Narni underground: The mysterious Inquisition Trial and the Room of Torment in Narni


In 1979 six members of the local speleological team of UTEC of Narni, in Umbria, below the ruins of an ancient Domenican monastery, discovered a small hole, covered by dense bushes and thick grass.

The first room was an old church built in XII-XIII century, with its frescos covered by a thin layer of limestone. Thanks to local sponsors and volunteers started the work of restoration. Thus emerged paintings by Umbrian artists of the Middle Ages, which had depicted the compassionate and bleeding Christ, the four symbols of the Evangelists, the coronation of Mary and, especially important, numerous portraits of S. Michael, who had dedicated the religious building, re-consecrated in 2000. Nearby the church there is a room carved into the stone; the team found a much more ancient Roman cistern of the first century AD, from where now it’s possible to take a virtual tour of the Formina aqueduct. Here is possible to explore the 13 miles of the aqueduct built by Marco Cocceio Nerva, grandfather of the future emperor of Rome.

An insignificant door, originally found walled up in 1979 and reopened the same year by the six young explorers, leads in the most secret part of the monastic complex. A long corridor leads through a large room, once occupied by the “Room of torment” named in documents found in the Vatican Archives. The office of the Holy Inquisition had its headquarters here, after the Council of Trent. Proof of this is also the document of a trial hold in Dublin in 1726, which describe the daring escape of a Domenico Ciabocchi, considered heretical because bigamist, who took advantage of a fatal distraction of a sutler to get behind him and strangle him with a rope. On one side of the great room there is a small door that allows the access in a prison cell. An incredible number of arcane graffiti on the wall and the low ceiling envelops anyone who enters there. Lacking paper or ink to tell their story, the prisoners engraved their sufferings in the rock using white plaster and sharp shards. Names, dates, symbols, have come down to us. Particular interesting is the story of Giuseppe Andrea Lombardini who spent 90 days here, in 1759. Fearing of seeing deleted his messages of peace, freedom and justice, translated them into a symbolic language, known by few, composed by masonic alchemy elements and kabbalistic graffitis.

The last area is the majestic church of Santa Maria Maggiore, today San Domenico, until the thirteenth century was the cathedral of Narni. In this building there is a splendid Byzanthine mosaico of the sixth century.

Pictures courtesy by Marco Santarelli
Thanks to Roberto Nini,