Naples Underground Museum Adds Ancient Cemetery Section to Its Displays
We recently got a preview of Museum Director, Engineer, Clemente Esposito's latest ambitious addition to the unique "Museo del Sotosuolo" or Museum of the Underground located beneath No. 140 Piazza Cavour near the famous Archeological Museum in Naples, Italy.
The volcanic sandstone, tuffo, beneath the city has been quarried, tunneled and shaped into a huge network of passageways, aqueducts, secret chambers and caverns for more than 2,500 years. One of the earliest uses was by the Greeks who excavated elaborate hypogea, or burial chambers, that were decorated with fine frescoes and contained mausoleum-like niches where their important citizens and leaders were interred. The Greek hypogea, like the ones in the Cristallini quarter, however, are not available for public viewing.
So, how can the general public get a general understanding of these rare and important artifacts so important to the city's ancient history? That was the problem senior Naples Urban speleologist, and President of the Southern Speleological Society, Clemente Esposito has solved! The Greek hypogea are but one of three types of ancient underground cemeteries beneath the city. A second type, known locally as the "Colombari" are underground chambers with small niches large enough to hold urns or vases where the cremated remains of loved ones were interred. This was also of Greek origin, and several extremely well preserved examples are located in the Soccavo district near Naples
but they are not generally open to the public.
The third type includes catacombs like the elaborate and more recent, relatively speaking, San Gennaro Catacomb in the Capodimonte area dating from the end of the second century.
Now it is possible to see faithful detailed reproductions of each type of burial chamber in the CSM's Museum of the Underground! The meticulous shape and size of these ancient chambers, so familiar to researcher, Clemente Esposito, have been recreated down to the last architectural detail in a new section of the museum open by special reservation to the general public. The chambers have been dug and hewn right into the walls of the underground chamber that houses the Museum.
The photographs below are some of the first taken as the project was nearing completion. This is a wonderful resource for students, scholars and those interested in the fascinating history of Naples mysterious and elaborate "Parallel City" beneath its streets.
Elaborate recreation of a typical 2,500 year old Greek Hypogea
The Second type, with small niches for cremains is a reproduction of "Colombai" chambers
And the third type, the Catacomb, where entire corpses were sealed into individual tombs are also wonderfully recreated.
For more news and fascinating information, visit Napoli Underground