A closer look at Ascoli Piceno’s churches: the Crypt of the Cathedral
The marvellous crypt of the Cathedral was built in the 11th century following the transfer of St. Emidius’s relics from the catacombs of the Church of Sant’Emidio alle Grotte to the Cathedral. The crypt consists of thirteen small aisles and was erected using recycled building materials dating back to Roman times. The original access to the crypt was via the Cathedral’s central aisle; following extensive renovation works, today it can be accessed via the two side aisles.
In the 18th century, the design of the central section of the crypt was significantly transformed by Giuseppe Giosafatti, who raised the ceiling height and replaced the original Roman travertine columns with Verona red marble ones. In the same years, his son Lazzaro Giosafatti sculpted “St. Emidius baptizing St. Polisia”, which can be admired at the top of the central aisle. Below the statues is a 4th-century Roman sarcophagus where the relics of St. Emidius are kept.
The walls of the apse are covered with mosaics designed by Pietro Gaudenzi and created by the Vatican Mosaic Studio in 1954. The mosaics, commissioned by former Bishop Ambrogio Squintani (who appears in one of the scenes), represent scenes from the terrible years of WWII.
The frescoes in the vaults date back to the beginning of the 18th century and are a work by Tommaso Nardini. Close to the left staircase leading upstairs to the Cathedral, it is possible to see the final section of the 14th-century cemetery that stretches underneath the church. This last section underwent major renovation in 1961, when Bishop Marcello Morgante ordered the construction of the Bishops’ Tombs.
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AUTHOR: Lella Palumbi, expert in art history