San Vincenzo al Volturno’s Abbey.
The Abbey of San Vincenzo al Volturno includes the very ancient “Crypt of Epiphanius”; IX century frescoes.
The crypt now called “of Epiphanius” is the only one completely preserved of the two crypts known in the abbey of San Vincenzo al Volturno, and it is a little treasure of Early Middle Age art: with its very well preserved frescoes representing the history of the Christian Church, it is a rare example in Europe of early Middle Age paintings.
Traditionally the abbot Epiphanius (824-842) is indicated as the building promoter of the crypt: indeed his figure has been painted in the act of adoration of the Cross in the Crucifixion frescoed scene. The crypt dates back to the second quarter of the 9th-century, when Abbot Epiphanius restored the entire church. It was built partially underground and covered with barrel vaulting. Its plan has roughly the shape of a Greek cross. In the short eastern end, we find the remains of a burial plot, placed just under a window through which it was possible to peep inside the crypt from the church nave. The crypt is decorated with a cycle of frescoes considered among the most important surviving in Europe from the Early Middle Ages On the eastern side the scenes represent the main episodes of the life of Christ, such as the Annunciation, Mary’s pregnancy, the birth of Christ, the Crucifixion, the first bathing of Christ, Mary enthroned with the Christ Child and the Angel announcing the Resurrection of Christ. In the apse we find the four archangels introducing the Second Coming of Christ, as imagined in the Apocalypse of St. John, ready to cast his final judgement over mankind. At the center of the vaulting, Jesus Christ is represented as Pantokrator, the Lord of the Universe, sitting on a blue globe, the world. The portrait of Abbot Epyphanius, at the foot of the Holy Cross, dates the entire cycle to the period between AD 824 and AD 842, when he was the head of the monastic community.