Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Medieval Frescoes in a Long-lost Crypt

The crypt and church of St John “Domnarum - of the Women” in the city of Pavia, was founded about the year 654 by a Lombard queen named Gundeperga, daughter of King Agilulf and Queen Teodolinda. (We published photos of the chapel dedicated to her mother back in January.) Its name derives from its original purpose as the women’s baptistery of the city; it was also Gundeperga’s burial place. Since the Lombards were Arians, and only slowly converted to Catholicism, it may very well have been the first Catholic place of worship in Pavia.

The crypt, whose very existence was forgotten for centuries, was rediscovered in 1914 by Mons. Faustino Gianani, who began digging for it after researching the history of the church. A good deal of fresco work was found from the 12th century, in varying states of preservation. Here are some photos taken by our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi during a recent visit.

Frescoed vaulting dated 1140-60
St Eventius, an early bishop of Pavia
St Theophilus, a local warrior Saint.

St John the Baptist proclaiming “Behold the Lamb of God.”

St Syrus, traditionally said to be first bishop of Pavia; to the left, part of St Gregory the Great.

Two local warriors Saints.
As with so many buildings of the Middle Ages, the crypt was largely constructed with building materials despoiled from early Roman buildings.

An inscription commemorating the rediscovery of the crypt.

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