Склеп Деметры

Demeter's Crypt


Useful Information

Location: 51st Army street, 5, Kerch.
(45.351064, 36.473381)
Open: All year daily 9-17,
Currently closed for renovation.
[2020]
Fee: Adults RUR 60.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Tomb
Light: electric
Dimension: L=2.75m, W=2.35m
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:  
Address: Eastern Crimean Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve, 298320, Republic of Crimea, Kerch, st. Sverdlova, 7, Tel: +7-36561-64769, Fax: +7-36561-64769. E-mail:
Info, Tel: +7-365-612-04-75.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1st cty crypt built.
1895 discovered by the owners of the estate.
World War II used as an air raid shelter.
1998 replica of the crypt built.
2018 due to the renovation of the Great Mithridates Staircase temporarily closed.

Description

Склеп Деметры (Demeter's Crypt) is a greek cave tomb in the center of Kerch. It is located at the Mithridates stairs, somewhere half way up. As the stairs are currently renovated the site is closed since 2018.

The burial chamber is a rectangular room, 2.20m by 2.75m big, with a round vaulted ceiling. The walls are plastered white. The entrance tunnel is 5m long.

Obviously this is not the crypt of Demeter, the greek goddess. It was named such because of Greek frescoes on the walls which are decorated with scenes from ancient Greek myths. There are Hermes, Pluto, Calypso and Persephone. In the central plafond (the ceiling) the goddess of fertility and agriculture, Demeter, is shown. This painting is particularly attractive, with blue sky in the background, looking down on us a quite sad. It is sophisticated, showing many details like facial features and gold jewelry on her neck. But the the most impressive feature is the deep feeling of sadness.

Pluto is depicted below, in the act of kidnapping the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, Persephone. They both stand on the chariot which is pulled by four horses with 12 legs, do the math yourself. All figures, Demeter, Pluto, Hermes and Calypso look to the west, where according to the ancient Greeks the kingdom of death was located. The topic of the paintings is obviously that someone was kidnapped by death, which fits quite well with a grave. The figures are surrounded by decorations, bunches and leaves of grapes, branches of apple trees, images of fruits, flowers and birds.

When the crypt was discovered in 1895 it contained a wooden sarcophagus with human remains. But when the crypt was opened the fresh air destroyed those remains pretty fast. It is also said that the the crypt contained jewelry made of gold, vessels made of colored glass, a bronze candelabrum, and other antiquities. At first the discoverers hid their find from the state, but finally it became known and valuable objects were redeem and transfered under the management of the Museum of Antiquities in Kerch. And the archaeologists made sketches of the sarcophagus, and in the branch of the city museum at the base of Mount Mithridates a replica is on display.

The crypt was opened to the public, but the increased humidity began to threaten the frescoes, paint peeled off and salt crystals formed on the plaster. The restorers were powerless to stop the destruction. During the war the crypt was used as a bomb shelter, which added to the destruction. And construction of residential buildings next to the crypt in the 1970s changed the climate in the crypt and added to the deterioration. Finally in 1998 an exact replica of the crypt was built and opened to the public, the original crypt is closed and only accessible for scientists. The entrance tunnel for the crypt shows an exhibition of Greek artifacts of the museum, which were found in the area.