Hazel Courteney

The Hall Of The Earth

Hazel Courteney

The Tiffany Dome In The Hall Of Mirrors

Hazel Courteney

Falco, the founder of Damanhur

These extraordinary structures  were kept secret  from the Italian Authorities  for sixteen years – until blackmail and intrigue intervened  and the underground  Temples of Humankind   were  revealed to the world.

Nestling in the foothills of the  Alps  in Northern Italy, 45 kilometres from the ancient city of Turin  lies the  valley  of  Valchiussella.   Peppered with quaint,  rustic  and  medieval villages ,   the hills of  Valchiussella  hold a  secret.   A secret that has  drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and the pyramids of Egypt and earned  the title of the Eighth Wonder of the World from the Italian government.

Weaving their way underneath a hillside for more than 8500 cubic metres   are nine ornate  temples, on five different levels,  constructed like a  three dimensional book  narrating the history of humanity  through all types of art.   Linked by hundreds of metres of tunnels the Temples of Humankind  are unique.

The story of  how they came into being  could have come from  an Indiana  Jones movie, and include modern day alchemy, drama,  blackmail and intrigue.  The  structures  have been built  entirely underground by the people of  Damanhur,  a spiritual community  named  after  the ancient  subterranean Egyptian temple of Damanhur,  meaning City of Light,  dedicate to the mythical  god Horus.

It all began  around 1960 when Oberto Airaudi, the founder of Damanhur  who is also known as Falco,  was an inquisitive  and highly psychic  ten year old.

‘From an early age, I experienced  detailed memories of what I believe was a past life in  which there were amazing temples  containing  futuristic healing technologies, but  they were also  transmitters and receivers of information.  Around these temples lived  highly evolved spiritual communities who enjoyed an idyllic, peaceful existence in which all the people worked for the good of the whole community.   Even though science and science fiction were my passion, these remembrances went far beyond a child’s vivid imagination. ‘

Falco also claims  to have been able to  affect specific phenomena such as remote viewing , by directing his mind into a closed building and being able to describe  in detail what was inside,  just as physicists  did at Stanford Research Institute in America during  the  70’s and 80’s;

‘Initially ‘ he recalls ‘ I thought that everyone could do what I presumed was  normal.  School became fun as my classmates  wanted to play with me as I would share my ‘tricks’ with them.  My parents  were initially  perturbed, but eventually my mother began to document  my experiments  and we converted  several  rooms in our large house into laboratories,  where I also  began sketching blueprints for the  underground structures from my memories .  My goal was to re -create  the  temples from my visions alongside a new society  in which people respected and cared for the planet and each other’ ’.

To his parents  amazement he began by digging a trial hole underneath their home and later  dug a   cave on land that his parents owned to more fully understand  the pitfalls of working underground.  These early attempts  can still be seen today.

As he grew into adulthood and began a  successful career  as an  Insurance Broker,    in his spare time,  Falco searched for  his perfect site.  He found it  in 1977 on a remote hillside in an area  where  Eurasion and African plates had thrown up over  millennia the mineral  Mylenite,  an ancient  ore that Falco felt  would sustain the large  underground structures  he  had in mind.  A house was built on the hillside and Falco  moved in with several  friends who shared his visions of a utopian society.

On a clear night in August 1978, Falco and his companions saw a bright meteor with star dust in it’s wake speeding across the heavens and  agreed  this  was  an auspicious moment  to begin their project.

During that first night using only hammers and picks they excavated over a metre down into the rock.  As no planning permission had been granted  –  they decided to only share their  scheme with other like minded people.

As the community  project  grew,  a few of the new arrivals were told discreetly about the secret construction site.  Volunteers  worked in four hour shifts  digging deeper day and night, year after year.

In this way for the next  sixteen years the  men  laboured  with their simple tools whilst the women carried the buckets of earth up to the surface.

Astonishingly,  no geologists were consulted and there were no formal plans other than  Falco’s  sketches and visions.

