What’s a crypt?

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Crypts are underground chambers used to store human remains, relics, and objects of religious or cultural value. They are commonly found under churches and on cemetery grounds. Crypts are typically single-chambered and lined with stone. They may contain sarcophagi, ossuaries, and chests of precious or sacred items. Visiting crypts can be interesting for religious believers and history buffs.

A crypt is an underground chamber which is used to store human remains, relics and objects of religious or cultural value. Crypts are most commonly found in association with churches, although they also appear on cemetery grounds and in conjunction with older private properties, where estate residents may have been buried in crypts historically. Many people are familiar with the concept of crypts, thanks to numerous vampire movies and horror films where people seem to get trapped in crypts on a regular basis.

In contrast to catacombs, extensive underground networks of burial chambers, crypts are typically single-chambered, although they can be quite large and in some cases may be galleries to support the weight of the earth above. Early crypts were used to bury prominent religious figures, and in the Christian Church many churches were built on or near crypts so that pilgrims could visit the crypts of saints and other well-known religious figures and also attend church services. For churches built on crypts, the crypt would also have been a source of income, especially if it contained verified holy relics.

The word “crypt” comes from a Greek word meaning “hidden,” but crypts aren’t necessarily hidden. Some crypts are actually above ground or only partially underground and can be easily accessed by pilgrims, worshipers and members of a community. The fact that crypts are usually under churches is also somewhat obvious; most old churches have a hidden crypt under the floor.

Typically, a crypt is lined entirely with stone, for security and support, and to protect the remains stored within. Sarcophagi are commonly used to store remains in a crypt, with some crypts using glass sarcophagi or coffins with glass openings so people can see the remains. Some crypts also have ossuaries, boxes that hold the cleaned bones of the deceased, and may have chests or caskets of precious or sacred items, such as items that belonged to saints.

Visiting a crypt can be quite interesting, for those who are not squeamish about human remains. Religious believers may visit the crypts because they believe pilgrimage is important to the practice of their faith, with some people believing that being in the presence of relics can be a healing experience, while history buffs sometimes enjoy seeing the artifacts stored in crypts.

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