The existence of this temple became known in 1992, after a police search. The police had already been in the area the year before to investigate a possible tax evasion by a community that lived in this Valchiusella valley, 50km north of Turim. However, this time, they forced the entry of a "secret" door. There were enough reasons for so much secrecy. Once the door was opened, the police found a circular chamber measuring 8m in diameter, held by sculpted columns covered with gold leaf; the walls were covered by colourful and exuberant paintings; stained-glass and a large skylight in the middle shed multicoloured light everywhere. They were in the Hall of the Earth, the first of nine chambers that constitute the Damanhur.
The temple is huge and magnificent. It's composed of 300 000m3 of rooms and galleries with an amazing architecture, linked in five levels, 30 metres below the surfice, that are profusely decorated with sculptures, paintings, mosaics and stained-glass narrating the history of mankind. It's no wonder the authorities were so godsmacked entering this place for the first time. How could something like this be made from scratch?
Actually, since 1978, a group of volunteers - originally 24 people - worked secretly to mould the underground of the Italian Alps according to the visionary sketches of a man, Oberto Airaudi, or Falco, as he likes to be called. In 2000, the number of volunteers had already reached 800 people and is still growing, forming a self-suficient community, with a social and political structure, economical activities, schools, currency (the Credito) and daily newspaper of their own.
The community is hard to define. It's sort of a mystical community that refuses the boundaries that we, as a society, set upon ourselves. Each member is free to choose the path he/she thinks best to develop and grow spiritually, according to his/her aspirations, preferences and abilities. Its ecletic philosophical basis mixes neopagan with new age beliefs, and draws inspiration from the old Egyptian city of Damanhur, where a famous temple for Hórus was located, meaning, exactly, "City of Light".
When this temple was discovered, after the initial shock, the authorities' first reaction was to tear the place apart, as it was a clandestine building. The order, though, was later revoked, when the administration realized they could use the temple as a turistic attraction.
Meanwhile, the construction and extension of the temple continues and will continue in the future. What leads hundreds of people to work under the ground for 16 years without showing signs of slowing down, like ants, because of a man self-named Falco still remains a mystery. Also a mystery is what became of the alleged tax evasion. Where did they get the money to pay for such sumptuousness?