The catacombs were underground rooms and passageways that served as mausoleums in which the ancient Romans buried their dead. When the persecutions began and intensified under Nero, the Christians found that they could retreat into these labyrinthine networks of tunnels to escape the notice or pursuit of Roman soldiers or citizens wishing to turn them in to the authorities. The Early Church developed a vast support network and series of hiding places based on the catacombs. Meanwhile, the use of a public mausoleum as a hiding place caused wild rumors about Christian rituals and practice to spread amongst the Romans. Some Romans believed that the Christians sacrificed their children and performed bizarre, secret worship rituals at midnight. Another rumor was that the Christians drank human blood. This may have come from a misinterpretation of Jesus' command: "Behold, This is my blood. Take ye and drink in remembrance of Me."
Today, the Catacombs attract visitors from all over the world. The Christian Church spread throughout the world largely as a result of the persecutions by the Romans. The faithful come to see the places where the early ssaints gathered and the students of history to marvel at the sheer extent of these massive underground galleries and chambers.
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