Montovolo Retreat 7e

The Crypt of Montovolo is Actually an Intact Etruscan Temple !?

And see below

Recent excavations under the "Crypt" of Montovolo and new confirmations (2012)

by Graziano Baccolini

Italian Version

Before reading this article reporting the discovery of an Etruscan temple, a notice almost incredible, it is necessary to read at least my precedent researches about Montovolo reported on this web site. After this reading and after seeing the bass-relieves, here reported, also you will realise that this Crypt might be an almost intact Etruscan temple.

It is reported by Calindri, an historical of 1700, citing ancient documents, that in the 363 A.D. the Emperor Gioviano gave the Mountain Palense (now called Montovolo) to the Church of Bologna. Of this Emperor Socrates the Scolastico said "Iussu a Ioviano delubra gentilium claudi et sacra cessare". (For order of Gioviano the pagan temples were closed and stopped sacred functions).

Implicitly this is a confirmation that at Montovolo there was an important pagan Temple. We remember Gioviano reigned after the death of Giuliano, Emperor for only two years, restoring the liberty of cult for the" pagans". Giuliano was killed in battle by one soldier of his, perhaps a Christian fanatic, and Gioviano, his elderly commander, unculturated Christian was acclaimed new Emperor. After only eight months, still in the war zone, also Gioviano died, without never returning in Constantinople and even less in Italy. Very probably the donation document of Montovolo and the order of destroying the temples was compiled by some powerful Bishop since after Costantino the Christian hierarchy had occupied all the places of power favouring above the break-up of the Empire. Giuliano restored tolerance between the varied religions. For this motive for over ten centuries its name disappeared from the history and this was wanted obviously by the new imperio religious.

Probably, this systematic destruction of the sources has also hidden well the enormous importance that the site of Montovolo had before 363 A.D. In fact none before me, studying this place also in the preceding centuries, had succeeded in arriving to its remote Etruscan origins. Recently I have demonstrated in an unequivocal way that this place has been an important centre of cult for the Etruscans, their Sacred Mountain or perhaps, one important Navel of their World. Subsequently it was the place of Pale cult that it will become in Roman epoch, in I-II sec A.D, a sacred site dedicated to the Goddess Isis. The present Black Madonna still to Montovolo it would confirm its derivation from the Goddess Isis. Probably from the first century A.D up to 363 the Montovolo's temple of Isis has been the most important Sanctuary for the populations around the Appennino, for the most part etruscan people. Only in this way we can be explained the legends describing a big holocaust of Christians and Pagans occurred on the slopes of Montovolo. Such legends of bloody battles between Christians and Pagans are also confirmed from continuous recoveries of human bones on the top of this mountain and on its slopes also in recent times and reported by some historical2. Remember that probably in the same period the Temple of Isis in Bologna, where now there is the church of S. Stefano, was destroyed.

If these facts are true, I think that the declared remains of an ancient Christian Church found under the apse of the Sanctuary of Montovolo, called Crypt, might be the rests, practically intact, of the important pagan temple of Etruscan origin. I must specify that till now the historians report, in different texts, that this Crypt is probably of the X-XI sec A.D therefore a Christian temple. Instead, looking at the relieves, in the well preserved capitals, I have noted they are typical Etruscan representations, probably dated VI-V cent. B.C. or even only IV cent A.D. Some friezes are connected to the lunette of the Sanctuary that report the symbols of this Etruscan Oracle Center: the two doves and the lilies. In fact, also in several Crypt's capitals we find the images of lilies and two doves. As you can see in the reported photos, in a capital two doves eating from a container sustained by a turned upside-down lily; in another capital we find the two doves again together, but a lily now goes out from their beaks. The motive of the lily is portrayed also in several capitals like the one reproduced in the photo. Then we can call this Crypt the "Temple of Lily"!

In another capitello we find again the floral motive for the lilies with, one side, two rampant lions with the head turned back totally in an unnatural way. Similar lions with head so turned are verifiable, for example, in the beautiful etruscan “cippus” of Settimello, visible now at Villa Corsini –Florence (see below). In effect, this cippus in  a great Oval stone supported by four lions3. The griffon portrayed in another capital (see photo) is a typical etruscan figure found also in recent excavations such as Murlo's griffon dated 600-650 B.C. and in many other Etruscan findings.

Also the architectural part of the Crypt is in line with the characteristics of the Etruscan Temple4 that was constituted by two parts. The front half consisted of a gallery with columns, the rear half, in masonry, have a rectangular structure composed by three chambers or "cells" , or by a single main chamber flanked by two small wings. The temples had very wide and low double sloping roofs.

The Crypt of Montovolo preserves intact the three cells, called now apses, which might be the back part, in masonry, of an Etruscan Temple. It is long 8,10 ms, deep 2,10 ms and high 2,15 ms, it is formed by three separate semicircular cells with dividing walls, with arcs, vaults and capitals that show the relieves above described. The vault of the central chamber has been lowered to the height of the two smaller cells, to be able to build above the floor of the new Church. The fact that the two side cells are lower than the main cell makes probable a low double sloping roof. When the first Christian temple was built, I think some interest artefacts were recovered to be reused in the building of new Christian temple. In fact, in the presbytery, we find the flower with six petals inscribe in a circle. This flower is a typical Etruscan glyph visible for example in the famous shield of the warrior of Vetulonia as well as in many Etruscan artefacts.

