Gates of hell

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This article is about supposed portals to the underworld from the surface of the earth. For other uses, see Gates of Hell (disambiguation).

The gates of hell are various places on the surface of the world that have acquired a legendary reputation for being entrances to the underworld. Often they are found in regions of unusual geological activity, particularly volcanic areas, or sometimes at lakes, caves or mountains.

Ancient gates[edit]

Legends from both ancient Greece and Rome record stories of mortals who entered or were abducted into the netherworld through such gates.

Medieval gates[edit]

In the middle of the Roman Forum is another entrance, Lacus Curtius, where according to a medieval legend, a Roman soldier, named Curtius, bravely rode his horse into the entrance in a successful effort to close it, although both he and his horse perished in the deed.[1]

Into the medieval period Mount Etna on Sicily was considered to be an entryway to hell.

During this period Icelanders believed that their Mount Hekla was a gateway to hell.

The most famous of medieval gateways to hell, however, was St Patrick's Purgatory in Lough Derg, Co. Donegal, Ireland.[2]

Other gates[edit]

In China, Fengdu has a long history in the Taoist tradition of being a portal to hell.

In Nicaragua there are two sites with this reputation.

Hellam township near York, Pennsylvania, has the problematic reputation of being the home of the Seven Gates of Hell.

In Derweze, Turkmenistan a burning natural gas fire in the middle of the Karakum Desert is known as the Door to Hell.

Popular culture[edit]

In August 2010, the History Channel premiered a show entitled "The Gates of Hell," (History Specials: Gates of Hell (Season 1, Episode 105) which visited caves and volcanoes in Nicaragua, Belize, Greece, Iceland, Ireland and Ethiopia, to examine the origins of these myths. It featured archaeologists, scholars, explorers and others working in this field.

The popular book Weird NJ features a large tunnel, referred to by urban legends as "The Gates of Hell". It is a storm drain in Clifton, New Jersey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Marvels of Rome (NewYork: Italica Press, 1986).
  2. ^ Eileen Gardiner, The Pilgrim's Way to St. Patrick's Purgatory (New York: Italica Press, 2010).