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The crypt is found in the Church of SS. Annunziata, in the hamlet of
Minuta. As the church is built on steep terrain, the crypt underneath
is high and well light. Its medieval frescoes, as explained by the
historian Salazar in the 19th century, are very interesting. Of its
three painted walls, the one on the right, which once represented the
Annunciation, has been almost completely destroyed.
In 1871, Demetrio Salazar, the art historian, was the first to shed light on the medieval frescoes in the crypt. He was the one responsible for dating them (9th-10th centuries), which he did by comparing them with a series of paintings found in Saint Vincenzo Church in Volturno near Isernia in Molise.
Mary and Elizabeth are depicted on the left wall high up, but
unfortunately their faces have been removed.
Whereas, the figures of Saint George and Saint Nicholas are found below.
On the vault behind the altar is Christ in the act of blessing and is depicted in perfect Byzantine style. With him are the figures of Saint John the Baptist, Saint John the Evangelist, King David and the prophet Daniel.
High up on the wall behind the altar, the birth of Jesus is depicted. The scene is complex and beautifully moving. On the right is the figure of Saint Joseph who seems to be sleeping and further down women are bathing the newly born baby. On the left, an angel with a long sceptre announces the birth of the Saviour. From there a stream descends and a dog is drinking from it. Further down are two groups of sheep grazing, and a dog sleeps while another is caring for her little one. It is glowing at the top with the heavens rejoicing, and a radiant star in the shape of a cross can be seen between two groups of angels.
On the wall behind the altar more can be found below, where there are two frescoes depicting the legend of Saint Nicholas of Bari. The
legend is quite unique because it is the only one known in Europe.
The legend goes that a rich but childless man finally had a son
thanks to the intercession of Saint Nicholas. So in gratitude, the
man built a chapel in his grand villa where he would celebrate a
solemn feast day every year. But then his son was kidnapped and made a slave by a pagan king.
Then on one day while the boy was bringing a cup to his ruler, the pagan king noticed the sadness on the boy’s face and asked him why. The boy replied that he was feeling nostalgic for the feast day of Saint Nicholas that was being celebrated in his home on that very day. At that moment a supernatural wind scooped-up the boy with the precious cup.
In the second scene the father's villa is depicted where the clergy has already sung mass and sits at the table, while the mother embraces her son and the father bows to Saint Nicholas who is there contemplating the scene.