The term in common usage among archaeologists to designate a class of rude inscriptions scratched on the walls of ancient monuments, generally sepulchral, as distinguised from the formal inscriptions engraved on the tombs of the deceased. The inscriptions of this order traced by pilgrims, between the fourth and nineth centuries, on the walls of the galleries, proved invaluable to De Rossi and later archaeologists in their explorations of the Roman catacombs . At an early stage in his career De Rossi realized the importance of these grafitti. Their absence from the walls of a gallery signified that there was nothing of importance in the vicinity, whereas, on the other hand their presence meant that the explorer was in the immediate neighbourhood of an important crypt or other sepulchral monument which once contained the relics of a martyr. Here it was that a pious pilgrim of old, before leaving the venerated tomb, would take advantage of the occasion to scratch on the adjoinding wall his name, sometimes the date of his visit, or a pious exclamation or prayer to the saint, as, e.g., that near the papal crypt of the catacomb of St. Callistus: "Sancte Suste in mente habeas in orationes tuas Aureliu Repentinu" (Saint Sixtus, remember in thy prayers Aurelius Repentinus). Outside the catacombs the famous caricature of the Crucifixion found in the imperial palace on the Palatine is accompanied by a graffiti stating that the (supposed) Christian page, Alexamenos, is adoring his God, while, in a chamber adjoining, a second inscription of the same class proclaims Alexamenous a Christian ( Alexamenos fidelis ). In 1897 some Christian graffiti were discovered on the columns of the temple of Antoninus and Faustina, intermingled with pagan inscriptions of the third and fourth century. The great necropolis of the oasis in the Libyan desert also contains a number of interesting Christian graffiti. Graffiti are also found on ancient Christian altars of the fifth and later centuries.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online