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type of painting in neighbouring pagan tombs as well as more general interior decoration.13

The art of the Roman catacombs was clearly made for private family tombs, rather than public spaces, and so is not necessarily representative of what the 'official' church may have permitted or even commissioned for the decoration of its congregational meeting spaces. Since the only surviving church wall paintings from this period come from the baptistery of the Dura Europos house church, conclusions are tenuous at best. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that Dura was unique, and the frescoes in the Roman catacombs indicate that church officials probably permitted and even encouraged figurative painting, at least in a funerary venue. Such approval is demonstrated by the fact that the Catacomb of Callistus bears the name of its supposed first supervisor, who eventually became bishop of Rome (217-22 ce), and the fact that the catacomb itself contains the tombs of several subsequent third-century popes.

Within a short time, the graves of the community's heroes, bishops and martyrs became pilgrimage destinations, and thus warranted particular markers or structures to identify the saint's shrine. The above-mentioned shrine of St Peter on the Vatican is an example. According to tradition, from the beginning of the third century, Peter's grave was indicated by a small columned architectural structure with an opening to give visitors access to the tomb itself. Martyrs' graves in other cemeteries were similarly marked, and in time covered with larger structures to offer shelter and seating space to pilgrims who often celebrated a memorial meal at the shrine. These memorial meals represented the continuance of a traditional pagan practice of funerary banquets at the graves of deceased family members, and so burial sites were equipped with benches and small tables (mensae) that allowed the pouring of libations or placement of food offerings for the dead. During the fourth century, these structures were enlarged and eventually transformed into pilgrimage churches with eucharis-tic tables placed over the saint's grave, thus continuing the ancient practice of dining with the honoured dead.

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