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Translated Jeff Matthews

[transl. note: a hypogeum or hypogaeum (plural hypogea) is the term used in archaeology to mean an underground chamber, usually a temple or tomb. The term is from the Greek: hypo (under) and gaia (mother earth or goddess of the earth). Note that in the case of the Sant'Elmo castle, it refers to the chamber cut into the high rock hill, but still well above the surrounding terrain at lower elevation.]

The main entrance to the Castel Sant’Elmo consists of a projection cut into the rock and then modified presumably in the first half of 1500s as the structure was being transformed from its original castle-like appearance into a true fortress.

The projection retains what is left of the rectangular hyopgeum cut into the rock. It must have been a chapel or small church. Clearly visible at the back wall is a stone bench and, above that, there is a trefoil niche. On the left you see what is meant to be the symbol of the hill itself with a cross on top. Across from that there are other rectangular niches and another cross.

The excavation of the projecting entrance as well as a series of loop-holes for small arms no doubt interrupted the flow of the surrounding surfaces. Fulvio Salvi points out that the builders left a Greek cross cut into one of the walls [i.e., a cross with arms of equal length, as in a plus sign].

Gianluca Padovan (Ass.ne S.C.A.M. – F.N.C.A.)

Click on images to enlarge


1. Projection -- arrow indicates hypogeum (photo G. Padovan)


2. Hypogeum (photo G. Padovan)


3. Niche (photo G. Padovan)


4. Left wall of the hyopgeum (photo G. Padovan)


5. Right wall of the hyopgeum (photo G. Padovan)


6. Greek cross cut into the rock (photo G. Padovan)


7. Loop-holes cut into the rock (photo G. Padovan)

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