The San Sepolcro Cathedral is a basilica in Acquapendente in the province of Viterbo. The basilica is best known for its underground crypt, which supposedly contains a stone with traces of Jesus‘ blood.
San Sepolcro Cathedral Acquapendente
Address and opening times
The address of the Basilica Concattedrale del Santo Sepolcro is Via Torre Julia de Jacopo, 01021 – Acquapendente. The crypt can be visited from 09:00 to 18:00 (but is often not open during Mass).
History and description
The basilica was founded in the 9th century, by Mathilde of Westphalia, the mother of Ottone I the Great. She was on her way to Rome when she had a dream in Acquapendente telling her to build the church.
The basilica was originally built in a Romanesque style, but having already been reconstructed many times over the centuries, in the 18th century got a new Baroque facade and central nave.
The transept with the main altar, the Chapel of Ermete and the Chapel of the Sacrament are higher than the rest of the church. Underneath the church, which has three nave, is the crypt, which dates back to the 11th century.
During restorations, necessary after bombings in World War II, it was discovered that the three naves of the church were originally separated by differently shaped columns (four on the left and three on the right). Of the pillars on the left, only the base is still visible. Of the ones on the right, the octagonal first pillar has survived.
In an alcove above the entrance is a copy of a statue of Pope Innocent X. The original was made by Alessandro Algardi in 1652 and can be seen in the Palazzo Vescovile.
There are two bas-reliefs attributed to Agostino di Duccio that adorn the fronts of the ambo’s (small stone pulpits in early Christian basilicas). The left pulpit depicts the Archangel Michael with one foot on the slain dragon, while the other one shows the Archangel Raphael accompanying little Tobias to his father to cure him of his blindness.
The glazed earthenware altarpiece on the right wall near the Chapel of the Sacrament was made in 1522 by Jacopo Beneventano. It originally hung in the San Pietro Church and was moved to the Cathedral by Giovan Battista Troiani in 1881.
The choir stalls behind the altar were made between 1685 and 1688 by the sculptor Matteo Monsù. Each stall is marked by depictions of angels holding symbols of the Passion in their hands.
At the end of the nave is a (perhaps 14th century) baptismal font that came from the Santa Vittoria Church and depicts the 12 apostles.
The crypt of the cathedral dates back to the second half of the 10th century and is located under the transept and apse. 24 columns divide the space into 9 small naves with cross vaults. Differences in style would seem to indicate that its construction took a very long time. The zoomorphic decorations of the capitals are extremely varied. The left staircase is graced by frescoes painted between the 13th and 15th centuries, including a “Nativity” and effigies of Saint Caterina and the Archangel Michael. A double staircase in the central part of the crypt leads to a sanctuary in the shape of a square pyramid, a copy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Here, in the tabernacle, there is supposed to be a stone with the blood of Jesus on it, as an inscription outside the sanctuary claims.