Reference Entry

Crypt

Stephen Heywood

in Oxford Art Online


Published online January 2003 | e-ISBN: 9781884446054 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T020491

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  • Architecture
  • Art Techniques and Principles
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Christian Art

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Subsidiary vaulted room normally below the main floor level but not necessarily wholly subterranean. The term is normally used of church architecture. Crypts are found throughout western Europe, until the 11th century associated with funerary rites and in particular with the cult of relics, simulating the form of a tomb if not an actual one. In some instances, churches were built around the existing tomb of a saint or a holy place. The most important example of this is the Anastasis Rotunda on Golgotha built by Constantine the Great around the tomb of Christ, now the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (see Jerusalem, §II, 2). The function of early crypts was to keep relics secure and to allow the circulation of pilgrims. As the cult of relics and its liturgical implications grew, the crypt tended to lose its specific function as reliquary. Nevertheless crypts continued to be built, simply providing extra space for altars and chapels. Their size increased, and in some cases they lay beneath the entire eastern arm of a major church, for example Archbishop ...

Reference Entry.  2836 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Architecture ; Art Techniques and Principles ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Christian Art

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