Catacombs are underground burial spaces, and the best-known of them were built by Christians in ancient Rome. The word catacomb (by the tombs) originally described the burial site of St. Sebastian (where St. Peter and St. Paul were also temporarily interred), between the 2nd and 3rd milestones of the Appian Way. Roman catacombs were subterranean passageways, often on a number of levels, with niches in the walls or small chambers as resting places for the dead. Some were decorated or plastered and painted. When Christians were persecuted in Rome, many hid in the catacombs. Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity ended the persecution, and the catacombs again became burial grounds until Rome was overtaken by the Goths in 410. They were closed to ward off looting and forgotten by the 10th century. A chance find in 1578 revealed them and restoration began.
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