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I want a mystery in a church. (Not the Da'Vinci code) Not sure which period of history it is yet. What has the church used tunnels under the church for?

Maybe a treasure that is discovered. But I don't think the church and smuggling really goes together.

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closed as too broad by Cort Ammon, Vincent, Monica Cellio Sep 9 '16 at 2:34

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ This is quite the broad question. I might ask "Why would a church not have a smuggler's tunnel?" I mean, easy answer "at one point in its history, it had a priest that was a smuggler" or "the tunnel wasn't intended for smuggling" or "smugglers took refuge there and built a tunnel." The possibilities are endless! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 9 '16 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ Your question is pretty vague and broad. I went with Medieval (as to reasons why it would be built in that era) since that's what I've been reading about lately, but I highly recommend that you edit this question to be more specific. You can also ask if there are any historical examples from whatever time period/country you want the church to be from. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Sep 9 '16 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ Read Moonfleet, by J. Meade Falkner. $\endgroup$ – TRiG Sep 9 '16 at 10:50
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Depends, are you talking our world or a created one?

Even in our world, you've got a not entirely clear picture of religion/churches. In Medieval times, churches and pilgrimages were big business.

To Help the Jews

In Medieval times, Jews were constantly persecuted. At any time, the local lord could decide to throw them all out and seize all their goods. This happened a lot, and included Jewish relics. So if it's a Jewish temple rather than a Christian church (something like in whatever world) this could be a reason. Even Christian churches & clergy were often sympathetic to their Jewish brethren, and at times would help (in secret) keeping them from being killed or helping them move goods. (Some did it for a price as well--helping the Jews for a small remuneration.

To escape religious persecution

Clergy teaching heretical things might fear being excommunicated and their goods being seized by the Knights Templar or by the Pope. They could tunnel and teach in secret.

War

If, as other posters have noted, war is a problem, you'd want a secret and secure way out before being invaded. The church has the most valuable goods, so it's the first place any invading army would loot.

To avoid the cold

Another, more mundane explanation: weather. Yep. It got cold so they built tunnels to get between cloisters or down to somewhere else they needed to be. There was a mini-ice age, and temperatures dipped, I think it might have been because of a volcano. Back in the day, they didn't have TV, so if they weren't growing food or brewing beer, they were looking for low tech ways to make their lives as priests more comfortable. Besides, digging a tunnel would keep you warm...

Storage and Egress

Yet another on the mundane side: Priests/Monks produced a lot of finished goods. It's actually astounding the amount of money they made, not just from beer, but lots of other products. They have to store them somewhere, and guard against theft. It might be easier to have a direct tunnel out to where a ship would take the goods or a cart.

Actual Smuggling OR Relic Making Factory

Like I said, churches were not so lily white, especially at their height. Whatever reason you can think of for smuggling, it's possible that they did so. Relics, by the way, were HUGE tourist attractions and worth lots of money. There were so very many fakes out there because it was so profitable. So, perhaps this secret area is a place where they carefully made the fakes to sell later. It would be a very big secret/conspiracy at the time. Motives might be to feed the poor with the money or just to make money.

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    $\begingroup$ It also depends on where you want this and what time period you'd want the Church to be built. You can also do combination reasons--like they built it for a mundane reason but it was also used for other purposes. Also, at any point in history tunnels can be added for any reason. In America, prohibition would be a grand reason--and not all of Europe was the same. You will have to do some research to narrow, as these are sweeping generalizations coming out of Medieval times. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Sep 9 '16 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ England for instance, had a different political climate than the rest of Europe, especially when you get into and past the Henry VIII era. Seriously, you should pick a specific country and era of building & use. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Sep 9 '16 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @HelenOwen If you are looking at England, and going with the Jewish angle, there's a dude named Gregory of Huntingdon you might want to look up. Guy was a monk, a book collector, and advocate of the Jews round about the 12th century. Go to the library and start looking up the history of the Ramsey Priory, or books specifically about the Jewish expulsion from England during Medieval times. Doubt google is going to give you much on the subject. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Sep 9 '16 at 18:00
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Not smuggling, but war. Historically churches and other places of worship were refuges - they were usually solidly built, had one entrance or exit, and easy to find, often having tall spires and bells. They might have also been the center of social life.

However a place is useful as a refuge only as long as its sanctity was respected. A tunnel would be a handy way to get people out, and into safety.

Depending on your setting, you might want to link this with say, a persecuted group, like runaway slaves and the underground railway or with some secret society, which might have re-used these tunnels as a meeting place or such.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was going to say Nazis, but your Underground Railroad is better. +1 $\endgroup$ – Mazura Sep 9 '16 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. Have there been slaves in British history that needed to be smuggled out? $\endgroup$ – pelican Sep 9 '16 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ Alas, that's a question for another site. $\endgroup$ – Journeyman Geek Sep 9 '16 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ No slaves during British history, but after the reformation there was persecution of Roman Catholics. This lead to then creation of priest holes, where Roman Catholic priests could be hidden from the Autnorities, sometimes these priests were moved from place to place to avoid capture. An area that secretly remained loyal to the Catholic Church might possibly have created tunnels for such a reason. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Sep 9 '16 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ I should correct myself no slaves during Medieval British history, they certainly were an aspect of Roman Britian and the later Dark age period. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Sep 9 '16 at 8:06
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Oh, churches and smuggling definitely go together. The stations of the Underground Railroad in the US prove that. Quite a number of churches served as waypoints - mostly protestant, but at least one Roman Catholic (The Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist in Stamford, Connecticut).

So, the existence of social policies which churches did not approve of on moral grounds could easily lead to smuggling.

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Depending upon how fantasy-oriented you want to get in your mystery, the tunnel could be used by an amphibian race that wants to worship but has been generally persecuted - they could arrive/depart via the tunnel.

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The Jehovah's Witnesses built a series of tunnels between their headquarters buildings in Brooklyn many years ago. It looks like they were intended for moving stuff and people between buildings rather than for some discreet or secretive purpose, but they are a good example of how a religious facility could end up with a tunnel system. Perhaps such tunnels could end up being repurposed.

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    $\begingroup$ Or look at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. There's a network of tunnels under it's buildings and extending to the parking garages and some nearby buildings, including hotels. Minnesota winters are brutal, it allows patients to get around without going out into it and avoids problems with them crossing the streets and making a mess of traffic. (Many patients there will have ailments that make them move slowly.) $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Sep 9 '16 at 2:25

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