My deduction could be easily now confirmed or confuted by the experts since the construction, practically intact, may contain inside or between the manufactured articles, residues of organic substances which can be dated with C14 analysis.

If my hypothesis resulted truthful, this would be a rare and perhaps quite unique example of an almost intact Etruscan Temple.


Crypt Entrance. On the right, the three cells



Capitals with doves (Photo Massimo)


A capital with lilies


Capital with griffon


Flower with six petals inscribe in a circle

 See other Crypt photos



1)S. Calindri . Dizionario corografico , Tomo IV, Bologna 1782.

2a) Oriano Tassinari Clò, Terra e gente di Vimignano , Bologna 1987.

b) Arturo Palmieri La montagna bolognese del Medio Evo, Bologna 1929

c) Emilio Veggetti Il Santuario di Montovolo , 1925

3) E. Pais , Storia dell’Italia Antica, 1925

Etruscan cippus of Settimello (Museo of Florence)



 Prof. Graziano Baccolini

Dipartimento di Chimica Industriale , Università di Bologna

FAX: 051-209-3654 E-mail:

June, 28, 2002 . Up date May 2004
Copyright © -2003-2004. 

For a fully understanding of the affirmations done in this report it is necessary to read my complete researches or a summary of this Sacred Etruscan Mount

 Montovolo retreat 1 1999 (Montovolo: perhaps an Ancient Oracular Centre) (Italian version,)

Montovolo retreat 2 1999(Remains of an Etruscan Oracular Centre In the Montovolo’s Legends and

Traditions ) (Italian version)

Montovolo retreat 3 2000 (Montovolo’s Black Madonna and its Presumed Ancient Temple of Isis)(Italian version)

Montovolo retreat 4 2000(Delphi's "Castalian"Spring and Montovolo's "Cantalian" Spring:

Another Strange Coincidence or Another Ancient Correlation ?) (Italian Version)

Montovolo retreat 5 2001(The Two Etruscan Necropolis of Marzabotto and their Sacred Ties with Montovolo) (Italian Version)

Montovolo retreat 6 2002 (Found an Unequivocal Data Confirming Montovolo was the Sacred Mountain of the Northern Etruscan Dodecapolis (Italian Version)

Montovolo retreat 8 , 2003 Montovolo : an Etruscan Geodetic Point? ( italian version )

Montovolo retreat 9 2003 The Tomb of the Bulls and its Religious Symbols: The Oval Stone and the Cross (Italian Version)

Montovolo retreat 10 (2004) The Symbolic Meaning of the Egg and Oval Stone

See my "Reflections about Etruscan Civilisation

See also recent pages:

Montovolo Retreat  16   (March 2007) A Recent Study of Genetics supports Anatolian Origin of the Etruscans  (Italian Version)


Montovolo Retreat 17  (June 2008 ) Da Montovolo la vera origine dei Merovingi, del Giglio di Francia e quello di Firenze ( Italian version) ( libro “La Montagna Etrusca-Simboli e Misteri” di G. Baccolini)

From Montovolo the origin of Merovingians, the Lily of France ( fleur de lis) and

that of Florence  (English version )

My bookLa Montagna Etrusca –Simboli e Misteri(The Etruscan Mountain – Symbols and Mysteries) edited by Edizioni Nuova S1 (Bologna, Italy) is now available in bookstores and online

Montovolo Retreat 18   ( July 2009 )  The Battle around Montovolo in 363 AD: it determined the election of the emperors Valentiniano and Valente  and the origin  and the wealth of the Merovingian dynasty.

(Italian version)


 See the Best Etruscan Web Site:

Recent excavations under the "Crypt" of Montovolo and new confirmations (2012)


First, I want to point out, again, that in medieval architecture the termcrypt” (from the greek κρύπτη, kryptē, from which the Latin meaning crypta: hidden) is totally inappropriate because it assumes that it is an underground room deliberately built under a church after its construction to bury important people of the Church, but since this Crypt in Montovolo has visibly windows, some obstructed in the last decades, can not be a crypt in the sense that has this term.


In September 2010, an archaeological excavation commissioned by the Sanctuary in view of the eighth centenary revealed immediately, after even a few centimeters of digging, the existence, for the entire width of the so-called crypt, of rock on which is supported directly walls already fully visible before the excavation. (See photo below)



Sanctuary of Montovolo-Crypt after the recent excavation – photo of Paolo Barone, Provincia Bologna



Whereby nothing was found, not even what they thought there was, that is, a floor below the pre-existing floor level because they said that in the tenth century a Christian church, that they assumed it was and still continue to believe despite the excavations have not confirmed it, had to have a height much greater than that which was measured in the crypt before the excavation. In fact, as I have already stated, it is 8.10 m long, 2.10 m high 2.20 m deep, and consists of three semicircular spaces separated by dividing walls of sandstone finely squared, with arches, vaults and capitals we have already shown.

