San Michele Arcangelo Hypogeum
The old church, buried by the 1784 Mount Vesuvius eruption, is a remarkably well-preserved place where people now pray for the souls of the dead.
Initially, this site housed a convent built between 1696 and 1706. A church was later consecrated in 1727 and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. But as it turns out, the church would not function for even a century.
The 1794 eruption of Mount Vesuvius almost completely covered the church, burying its lower levels. A new addition was built atop the old structure in 1804, following the plan of the old church’s still-visible walls.
The lava flow from the eruption didn’t enter the buried church, leaving its interior largely intact. Since 2010, visitors have been able to enter the lower church. While there, you’ll learn how it’s been used as a hypogeum (underground tomb) for decades. As with other churches in Italy, people have adopted the skulls within the hypogeum to pray for the deceased’s souls.
In addition to viewing the coffins, bones, and ex-voto that fill the tomb, you can also visit the old sacristy, which is full of frescoes supposedly painted by Francesco De Matteis in 1714.
Know Before You Go
The "Ipogeo delle Anime" is opened by the Vesuvian Archaeological Group every last weekend of the month and on other special occasions, such as art exhibitions. It's best to check the group's Facebook page to for an up-to-date event schedule.
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