Village of Palagianello

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Crypt of Saint Nicola

Archeological sites

The little ipogean Church of Saint Nicola which is entered through a sloping  stair, has a lunette over the entrance.
Its inner shape has an irregular square, with a trapezoidal base; on the front walls and on the sides of the west walls where there is the beginning of the sloping stair, there are three orthogonal recesses, different in width and in length, one of which – the one which is positioned on the east wall, in front of the entrance – has the function of an apse and still has, even if it is partially collapsed, a prismatic altar which was saved during the excavation and it is situated against the bottom wall.  
On  the latter it is possible to see clearly the representation of a fresco about a Déesis, with a half bust Christ, on the left of the observer  there is the Virgin and on the right Saint Nicola dressed in Episcopal  clothes. On the left of the recess apse, on the bottom wall of the square, there is a fresco of Saint Pietro. Another fresco of Saint Mattia is situated in the recess of the south wall and occupies one-third of the recess. On the south wall at the end of the sloping stair there are little traces of a fresco, badly damaged of Christ on his throne.
The walking area of the living-space was greatly and wildly excavated destroying an indefinite number of graves. If we omit some errors in the execution of the crypt, Saint Nicola’s square base is quite trapezoidal and it is quite evident that the project originally was a very simple structure: a central square with a recess in each side, except the western where there is the sloping stair to the entrance.
It would not be surprising to find more traces as it is an extremely simple iconography; so we have to consider the possibility of further interventions which deeply modified the original structures similar to Saint Nicola’s.

The frescoes

A- Saint Nicola
Position: eastern wall of the square, nearby the apse recess.
Dimension: height.max. 215 cm.; width max 78 cm.
Exegetical inscription n.1
Treble horizontal base, blue/yellow/blue.
Linear red frame outside and small white line inside. In the superior part another linear yellow frame profiled with white.
In front, a full-figure of Saint Pietro who holds in his right hand a little white cross fixed on an ochre beam. On his left hand which is flexed on his breast and holds a piece of his mantle two keys there are. He is wearing a blue sleeved tunic and a red mantle. He is also wearing sandles. He has got a flushed and wise face. His hair is thick, brown, curled and white. His beard is grizzled and short, with the shape of a shell on his chin. He has got a big ochre halo profiled with white, with red and white spirals .

B – Saint Mattia
Position: recess in the south of the square.
Dimension: height max cm.220;  deprecatory inscription n.2
Treble horizontal base, blue/yellow/blue.
Linear red frame outside and small white line inside. Along the arch another wide linear and yellow frame.
A full-figure of Saint Mattia is in the foreground and he is by himself. His right hand is on his breast  in an allocutory act  (Latin bless). His left arm is flexed; his hand is no longer visible and maybe holds a piece of his red mantle on a grey sleeved tunic. Sandles on his feet.  Wise face, long and  hollowed cheeks. Leaf-shaped ears. Big intent eyes. Straight eyebrows linked to the nose which is long and thin. Grey hair like his long curly beard, shell-shaped on his chin. A big ochre halo, surrounded by a dark line and profiled with white.

C – Christ on his throne
Position: south wall of the square, at the end of the sloping stair.
Dimension: height about cm.200, width about cm.150.

D – Virgin of the Déesis
Position: At the bottom of the apse recess.
Dimension: height max 175 cm. Width 70 cm.
Exegetical inscription n.4
The base of the superior  wall is blue while the inferior part is yellow.
The frame is yellow with white threading in the superior part.
A full-figure of the Virgin is three-fourths turned to the right in the foreground; her mantle is purple and covers her head, falls over her breast till her knees. Her tunic is dark blue. Her oval face is rose-coloured with a big ochre halo surrounded by white.

E – Pantocrator Christ
Position: In the middle of the apse recess, over the altar.
Dimension: height about 100 cm.
Inscription numbers 5 (exegetic) and 7 (apocalyptic on the book).
Blue base.
The half bust Christ is in the foreground. His sleeved tunic is red; his mantle is blue.
Behind his head there is a big crucifer halo which is not clearly visible and is characterized by his big eyes and his acute double beard. His right hand is in the gesture of a Latin blessing. His left hand is in the gesture of holding an opened book with an apocalyptic inscription.
His face and halo have probably been painted twice.

F – Saint Nicola of the Déesis
Position: In the bottom of the apse niche.
Dimension: height 174 cm.; width 70 cm.
Exegetic inscription n.7.
The superior part the base is blue while the inferior is yellow.
The frame is yellow and white in the superior part. A full-figure of Saint Nicola is in the foreground all by himself, three-fourths turned to the left.
In correspondence to the face the plaster seems to be smaller than the rest of the fresco which means that there was a total remake. This explains why the halo is ochre with ginger lily trimmings similar to Saint Pietro’s.

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