On a summer night, almost five hundred years ago, it is not hard to imagine the mixture of fascination and astonishment of the unwary guests that Prince Orsini had brought to his particular forest, populated by a bizarre delirium of stone.
Step by step, the torches would reveal the colossal sculptures hidden in the undergrowth. Around the corner a new surprise appears. Continuing to a hidden path another unexpected grotesque arises. It was a scenario not designed to please, but to surprise and shock the privileged visitors of that extravaganza of the Italian Cinquecento.
The Sacro Bosco of Bomarzo, also known as Park of the Monsters, is a unique masterpiece ahead of his time, or rather out of time. It was created from the hand of a noble patron, Vicino Orsini, described as artist and anarchic, and an architect, Pirro Ligorio, who later would be responsible for continuing the work of Michelangelo in the Vatican.
The monsters are actually mythological figures, enclosing a constellation of symbols, almost as if it was an initiatic garden.
Image by Gaetano Crisafulli
At that time not long ago, the minds of the people were not used to the visual impacts of elaborate special effects; one of the artist's best weapons to shake up his audience were the hammer and a chisel. Image by Arianna
It's estimated that the works began around 1550 and then the place fell into oblivion for about 350 years, after the death of its creator. Image by Gilmo Costanzo
Sacro Bosco's layout is merged and has continuity with the environment, in contrast to the rational and geometric gardens of the time. Image by Gilmo Costanzo
This effect was accentuated after centuries of neglect and the advance of vegetation. The Park of the Monsters was not recovered from its abandonment until well into the twentieth century. Image by Luca Cerabona
In this picture of a clash of Titans, we can get an idea of the size of the statues.
Image by Genibee
"In Bomarzo the scenery is overwhelming, the observer can not see because he's immersed in a gear of feelings [...] capable of confusing the ideas to harass emotionally, to participate in an absurd, playful and hedonistic world of dreams" (Bruno Zevi, Italian art critic). Image by Bass Nroll
At the mouth of the orc was originally carved Lasciate ogni pensiero voi ch'entrate ("Abandon all thought, ye who enter here"), as opposed to the famous quote from the Divine Comedy, where over the gate of hell was written: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here". However, nowadays you can only read ogni pensiero vola (Every thought flies). Image by N i c o l a
But if you cross the threshold of this access to the underworld, in the other side there's a chamber with a table where you can rest and cool off... Or can you have a picnic? Image by 42andpointless
A fortified war elephant crushes a Roman soldier. Probably refers to the exploits of Hannibal of Carthage, the enemy at the gates of the capital of the empire. Image by Alessio Damato
It is unknown the purpose of the design of the park, considered as Mannerist style, preceding the Baroque. One of the enigmatic epigraphs says"Just to set the heart free", as if it were all just a way to seek a catharsis of the soul.
Image by Luca Cerabona
The stunning leaning house was, unlike the Tower of Pisa, built this way deliberately.
Image by Andrea Marutti
In any case, it seems that tourists appreciate it.
Image by SnoopyHood
Apparently it is not the only thing that is crooked in the park.
Image by Alfiogreen
On the bench of the picture above is read: "You that are wandering through the world, willing to see high and splendid marvels, do come here where there are horrible faces, elephants, lions, bears, ogres and dragons".
Image by Jordi Chueca
The mausoleum devoted to Vicino Orsini's wife, who died prematurely in the years before the construction of Sacro Bosco, appears to be the most ordinary thing of the entire set. Image by N i c o l a
The Park of Monsters somehow reminds us to a place from another time and a very different tradition, where we have already been: the Buddha Park in Laos. Image by Bruno
As an extra bonus we are including a couple of images from a modern park nearby, that saving the distances, has many similarities with Bomarzo: the Garden of Daniel Spoerri, in Seggiano. Image by Daniele Badini
There are over one hundred sculptures installed from around fifty different artists, as this circle of unicorns captured in an epic winter atmosphere by Daniele Badini.