fossarians. (Lat. fodere, “to dig”). Gravediggers; officers of the early church charged with the burial of the dead. They were initially regarded as inferior clergy and in late fourth or early fifth centuries became powerful corporations, with the management of the catacombs in their hands. They had the power to sell grave-spaces, and numerous inscriptions recording such sales survive. Included in the corporations were the artists who adorned Christian tombs. After the fall of Rome (410), burial in the catacombs becoming impossible, inscriptions of the fossors virtually cease, but a later chronicle (possibly sixth century) includes them among the clergy. Other names for them were lecticarii (from lectica, “bier”) and copiatae (from Gr. kopos, “labor”).