Damanhur was founded in 1975 by Oberto Airaudi with around 24 followers, and by 2000 the number had grown to 800. The group holds a mix of New Age and neopagan beliefs. They gained fame in 1992 through the disclosure of their secret excavation of an extensive underground temple, the Temples of Humankind, which was begun in 1978 under complete secrecy. The Italian authorities ordered construction work to stop because it had been constructed without planning approval, although artwork could continue. Retroactive permission was subsequently granted. (Wikipedia)
Airaudi and his supporters purchased property in the Italian Alps, in a region of Piedmont less than 30 miles north of the city of Turin. Two dozen pioneers organized the initial settlement. It was named Damanhur after an Egyptian city, located 100 miles “northwest of Cairo in the middle of the western Delta. It was once the site of the city of Tmn-Hor, dedicated to Horus.” The group grew to include 200 “citizens” in 1985, 450 by 1998, and exceeded 800 by early in 2000. In addition, there are hundreds of associated members who donate to the community and attend some of its functions. Member satisfaction appears to be high; very few citizens leave the community. (Religious Tolerance)
This is a unique underground building carved out of solid rock inside a small mountain. Its existence only became known to the outside world in 1992, after a disgruntled leader, Filippo Cerutti, sued the community. After an investigation, the City of Vidracco ordered the destruction of the temple. It had been constructed without building permits, and was in violation of various zoning regulations. However, public opinion and support from cultural and scientific sources has stalled the enforcement of the order. The community has since resumed construction, and expects to continue for decades into the future.
“The Italian authorities in charge of the preservation of the works of art…declared it a protected ‘collective artistic work.’ For the outside visitor, it is a breathtaking experience, offering -room after room – amazing and unexpected discoveries…There are literally miles of corridors, and thousands of statues, windows and paintings” in the temple. 3 It contains a series of halls, dedicated to water, the earth, the spheres, metals, and mirrors. The chambers and passages which make up the Temple are aligned to what they believe are three of the earth’s intersecting synchronic lines. The Damanhurians, view the Temple as a type of “alchemic laboratory“. Walking or meditating there is a metaphor for “going deep inside oneself in a spiritual pilgrimage.”