Some of the volunteers  trained as electricians, whilst other aspiring artisans over time learned to work with glass, sculpt stone and others became painters. Some came  from overseas,   keen to be part of  the unique project  and their enthusiasm  united them  in an ever expanding community.

In the early days, the influx of new arrivals were treated  with suspicion and sometimes hostility  by the local community,. Yet  they  kept quietly to themselves  and began buying local homes within the valley.  Eventually to  earn their living, they  set up their own small co-operative businesses, not only  to supply their burgeoning  spiritual communities needs but also those of the long time residents.

In this way  the  Damanhurians as they called themselves built thriving bakeries, vineyards, publishing  and furniture businesses.  House builders, artists,  farmers and   jewellers conducted their  businesses during the day and dug quietly when time allowed.

By 1991  several of the nine  chambers were almost complete,  including several miles of passageways  that  not only gave access to each temple, but also  helped the air to circulate throughout the entire complex six times an hour.  The hundreds  of volunteers had created a modern day miracle, complete with stunning three dimensional murals, fine mosaics, statues, laid  tons of inlaid marble,  inserted secret doors worked by hydraulic mechanisms and  Tiffany stained glass domes and windows that would be the envy of any cathedral.

Falco and his friends dreams were coming to fruition.  Dreams that were  soon to be shattered.

At day break one quiet  October morning in  1991  police  helicopters swirled over the main community centre at Damanhur.  Heavily armed military and police  with sniffer dogs and cameras brusquely  ordered people from their homes.

Esperide Ananas, a long tome  resident  who has now written a  book  ‘Damanhur, Temples of Humankind’  recalls   ‘ The children were terrified, it was such a shock to be ordered  from our  homes by troups who had been told they were looking for terrorists.  Our lawyer  Cormorano Sicomoro thought they had come to find the temples, yet  to his astonishment  presented him with a magistrates warrant   alleging tax evasion for £15,000 from  some of  our co-operative businesses.’

The community quickly decided  that it was not an appropriate  time to mention the temples, so the police stood around drinking coffee, much disgruntled that they did not have a fight on their hands. Large amounts  of  accounts  were removed – but the secret of the temples remained intact.

It had been a close call.  Worse was to come.

An ex resident of  the community  who knew of the temples, and was desperate for money,  contacted the police  saying that the community of Damanhur owed him money.

Falco  states it was always his intention to open the temples to the public, but  only once they were  finished.  Whether this is true or not  cannot be verified – but  in an attempt to divert the police’s attention if they should  return, a small temple  structure was quickly excavated  away from the main site and made to look antique.

This action worked for a while, but it  infuriated the disgruntled ex resident who threatened to contact a high raking judge  unless he was paid an exorbitant amount to keep  the temples secret. Falco, who by then had become a  successful  and prolific painter refused to be blackmailed and warned his lawyer of  the likely consequences.

In July 1992  Damanhur was raided again,  but this time  the state prosecutor  Bruno Tinti   shouted  an ultimatum ‘ Show us these temples or we will  dynamite the entire hillside. ‘

His fearful stance stemmed from the fact that for centuries  Italy  has been a Catholic country and   any questionable structure’s linked to any kind of beliefs outside of the Church’s jurisdiction were viewed with extreme suspicion.  And the area around Turin has a  long tradition  of  magic and alchemy.  Nostradamus  lived in Turin and  the Shroud  purporting to show the imprint of the crucified Jesus is kept  in Turin.

With little option but to comply, Falco and his colleagues opened the secret door  to show what lay beneath..

Three reticent policemen  alongside the Prosecutor  entered with their film camera at the ready. As they navigated the labyrinth of corridors and steps which took them  thirty metres  under the hillside  they were amazed to  see  walls  painted  with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and paintings.  But as  they stooped down to enter the first temple,   the Hall of the Earth  their jaws dropped.

Inside was  a  circular chamber measuring  8 metres in diameter.  A central sculpted column  depicting a three dimensional man and woman supported a ceiling  of intricately painted glass portraying  the explosive birth of the universe surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac.  Set against this backdrop bright stars glowed depicting  exactly how the night sky would have looked 22,000 years ago, when Atlantis was supposedly at it’s height.

