Crypt of the Original Sin

Matera, Italy

The Crypt of the Original Sin, in Matera, is located inside a natural cave on the Murgia plateau, near the old Appian Way. Commonly known as “the Sistine Chapel of rupestrian art”, the Crypt was discovered in 1963 by a group of local youths, who noticed the splendid frescoes in what at the time, had become a shelter for sheep herds. Experts later dated the cycle of paintings back to the second half of the 8th century, with Late-Romanesque style and formal elements of Oriental inspiration, such as the Byzantine-style Triarchsand the profile of the Virgin Mary, majestically represented in the sumptuous clothes of the Byzantine empress, the Basilissa.

The anonymous, humble artist – who was soon nicknamed the “Flower Painter” – depicted biblical figures in total freedom: God the Creator, Light and Darkness, Adam and Eve, the three Apostles John, Peter and Andrew, the Archangels and Mary. The paintings on the rough walls of the cave are different and unique in Matera’s iconographic context. The scenes are the fruit of the painter’s personal creativity and certainly speak of his freedom in translating complex depictions, and of a lively spontaneity in drawing images.

Paintings of flowers complete the cycle, while other frescoes are difficult to interpret due to their poor state of preservation. All the depictions are described by an inscription in Latin. 

You can visit from Tuesday to Sunday, by appointment only.  



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Matera, Italy
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Founded: 8th century AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy


4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Karlien du Toit (8 months ago)
Very interesting to visit. The tour doesn't take very long. You get to sit inside the church cave and they play a recording, telling you about the history.
Tom Berger (11 months ago)
A twofold experience: the site is undisputably stunning. The paintings are unique, and well restored. Our guide was kind and friendly, he is not to blame for a slightly underwhelmed feeling after the visit. But, the whole procedure is annoying, starting from the 'no foto' policy, to the fact that you have to wait in a room of overpriced tourist stuff for half an hour before being allowed into the crypt for 15 minutes, of course seated and with a kitschy Audioguide. By the way, selling prints on gypsum slabs as "oil painting on tufo" is borderline fraud.
Krzysztof Szewczyk (11 months ago)
Closed (temporary?) and covered with a mesh with tiny holes so you can barely see anything but still impressing and worth visiting
Gianluigi Noris Chiorda (3 years ago)
This place is amazing. A bit out of the standard touristic routes, it is absolutely worth the trip. The visit is really well organized, with lights and sounds perfectly set. Really touching! And do not forget to stop on the way back for a wine tasting at the place where you get the ticket. I really reccomend it.
Radu Mosmonea (6 years ago)
It was much better than I thought - the presentation is quite impressive even though I would expected to be more dynamic. Drop by the vineyard next to it to get a bottle of wine with the pictures inside the cave. That wine is almost divine.
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