In 1978, a group of about fifteen people belonging to a mysterious spiritual community called Damanhur, lead by its founder Oberto Airaudi, began digging under the foothills of the Alps, in the Piedmont region of northern Italy about 30 miles north of the city of Turin. Under the cover of darkness, and using only a hammer and a pick, the men took turns digging into the side of the mountain. They worked with great fervor and by the first night was over, they were already a meter inside the mountain. The work continued for fifteen years under great secrecy. Only a handful of artists, artisans and builders constructing the underground temples knew about the project.
In 1992, an anonymous letter tipped off the authorities about the existence of secret temples hidden at Damanhur. Since no permission was sought for the construction, a raid was conducted but when the police were unable to find access to the temples they threatened to dynamite the mountain if the location of the temples were not revealed. Left with no choice, the Damanhurians lead three policemen and the public prosecutor to the excavated sanctuaries.
As the men stooped down to enter the first temple, named the Hall of the Earth, their jaws dropped in astonishment. Inside was a circular chamber measuring 8 meters in diameter. A central sculpted column, depicting a three dimensional man and woman, supported a ceiling of intricately painted glass. There were number of themed halls, tall sculpted columns covered with gold leaf, and walls and ceilings were ornately decorated with murals, mosaics, frescos and crystals. By the end of the tour, the story goes, the entire group was in tears, overcome by the profound beauty of the subterranean temples.
When they emerged an hour later, the prosecutor is said to have put his hand on the shoulder of Damanhur's founding member, Oberto Airaudi, and said, “We must do something to save the Temples.”
A series of court battles ensued, but eventually the Italian Government granted retrospective permission for the building. Today, the Temples of Humankind are a national treasure and open to the public.
Subscribe to our Newsletter and get articles like this delieverd straight to your inbox