My passion for exploring hidden underground spaces was mostly fuelled by Indiana Jones when I dreamt as a young boy of becoming an archaeologist. Once I realised that I had built up an overly romanticized idea of archaeology I soon got over the idea but my passion to explore has never quite extinguished.
When I found out there was a largely unknown crypt in Valencia I knew I was destined to go and explore. The Archaeological Crypt of St Vincent the Martyr’s Prison (Cripta Arqueológica de la Cárcel de San Vicente Mártir) is a misleading name because the connection between this space and the prison of St. Vincent the Martyr is a bit of a stretch. Above this crypt (and located in another building nearby) there is the so-called Prison of St Vincent the Martyr where there is a chapel dedicated to the Saint because according to tradition it was here were he was once imprisoned. If you believe the tradition then this prison would be located somewhere in this crypt or perhaps somewhere nearby yet to be excavated but there’s no visible archaeological evidence of this connection.
To gain access to this crypt you need to go through an unassuming door in what looks like a modern building and then walk down the stairs and into the depths of ancient Valencia where its Roman, Visigothic and Islamic past is revealed. On the right, at the bottom of the stairs there is a wall containing 10th Century Islamic Art such as pottery and dinars (Islamic Era currency). This is because after the Islamic Invasion, the moors decided to build their palatine baths on this spot.
The rest of the crypt is dominated by an impressive Visigothic funerary chapel in a perfect state of conservation; you don’t need much imagination to understand what you can see, unlike other ruins.
In the centre of the chapel (the transept) there is a burial chamber with a glass slab on top so that you can see the remains of the person who is buried there. He was either a prelate or bishop and most probably Justinian of Valencia from the 6th Century, although his identity hasn’t been confirmed. On either side of this tomb there are 4 exquisitely carved tomb slabs and outside this space there are also 2 Visigothic tombs.
This chapel was once connected to the Visigothic Cathedral (very close to the present Cathedral of Valencia) but nowadays all that you can see is a small section of the Visigothic Cathedral apse.
Following the Christian Reconquest of Valencia from the Moors, a chapel was built in this area dedicated to St. Vincent the Martyr marking where this Saint was supposedly tortured and imprisoned in the 4th Century. Access to this building (Cárcel de San Vicente Mártir) is close by in the Plaza de La Almoina where there is also the Archaeological Centre of La Almoina where there are extensive ruins of the Roman, Visigothic and Islamic city of Valencia.
At different times of the day there is an interesting audiovisual projection on the walls of the crypt narrating the history of the crypt and it’s connection to Saint Vincent the Martyr. It lasts around 20 minutes and is narrated in Spanish, Valencian and English and subtitled in Italian, German and French. If you are not that bothered about the audiovisual projection you are free to roam about inside at any time of the day (check opening times below). On Sundays, however, they don’t bother to switch it on for some weird reason.
Where: Plaza Arquebisbe, 1
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday at 9.30am – 2.00pm/ 3.00pm – 7.00pm Sundays and Bank Holidays: 9.30am – 3.00pm
Entrance Fee: Free on Sundays and Bank Holidays, otherwise 2€