We note that the arch above the central cell, the higher, was cut from the floor, once a wood, which supports the paving and the altar of the above  church. For which the maximum height could be 3 meters, a height very low for a supposed church of the tenth century, but this could very well be the height of an Etruscan temple which, as reported by Vetruvio, was often low due to wood structures for architraves and sometimes the columns that were used.

The excavation was commissioned by the Rector of the sanctuary, as he himself told me, to date the "Crypt" and exclude so my hypothesis that it was an Etruscan temple partly destroyed in 363 AD by order of Emperor Jovian. That's why they also dug among the rocks, as you can see from the photo below? In fact, if they were only looking for the floor would have had to stop just found the rock. I was also told me that I would be informed to watch the excavations and possibly to be testimonial of a possible discovery of important findings that could date the crypt above. Obviously I was not a testimonial and these pictures I found on the web. Immediately after the excavations it was not allowed to anyone extraneous to access the Crypt. However, as they wrote in some texts, they found nothing, neither a floor below or another little artifact that could be used for dating.

So my hypothesis, that the Crypt was an ancient Etruscan temple, still used in 363 AD, remains valid even if the insiders of the Sanctuary continue to claim that it is a Christian church of the X century and that the capitals are "Byzantine" and that all the carved symbols are related to Christ or Jesus on the cross and that the griffin (which continue to call mistakenly hippogriff although I have pointed out already for ten years in my first article on Eco of Montovolo) represents immortalityof the soul. Read below what still they expose in the "crypt".





Letter to Don Annibale of Agnese Verrucchi, niece of the last Guardian of Montovolo Don Pedrini

Don Annibale Sandri was, from an early age, the Rector of the Sanctuary of Montovolo, from 1943 until 2001, and it was a wonderful priest who has spent all last sixty years of his life to protect that sacred place by even as the unskilled masons who worked for the Sanctuary and he has also been the principal promoter for the construction of the driveway at the end of the fifties that has replaced the old paved road, maybe Roman, which from Campolo comes up to the top of Montovolo. I have known Don Annibale very well because I was as boy his aide in the sacristy since my grandfather was his volunteer sacristan. When I began my research in 1999 on the origins of the Etruscan Sanctuary of Montovolo he encouraged me to continue, saying simply: "Graziano continue your research, there is much to discover." I realized that he knew a great deal about these origins but as Rector could not unravel. Perhaps remembered also  the letter that I want to present and which has now been published in a local  book.


Don Vito Pedrini was the last Guardian of Montovolo from 1913 until 1929. For Guardian it means a priest who lived all year round, even in winter, in the little parsonage next to the church and he lived exclusively of the offerings of the faithful and in this case even doing small carpentry work. It was in 1925 that it was discovered the crypt because collapsed the floor that supported the altar, due to the fact the roofs of the church were in poor conditions and then it was raining on the altar.
I quote a passage from the letter that the niece of Don Pedrini wrote in 1977 to  Don Annibale Sandri who had asked her uncle photos and news about the time when she and her sister had remained for nearly two years at Montovolo. It was precisely the year in which it was discovered the crypt for the collapse of the floor. The letter says, among other things:


(...) Then it was discovered (1925) the crypt below the church and it was found there an altar with the deities above, and a skeleton of a man over six feet and a head out of the ordinary was so big with all the white teeth that I remember it well because the night I did not sleep from fear. I think the most important things have been brought to the museum in Bologna. (...)
• From Montovolo Monte Sacro Ottorino Gentilini, 2011


From this letter, from a testimonial of the discovery of the Crypt, we notice immediately that it was found and an altar of divinities that were never more seen nor mentioned in any text, all published by Sanctuary. These words say by a priest-grandson who certainly, having moreover at least twenty years, knew very well the images of saints, Christ or the Virgin Mary. Instead appropriately called divinities meaning to say that these were pagans and placed on an altar also certainly pagan. He also says that probably the most important things have been brought to the museum in Bologna. These words further confirm that the divinities were not to be Christian because otherwise it will not lead to the museum, but rather it would be put in evidence in the church for the faithful receiving abundant offerings.They would have never missed a similar opportunity.

Another strange thing is that of these finds, so interesting, there is no trace at the Civic Museum of Bologna, and I do not believe in others. I will do further research also in the local papers of 1925. But I think I will not find anything, seen with what zeal the church tries to hide the proofs and even deny the evidence and all the symbols that up today define the Crypt is Christian Temple, I wonder that still do not tell that the lily represented on the capitals and also on the lunette is a symbol of virginity of Madonna  as they said for the lily of France and that of Florence born out of devotion to Our Lady. Obviously even this is a bale too as I have shown extensively in my book La Montagna Etrusca.


See the new page The Montovolo Crypt and The Etruscan Temple  with a confirmation about the small Etruscan oracular temple of Montovovo carved in a urn of Volterra (300 a.C)


  Prof. Graziano Baccolini   Dicembre  2012

Dipartimento di Chimica Industriale, Università di Bologna

FAX: 051-209-3654 E-mail: graziano-baccolini@



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