Ipogeo dei Cristallini of Napoli

A HIDDEN TREASURE OF PAINTING AND ARCHITECTURE AND HISTORY AT VIA DEI CRISTALLINI

THE HISTORY

In the underground the city of Naples there is an inestimable historical and artistic heritage

The Greek origins of the Ipogeo dei Cristallini

The Ipogeo dei Cristallini  dates back to more than 2300 years ago. The Vergini area, within the Sanità district, since the 4th century BC. was intended as a necropolis, first with the excavation of chamber tombs (via dei Cristallini, vico Traetta, via Santa Maria Antesaecula), subsequently with the construction of catacomb cemetery complexes (San Gennaro, San Gaudioso, San Severo) and finally with the destination of an immense ossuary quarry (Le Fontanelle).

The Greeks, who then lived in the city of Neapolis when it was still part of Magna Graecia, built some funerary hypogea, building underground tombs in which the remains of the ancient inhabitants of the Neapolitan city rested for millennia.

Among these hypogea stand out the four tombs “dei Cristallini”, so called because they are located in the subsoil of via dei Cristallini and are located precisely under the ancient palace of the Baron di Donato.

In fact, in 1889 the Baron di Donato, looking for water or stone  in the subsoil of his family palace, found instead a treasure of Hellenic painting and architecture.

Today it is possible to access the Hypogeum from inside the house number 133 in via dei Cristallini.

WHERE TIME HAS BEEN UNCHANGED

in the heart of the Sanità district, an archaeological testimony that is unique in the world

The Hypogeum complex in via dei Cristallini consists of four sepulchers, dug into the tuff, each with an independent entrance.

Each of them consists of two superimposed rooms: the vestibule was used to fulfill the funeral rites, from this one accessed via a staircase to the lower floor, the real tomb intended to house the bodies of the dead.

The four hypogea are carved into the rock side by side, differing only slightly in alignment. But if at a structural level they follow the same pattern, they have very different characteristics, which make them unique.

The decorative apparatus is developed with very bright colors and very refined trompe l’oeil effects in imitation of architectural parties and luxury furnishings.

The four tombs of the Crystalline Hypogeum

Of the four tombs, the first (hypogeum A) was decorated with eight bas-reliefs. Time and the work of quarrying stones from the subsoil by the man have largely destroyed the structure, leaving only one bas-relief intact.

The second hypogeum (B) instead preserves a treasure of amphorae, artifacts, urns, altars and frescoes. A real hypogeum equipped with everything, in which time seems to have stopped.

The rich pictorial heritage of the site

The third hypogeum (C) is one of the most evocative rooms, which has remained splendidly intact and whose decorations and marvelous bas-reliefs can still be admired. For its beauty and its state of conservation it is a treasure of particular importance.

The lower sepulchral chamber is equipped with garlands of various types on the walls and architectural reliefs. A decoration representing a Medusa head is found in the lunette on the back wall. The entrance wall is frescoed with depictions of a suspended patera, a jug and two candelabra. The group of Dionysus and Ariadne is also depicted, a scene full of symbolic implications.

Finally, the fourth (hypogeum D) was significantly modified in Roman times. It has numerous niches in the walls, used for numerous burials in the Latin era. The artifacts and treasures found inside are also from the Roman era, and there is also an inscription in Latin.

In each of the hypogea there are splendid sarcophagus beds carved into the tuff, which on the outside have the shape of klinai, complete with mattresses and double pillows carved and painted in yellow, purple, blue and red.