Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 7. The Church in the Catacombs. (Includes sections 82-87, loc. 15829-16152).
§ 82. Literature.
Schaff provides an extensive and lightly annotated bibliography (Schaff 2014, Loc.15829). This includes work based on archaeology, literature, and epigraphy.
§ 83. Origin and History of the Catacomb.
Schaff classifies the discovery of Roman catacombs as a very important development in scholarshipo. Ancient authors and, therefore, historical scholars, have largely been silent about these places (Schaff 2014, Loc. 15886). A catacomb is an underground burial chamber. Some were placed near quarries, while others were independently excavated. Almost all “are of Christian origin, and were excavated for the express purpose of Christian burial” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 15892). Mythic figures adapted to Christian use appear along with specifically Christian symbols. Schaff sees the existence of these places as a sign of Roman toleration. They would not have been excavated secretly (Schaff 2014, Loc. 15897). The Romans were generally permissive of burial societies and other attempts to lay the dead to rest. The tombs resemble those used in Jewish customs. These customs were not unknown to Romans but were not common by the period of the catacombs (Schaff 2014, Loc. 15908). Schaff does not express an opinion about why Christians built catacombs and then allowed the practice to decline in the fourth century. It may have been related to a concern of graves being desecrated (Schaff 2014, Loc. 15914). The catacombs did not seem to be places for corporate worship. However, in the Nicene age, some had chapels built where some pious Christians could go for prayer (Schaff 2014, Loc. 15919). In the various invasions of Rome and by moves of relic hunters tombs were damaged, robbed, and relocated (Schaff 2014, Loc. 15935). The system was rediscovered in the late sixteenth century. By the 19th century serious studies of the catacombs were under way (Schaff 2014, Loc. 15946).