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Time & Space Travels


Acquapendente
Church of the Holy Sepulchre



The Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem was certainly one of the engines that led to that wonderful human activity that we now call tourism.

There are news of pilgrims visiting the Holy Sepulcher since the 2nd century.

Of course, Jerusalem remains a little out of the way.
And so in the Middle Ages, people worked to provide pilgrims with a proper emotion without having to face a long and perilous journey.

Thus, there were holy imitations as the 'Seven churches' of Bologna or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Acquapendente.

If you happen to see the imperial cisterns of Byzantium, you will experience a strong sense of 'dejà vu'. Probably not a case.

The crypt of the Holy Sepulcher of Acquapendente seems to be a faithful reconstruction of the basilica of Jerusalem wanted by Constantine (and his mother Sant'Elena, a true expert of Palestine) and after the various emperors of the east built and reconstructed - after wars, earthquakes, riots and bad adventures - until, in 1009, it was razed to the ground by a "crazy" caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah.

A legend states that Matilde of Westphalia (895-968), mother of Emperor Otto I, traveling from Germany to Rome to build a church dedicated to the Holy Sepulcher, was forced to stop at Acquapendente because the mules carrying the required gold for the foundation did not want to continue.

It is probable that the crypt of Acquapendente is the best "copy" in our possession of the ancient Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, which certainly had worked by Byzantine architects, perhaps the same as those who worked in the Byzantine cisterns.

Of course, even in Acquapendente there was trouble: the Romanesque basilica was rebuilt in a neo-classical style at the end of 1600 and the crypt "forgot" until 1950. But the restoration works of the last century have given us an environment of very strong suggestion.

24 columns form nine naves. At the pyramidic edicle that imitates the Holy Sepulcher, it is accessed through two staircases that descend from the crypt floor. The capitals are decorated with zoomorphic figures and among them are two beautiful sirens bicaudate. They could be missing?