On the walls a huge  mural in vivid colours showed  the diversity of nature on our planet, complete with paintings of  endangered species.  Like an underground Noah’s Ark.

Underfoot was intricately  inlaid marble depicting man at work and at play. The astonished group  walked  on to find themselves in the upper chamber of this hall, with towering sculpted columns covered with golf leaf,  over 8  metres high.

On the walls  towering  murals symbolised the beliefs of Falco and his community. That we are all  divine beings, that we re-incarnate through many lifetimes and that  the human body is a  temple for a divine essence.   On each side of the room magnificent multi faceted doors of coloured  stained glass and silver led to other chambers.

The prosecutor  was amazed  by the complexity and enormity of  what had been  created in secret.

Their tour culminated in the breathtaking   Hall of Mirrors, a chamber  dedicated to light, air, sky, sun and life  – covered in antique glass complete with  a balcony at high level surrounding the entire room, which is topped by one of  the largest  Tiffiny glass domes in the world.

Upon seeing such spectacles, the judge decided to  seize the temples on behalf of the Government  but kept them under his jurisdiction  whilst the future of the temples was decided.

‘The Vatican would have liked  to see them blown them up irrespective of the art and treasures they contained’ recalls  Esperide Ananas ‘ It was incredible, they came with dynamite, but as they saw each chamber and  began to understand the  inherent wisdom contained in each,  they   were  moved to tears. By the time they  had seen all nine chambers, we were told to continue with the art work, but to cease further building even as we had not  been granted planning permission. ’

The prosecutor became  their eventual saviour   ‘ We collected one hundred thousand signatures to help save the temples’ says Ananas ‘

For four years the Damahurians, who pay Italian taxes, but also choose to give a percentage of their income to help their community grow  – fought their case through the courts.  Even though there was huge pressure from the church and politicians ,  the  Government  eventually ruled that the temples should  be saved  and  retrospective planning permission was granted.

Falco and his community which has now grown to 1000 people were jubilant . ‘A society  similar to  the one  I believe once existed’ he smiles ‘ is being reborn again.  People are free to come and go as they wish , all we ask if a person  chooses to become a Damanhurian is that they abide by our constitution  which is based on the spirit of service without looking for personal reward.’

Today there are more than 80 settlements within the valley and people  from seventeen countries and all walks of life call themselves Damanhurians.  They  have their own Open University, Schools, organic supermarkets, vineyards, farms,  bakeries and   award winning eco homes.  They even have their own currency which encourages people to spend their money on local produce which helps the community to thrive.  Their temples have become the focus of the community which now boast the  most elaborate ‘ town hall’  imaginable.

‘I wanted to create something that is alive  as well as  symbolic’ says Falco who now lives  a simple and reclusive life  near his beloved temples  ‘  They are to remind people that we are all capable of much more than we realise  and that hidden treasures can be found within every one of us once you know how to access them’.

‘We are not a religion. People  try to categorise us, but find they cannot.  There are aspects of many ancient religions in our art and beliefs but there are no gurus here with big egos, more a community that lives to help others’

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it ?   Perhaps these people are  from another place, time or even another  galaxy. If you ask anyone  whether it’s in the supermarket or on the streets why they live in the community , they  all say the same ’ It’s a feeling of being home’.

The EU have recognised Damanhur by  presenting them with an award for their state of the art environmentally friendly homes. In 2005 a  UN  committee voted  Damanhur  an excellent  model  for new sustainable communities.   Politicians from several countries have visited to learn about their infrastructure and future plans include an outdoor thousand seater  amphitheatre which  the residents aim to offer to the UN for conferences.

Whether you are a spiritual person or not,   you cannot help admiring the spirit of the people who have made their dreams of creating a sustainable and more holistic  community their reality.

Small groups can visit Damanhur  by prior appointment – for details log onto  www.damanhur.org
DAMANHUR,  TEMPLES OF HUMANKIND by  Esperide Ananas is published  by COsm Press. £20-00