10. St Magno’s Crypt - Part 4

Now please go back to the centre of the Crypt, right in front of the high altar. The paintings on the apsidal conch and the three adjacent vaults illustrate the Apocalypse of John.

On the central vault, right above the altar, is an image of Christ as judge. He is at the centre of an almond-shaped mandorla and has white hair and beard as symbol of his wisdom. There is a blade coming out of his mouth symbolizing that the word of God can be like a double edged sword. He also holds two keys in one hand and seven in the other, a symbol of the seven churches of Asia, which John refers to on his scroll.

Above the window we find the Mystic Lamb. It has seven horns, seven eyes and a book with seven seals. Around it are the four Evangelical symbols and it is being adored by twenty-four elders.

The Crypt’s high altar is dedicated to St Magno, bishop of Trani, evangeliser of Anagni and martyr of the persecutions by Emperor Decius in the year 250.

The paintings on the hemicycle of the apse illustrate the martyr’s story: starting from his death in Fondi, on the Lazio coast, to the remains being moved to Veroli, and all the way to his burial in Anagni in the 9th century.

Moving left, let’s now face the minor apse dedicated to St Secondina and Princesses Aurelia and Noemisia, two Armenian sisters who lived in the 9th century and died near Anagni. These are represented on the sides of the window to your left. The central section of the apse tells St Secondina’s story, who converted to Christianity thanks to St Magno, and because of this was martyred. The apse’s hemispherical vault is dominated by a majestic Virgin Hodegetria pointing to the infant Jesus as the source of salvation for humankind.

The nave with the three apses, as well as the vault depicting the story of Creation and the first vault, with stories from the Old Testament, were all painted by the First Maestro or ‘Transfer’ Maestro, whose style is strongly archaic. In fact, although it occasionally presents new elements inspired by Norman Sicily, the main pictorial syntax is clearly Roman.