FOSSARIAN (Lat. fossarius, fossor; Gk. kopiōn, kopiatēs): The designation of the grave-diggers of the early Church. In primitive times the burial of the poor was one of the services of love which the wealthier Christians voluntarily undertook for their needy brethren. Later the congregations had special cemeteries, and burial was entrusted to professional grave-diggers, which must have been the case in the third century and possibly even in the latter part of the second. The oldest document showing the existence of fossarians is the Gesta apud Zenophilum, which dates from 303 and is printed as an appendix to the editions of Optatus. In this work, as elsewhere, fossarians were reckoned among the clergy, but this was not invariably the case, as, for instance, in Rome. Fossarians are frequently represented in the paintings of the Roman catacombs, and it is clear from the inscriptions that they controlled the sale of graves. See CEMETERIES, II., 4, § 1.