Mysterious Architecture: Secret passages & hidden rooms were built in almost every castle & palace since ancient times

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Verica Sitnik
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Hidden tunnels and secret passages are hidden routes which sometimes lead to secret rooms or another way to exit a building. Secret passages were built in the houses of castles of individuals of high rank, such as royalty, aristocrats and the rich, including criminals.

The passages and tunnels were mostly for escape, stealthy travel or the movement of treasure, to perform all these activities without to be seen.

Belvoir secret passage.

The secret passage that leads from the library to the chapel of Stronghold Castle. Photo Credit

These tunnels usually have hidden or camouflaged doors, some of them can be opened by engaging locking devices, or a code protected mechanism. Camouflaged doors can be hidden behind a painting, a sliding bookcase or can be built into an architectural feature.

For example, they can appear to be part of the wall. In medieval castles the secret passages were integrated into secret areas, and some of them were built with a particular purpose, such as to enable the escape from an enemy, and other tunnels were used to lead to an underground water source. Often, they are built underground and they are long and dark, a tight space between the high walls.

Romania 1584 – In the library, there is a secret door, accessed behind a bookshelf which leads to various rooms of the Castle. Photo Credit

Trapdoor – Warkworth Castle. Photo Credit

 

Secret door for an old outhouse. Photo Credit

 

Wooden trapdoor. Photo Credit

These secret passages and secret rooms were used in ancient times too. In some Egyptian pyramids, hidden tunnels were used to protect burial chambers. Some of them had secret doors hidden behind a statue. In the 2nd century AD, early Christians were using secret rooms for worship. Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, took King Edward II of England as a prisoner and kept him locked away.

A group of soldiers who supported King Edward II attacked and arrested Mortimer, using secret passages in Nottingham Castle in which Mortimer was staying. In the Vatican City, the secret tunnel known as the Passetto, was used by Pope Alexander VI in 1494 to evade Charles VIII, and in 1527, it allowed Clement VII escape to safety. In the time when Queen Elizabeth I was the ruler of England, Catholic priests were using secret rooms called priest holes to save themselves from Protestant persecution.

The secret passages and secret rooms have been used since ancient times. Photo Credit

The secret tunnels were used for escaping enemies. Photo Credit

 

Vatican City’s secret tunnel, the Passetto di Borgo, view from inside. Photo Credit

During the French Revolution in 1789, Queen Marie Antoinette used a hidden passageway to escape from the palace. The Mikhailovsky Castle was built in a medieval style to protect the Russian Tsar Paul I. It was finished in 1800 and had a secret passageway built outside his bedroom. Hidden tunnels were used in Salem, for women to escape from the magistrates during the witchcraft haunting in the 19th century.

Secret tunnel in Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle. Photo Credit

The  American serial killer,  H. H. Holmes (1861 – 7 May 1896), tortured his victims in hidden rooms in his Chicago hotel which was designed with a maze of secret places within it. Secret passages and hidden room have been used in modern times too, of course, during the U.S. Prohibition era for example. Unfortunately, in present times many tunnels are designed underground and they are used for illegal immigration and the movement of illegal substances.

Secret passage in Chateau de Najac. Photo Credit

In mythology, these architectural structures are often used as gold chambers or secret rooms with treasure. Also, the writers of detective novels, which were very popular in the 1890s, used the secret passage in their stories. Undoubtedly, the secret room and hidden tunnel were used in the past and will be in the future.