A crypt1 is a subterranean structure, usually attached to a place of worship and normally used for the burial of the dead. A crypt may serve a place of worship in place of a graveyard or as well as one and in some cases it may be connected to a network of catacombs as well. In many cases the crypt is, effectively, an underground mausoleum with a place of worship on top.
The crypt may also serve as an ossuary - or, conversely, be periodically "downloaded" into one.
Being, effectively, the church basement, crypts are quite often used for other purposes as well - either once they have been abandoned as burial places or, in less squeamish cultures, at the same time. Also, as noted, a crypt may not necessarily be intended for burial in the first place - in those religions where underground worship is the norm (for example the cults of the various chthonic Greco-Roman deities or the Mithraic faith) the main sanctuary may actually be in a crypt (although modern English users might not refer to it as such, it would certainly meet the criteria - and, in the cases of mystery cults, very much hidden). Storage is also a possibility, especially of valuable goods, relics or other such things2.
The term is also frequently misused to describe various other structures including tombs and mausoleae. The boundary between a tomb with a funerary chapel and a place of worship with a crypt is a fuzzy one.
Game and Story Use
- If there is anything sinister about a place of worship, it will probably be in the crypt.
- Likewise, if the place of worship was built to sanctify or to contain something, that will probably be in the crypt as well.
- The crypt as noted, may connect to a network of catacombs - or dungeon as they are often known, especially in the case of long-ruined sites.
- In cultures that "do" grave goods, the crypt may well be full of them.
- In the modern era, a church crypt is as likely to contain a cafe as a pile of bones. Where a church has been deconsecrated and sold off as a nightclub (a fairly common meme), the crypt may contain practically anything, from perverts to a beer cellar.
- In the early modern era, crypts were not infrequently commandeered for use as gunpowder magazines.
- Likewise, subversion by having religions that use the crypt for non-corpse stashing behaviours.