomb.
"In A Columbarium" by John Lawson Stoddard
So rounds thy day, from maiden morn to haunted night,
From larks and sunlit dreams to owl and gibbering ghost;
A catacomb of dark, a maze of living light,
To the wide sea of air a green and welcome coast.
"Tree-Worship" by Richard Le Gallienne
The years are shades that totter from their tombs,
The ages, ghosts that live in catacombs
And lure the Present to their awful homes,
Where ancient races wander in the glooms;
A birth, a life, a death; man is no more!
"Despondency" by Freeman Edwin Miller

In news:

Archaeologists Find Oldest Paintings of Apostles in Roman Catacombs.
A cameraman films a painting discovered with the earliest known icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul in a catacomb located under a modern office building in Rome.
In 1947, he became secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology , a post that allowed him to explore many sites, in particular, ancient cemeteries and catacombs.
BUT will they come down to the catacombs.
Russian Muslim ' catacomb sect' faces cruelty charges: Kid kept underground.
Why not stray a little from the tourist track and take a tour of one of the city's lesser-known, but no less fascinating, attractions -- the Catacombs .
IN the Astrodome catacombs, Freeman McNeil stared at the gray cinderblock wall behind his wire locker.
Bethesda's Skyrim displays a suspiciously Elven attention to detail with a near-limitless array of catacombs to explore, even months after its release.
The Olde Courthouse Catacombs and The House of Lecter offers a new 3D twist to their haunted houses this year.
We are told that he was a young man who often visited the catacombs of St Callixtus in Rome and that he was very faithful to his commitments as a Christian.
Seen through photographer Susan May Tell's lens, the barracks where inmates lived and died resemble silent catacombs.
New discoveries in the catacombs of San Pietro and Marcellinus.
Bethesda's Skyrim displays a suspiciously Elven attention to detail with a near- limitless array of catacombs to explore, even months after its release.
I was one of about 100 journalists who sat in on his postgame news conference in the catacombs of an old and dreary Cotton Bowl locker room.
If it's Sunday, it means we've crawled through the YouTube catacombs to dig up vintage American Heart Association public service announcements from decades long ago.