In church structure, a crypt is a stone container beneath a church floor. It was functioned as a chapel or room for safekeeping relics.
The history of crypts
Crypts originated from catacombs, underground tunnels & chambers from the first centuries of the Common Era in which early Christian communities held services & buried their dead. Later, crypts were built in churches & subserved as chambers for tombs with a sarcophagus or coffin. Initially placed beneath choirs, crypts were later constructed also under church naves & transepts.St Pelagius’ crypt is Istria’s only historical crypt
The only historical crypt in Istria, & one of the few in Croatia, is the crypt of the Cathedral of St. Pelagius in Novigrad. Mysterious & slightly intimidating, the crypt was built after the fashion of the crypt of the Basilica of Aquileia. The proportion of the crypts has enabled researchers of cultural monuments to date the Novigrad crypt back to the Carolingian era during the transition from the eighth to the ninth century. This is yet further confirmation of the important ties that existed between medieval Novigrad & the Frankish state & Carolingian cultural circles.
The Novigrad crypt is a hall with four columns & cross vaults. It was accessed down two narrow stairways leading from the side of the central nave. It held a sarcophagus with the evidence of St. Pelagius, the town’s patron saint & an early Christian martyr who, the myth has it, refused to renounce his faith, even under torture.