The Inner Sanctuary


The Inner Sanctuary

Having negotiated the Rise, we arrive at a point where there is a curious shelf and passage immediately to our left. We shall leave this feature for now, in favour of exploring what lies directly in front of us.

The top of the Rise. Facing us is a bricked up archway with a solid tufa stone wall on our left.

What we first see ahead is a bricked in archway, with a frame of what appear to be four Roman tiles set on edge. There is a similar feature above the entrance, at the back of the Grotto.

Doc's team exploring the Sanctuary

Victor “Tory” Failmezger”, a member of Doc Paget’s archaeological team, at the sanctuary circa 1970.

As can be seen from the person emerging from behind, there is a passage to the right here. If we pass around the corner, there are a further two more doorway arches, originally carved out of the solid tufa, but now bricked in.

In Doc Paget’s own words: "At first appearance all that could be seen was a rough wall with what appeared to be a blocked-up door on the left. On the right the wall and a passage continue round to the north and west."

The second doorway

The second Sanctuary doorway

The second bricked up Sanctuary doorway.

Doc Paget mentions that there were two basket casts sitting on a shelf around the corner: "We found nothing inside the tunnels except two lumps of congealed mortar still bearing the imprint of the weave of the baskets in which they were carried. These were just outside the east ‘door’ of the Inner Sanctuary."
R. F. Paget: The ‘Great Antrum’ at Baiae: A Preliminary Report, page 111.

It may well be that the ball-shaped object in this picture is one of these casts.

Doc Paget speculated: "There were no doors, the rough wall and blocked ‘doors’ being merely a device on the part of the masons to have less space to fill to destroy the usage of the Sanctuary."

The Third doorway

The third Sanctuary doorway

The third bricked up Sanctuary doorway.

View into the Inner Sanctuary through the hole

Inner Sanctuary, full of soil

The view into the hole.

An eye-witness who took a series of slide photographs of the hole, circa 1970, suggests that the view remains the same as the more recent picture above and there is little to be seen until the soil is removed.

Sanctuary hole slide scan from 1970Sanctuary hole slide scan from 1970

Colour transparency slides taken through the Inner Sanctuary hole, circa 1970.

A composite picture

The oracle archways – the square frame of the tiled niche is around the corner to our left.

The picture above is a composite I have made up from a series of three photographs. This view is impossible to photograph in reality due to the cramped space, but it does explain the layout. To the left is the passage from the rise and the doorway with the tiled niche, which is itself hidden behind the rubble pillar seen in the centre of the picture.

We can see that the archways into a larger room, the Inner Sanctuary, have been blocked off by forming a small corridor around the three arches. The corridor continues to our right, to meet the back end of the underground water course – Doc Paget’s River Styx.

The Styx Passage

To the side of the third bricked up archway is a passage leading to the back of the underground water course, seen here on the right. It is blocked with soil some way in.

Photo Michael Baigent, from his book ‘The Jesus Papers‘. An offering of myrtle in the niche.

The golden bough

Whether this series of tunnels is really the underworld of Greek mythology or not, we can reflect that in Vergil’s Aeneid, before entering Hades, the Sybil of Cuma tells Aeneas he must obtain a golden bough (probably mistletoe) as a gift to Proserpina (Persephone). After they start their descent into the Underworld, the Sibyl shows the golden bough to Charon the ferryman, who only then allows them to enter his boat and cross the river. Aeneas is told to put the golden bough in a niche by the arched door as he enters the Sanctuary.

In 2001 Robert and Olivia Temple, with Richard and Jane Baigent, made a small bouquet of myrtle and placed it in the niche, which is at the entrance which leads in from the underground river to the Sanctuary.

When Robert Temple made his film, ‘Descent into Hell’ in 2003, he repeated the exercise, this time prepared with the correct offering of a sprig of local mistletoe.

Left: Robert Temple places his golden bough in the niche.

The Styx Passage

Colonel Lewis confirmed on two occasions, having dived the Styx, that there is a passageway leading up from the back of the underground water course.

From the Sanctuary, we can see that this passage curves to the left. It will almost certainly meet with the other end of the passage that Colonel Lewis saw. This passage is another that has been filled with soil such that as the passage slopes down its roof descends to meet a solid level of soil fill.

Entrance to the Styx passage from the sanctuary

Left: the entrance to the Styx passage. Right: the roof of the passage descends to meet the level fill of soil.

In the right picture a lamp niche is just visible in the top right corner. Presumably these niches continue all the way down. There appears to be some kind of cement fill, not natural tufa rock, on the roof. Further investigation may possibly reveal there was a door frame here of some kind.

The Styx passage with soil infill.

Where am I?

At the Sanctuary. The extent behind the blocked arches is unknown, hence the grey area shown on the plan.

Soil in S120 tunnel

Theories about the blocked door

Doc Paget’s suggestion of a blocked doorway, to the left of the arch with the tiled niche, can be looked at in closer detail.

In observing the left wall we can note that it has been necessary to infill some blockwork to the left side, but there does not seem to be enough space for a door of any kind. We can also see solid tufa rock on the side wall that has not been tampered with. The side blocks have been dressed into the tufa to continue the wall from South 120.

Blocked door

With reference to the above pictures, if we observe the top of the arch, we can see that it appears that the niche is squashed into the right hand half of what we might expect to have been a regular arch, such as we see around the corner in the other two existing arches. The right hand picture shows what the probable open area of the arch looked like, before it was blocked up, going by the junctions of the tufa walls with the infill.

So why was it necessary to fill in the side wall with blocks and why such an odd-looking, lop-sided, entrance?

The answer would appear to be because the wall curved away to the left here, leaving a void. This opening may well open into a space behind the wall that looks somewhat more symmetrical and arch-like, similar to its neighbours around the corner.

In turn, this might suggest to us that in fact the Sanctuary might continue at least to the left of this wall somehow, if there is widening into it here. Doc Paget may have sensed something like this going on; hence he suggested a blocked door here to the left. I see it more as the arch in front us curving to the left.

A 3D reconstruction

Time to get out some 3D software and model it.

On the left we have a similar view to what we see approaching from the Rise and South 120. On the right it is hopefully clearer that the reason for the infill is because the wall once curved around to the left here, implying a possible continuation of the Sanctuary in that direction.

Where am I?

At the Sanctuary. The extent behind the blocked arches is unknown, hence the grey area shown on the plan.

Soil in S120 tunnel

North and South 120

Our journey through the underworld continues with the return tunnels.

One Response to The Inner Sanctuary
  1. dave Reply

    Fascinating stuff, I watched Forbidden History with Jamie Theakston who went into these tunnels with a camera crew. It’s a shame that people aren’t spiritual these days, like they were in the past.

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