The Hall Of The Earth
The Tiffany Dome In The Hall Of Mirrors
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