This Underground Temple is the Alps’ Best Kept Secret

Around 30 miles north of the Italian city of Turin in the foothills of the Alps, lies the valley of Valchiusella. Picturesque and dotted with medieval villages, the site is also home to what has been dubbed the eighth wonder of the world, one that was completely invisible and kept secret by a select few until recent years.

Damanhur Earth waterniche

100ft underground and hidden from public view exists an extraordinary work of art that has been compared to the fabled city of Atlantis. The temples of Damanhur consist of 9 rooms split over 5 levels, some with ceilings as high as 25ft. The rooms are connected by hundreds of metres of opulently decorated tunnels, collectively occupying 300,000 cubic feet.

hall of metals2

It might seem that this incredible feat of human potential has been left behind by an ancient civilisation. However, what makes them even more astonishing is they are in fact the work of just 150 volunteers over a 15-year period less than 40 years ago, directed by one (now 57-year-old) former insurance broker from northern Italy.

Oberto Airaudi dedicated his life to building the temples after he experienced visions at age 10. In his visions, the temples were home to a highly evolved community who enjoyed an idyllic existence in which all people worked towards a common good.

Oberto began to teach himself the principals of excavation by digging a trial hole underneath his parents house, but only began searching for the perfect site after establishing himself as a successful insurance broker in later years.

In 1977 he found that site in a remote hillside, where he built a house for himself and the friends that shared his vision. In 1978, using hammers and picks, they began to dig into the hillside with no formal plans to work from expect for Airaudi’s sketches.


Over the next 15 years more volunteers flocked from around the globe to join the growing community of temple builders, working in 4-hour shifts, and funding their project with small businesses to serve the local community. But since no planning permission had been granted by the government, the Damanhurians had to keep the growing temple under wraps.

“It was important to build them in secret or else we would never have been able to build them. Italian law does not foresee this sort of underground building” – Oberto Airaudi.

By 1991, the Damanhurians had completed most of the 9 chambers. Murals, stained glass windows, ornate statues, vibrant mosaics and secret doors spread throughout the secret excavation.


Until then, the temples had remained undiscovered by the government, but one year later the police posed an alarming ultimatum to the community, ordering to see the temples and threatening to dynamite the entire hillside.

After passing through the secret entrance in the ‘Hall of the Earth’ for the first time, the government authorities swiftly seized the temples and prohibited any further building. The Damanhurains were later granted permission to continue with the artwork on the existing structure.


Today, the Damanhurians have expanded into a vibrant spiritual community that upholds the vision of their founder. With a population of 800 people that live in communal homes, Damanhur (which means ‘City of Light’) even has a university, schools, vineyards, farms, and organic supermarkets.

The temples have also become the focus for group meditations.


”They are to remind people that we are all capable of much more than we realize and that hidden treasures can be found within every one of us once you know how to access them” – Oberto Airaudi.

Take a virtual tour of the temples and read more on their history at



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