we turn to the tomb, the site of divine power evoked already in the home and church rituals.


To the consternation of many church leaders, lay men and women focused their attentions on the tomb. Christians continued the Roman custom of dining at the gravesite of relatives.22 Typically held on the day of the funeral, at the end of the nine-day mourning period, and on anniversaries of the death, the refrigerium, as this funerary banquet was called in the West, took place close to the tomb in an enclosed dining area. These rooms were furnished with stone benches and cisterns for water, and in some cases small tables and stone chairs. If the wall paintings and decorations in these rooms are any indication, the simple meals consisted of the customary bread, cakes, wine, water and a porridge Romans typically associated with the dead. A special seat was reserved for the departed to join in the meal, where food was set out for them and wine poured either on the sarcophagus or in a tube through it. Despite church leaders' protests, refrigeria continued through the sixth century in North Africa, Milan, Nola, Verona and Syria. In extending the intimacy of the home to the tomb, the refrigerium bound the living to the dead, but also the home to the beyond. In a manner of speaking, the refrigerium can be understood as the inversion of domestic vigils. If, according to Chrysostom (discussed above), the sight of one's loved ones sleeping should prompt contemplation of death, then dining with the dead evoked the waking activities of the home.

That intimacy extended to the veneration of saints and especially martyrs. Beyond the city walls, shrines at the martyrs' graves drew large crowds. Christians gathered in cemeteries to hear tales of the martyrs' sufferings, deaths and miraculous powers, as well as to feast. A variety of wine, meat, lentils and special breads were served on festival days, as payment records attest from Egyptian papyri.23 At the festival, men and women conducted all-night vigils and listened to homilies, scriptural readings and stories about the saint. The saint's relics, however fragmentary, bore inexhaustible power, so much

22 For a helpful synthesis of the literary and archaeological evidence, see C. Vogel, 'Le banquet funéraire paléochrétien'. Beyond Rome: M. S. Venit, Monumental tombs of ancient Alexandria, 181-6, cf.126-33.

23 Festivals: P. Maraval, Lieux saints et pèlerinages d'Orient, 213-43. Asia Minor: J. Leemans et al., 'Let us die that we may live', esp. 3-22. North Africa: Augustine, City of God 8.27 and cf. Confessions 6.2. Papyrological evidence: A. Papaconstantinou, Le culte des saints en Egypte, 317-22.

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