CRYPT AND MUSEUM OF SANT'ANASTASIO

The Sant’Anastasio complex is one of the jewels of Asti. Visiting it literally means immersing yourself in the oldest history of the city. In this suggestive underground space you can still see the remains of the Romanesque church dedicated to Sant’Anastasio, which from the year 1000 became the seat of an important female monastery. Unmissable place is undoubtedly the crypt, but the real wonder is being able to interpret the traces of time that intertwine in this site, and which have their roots in the Lombard and even Roman times. Apart from a few exceptions, the capitals exhibited in the long corridor belong to the most monumental phase of the church, i.e. that of the early 1100 AD.After its foundation around the year 1000, the monastery of Sant’Anastasio had in fact gradually assumed a spiritual role but also increasingly important economic (thanks to its vast land holdings): this had led to the need to renew the structure, expanding its surface and improving its decorative elements. Note the variety of subjects carved on the capitals: figurative scenes, angels, crosses, but also spirals and plant motifs. A bunch of grapes included. The church which was built shortly after 1100 AD had three naves. Of great impact must have been the system of cross vaults, which rested on quadrangular masonry pillars or on supports formed by four semi-columns. Most of the capitals exhibited in the museum corridor were to decorate this system of columns. The church was also equipped with a square bell tower, of which only the foundations remain. Among the many archaeological remains of the site, the columns of the Romanesque church from around 1100 AD can still be recognized quite easily today: look for their bases with a curved profile. Also look at the wall under the columns: the part built with river pebbles is part of the foundations. The walls of the church were instead built with an alternation of terracotta and sandstone, according to the typical style used at the time in the Asti area.
An entire room of the museum is dedicated to the exhibition of various stone finds, found through excavations and researches in different parts of the city. Among all, the coats of arms of the noble families of Asti and the architectural decorations stand out, as well as the splendid fragment of a multi-headed fountain. This slab that decorated the front of an altar (frontal) testifies the evolution of the art of the Asti churches between the end of 1200 and the beginning of 1300. The three-lobed arches that frame the figures of the saints, the elongated faces and the alternation of solids and voids of the frame indicate in fact that this work no longer belongs to the Romanesque style, but to the Gothic one, characterized by more elongated and lighter proportions . The protagonist of the work is the figure of Christ, surrounded by the symbols of the evangelists. A curiosity: originally the frontal had to be completely colored.
This large masonry tomb must have belonged to a person of great importance: it is in fact located just below the area of the Romanesque church that housed the altar (presbytery). Until now it has not been possible to trace the identity of this character, but some have advanced the hypothesis that it may be the client of the church, or an individual who is in any case very close to the life of the monastery. The special treatment reserved for the deceased can also be deduced from the structure of the tomb itself, which has a very carefully paved base, using pebbles. A curiosity: the bricks that create the double sloping roof are instead reused materials from the Roman era. Among the wonders of the crypt, the underground environment that at the time of the Romanesque church was used for liturgical functions, there are the capitals: the most refined are those located towards the final part of the room. Those closest to the entrance, on the other hand, date back to the first Romanesque church (built around the year 1000) and are sometimes made up of materials from an earlier Lombard church. The first building of worship was in fact built here shortly after 700 AD, by the will of the Lombard ruling class who ruled the city at the time. These tombs in masonry or excavated in the earth are what remains of the Lombard presence on this site. Archaeologists have hypothesized that these are the tombs of a family group belonging to the ruling class of the Lombard duchy of Asti. How was it possible to make this hypothesis? Not on the basis of the elements of the trousseau, which from a certain point on are absent from the Lombard funerary costume. Useful clues were instead the location of the tombs near the apse of the church of the time (a place of particular prestige) and the analysis of the skeletal finds, which identified the presence of men and children with good nutrition and intense physical activity. Due to the good living conditions, some even exceeded the age of 50, at a time when people usually died between the ages of 30 and 40. Radiocarbon analyzes made it possible to date the burials to a period ranging from the end of 600 AD to the end of 800 AD As you walk on the catwalk, don’t forget to also look… down! In some places you can in fact see some stone slabs: they are what remains of the paving of the forum of Hasta, or the Asti from the Roman era. Right here, overlooking what is now Corso Alfieri and which was once the maximum decumanus, was the town square, on which public buildings of a religious, commercial and judicial nature must have been built.