Bomarzo, The strange garden of monsters from the Renaissance

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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.

Park of the Monsters

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 this 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.

Sacro Bosco
The monsters are actually mythological figures, enclosing a constellation of symbols, almost as if it was an initiatory garden.

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 a hammer and a chisel.
Image by Arianna and Gaetano Crisafulli

Sacro Bosco Bomarzo
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

Parco dei Mostri
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

Garden Monsters
In this picture of a clash of Titans, we can get an idea of the size of the statues.
Image by Genibee

Park Monsters Italia
"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

Divine Comedy carved inscription
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 Nicola

Orcus Bomarzo
But if you cross the threshold of this access to the underworld, on 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

Forest of Monsters
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

Old sculptured bench
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

Villa of Wonders
The stunning leaning house was, unlike the Tower of Pisa, built this way deliberately.
Image by Andrea Marutti

Leaning House
In any case, it seems that tourists appreciate it.
Image by SnoopyHood

Crooked stone arch
Apparently, it is not the only thing that is crooked in the park.
Image by Alfio Green

Baroque mythological creatures
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

Vicino Orsini Temple
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 Nicola

Giardino delle meraviglie
The Park of Monsters somehow reminds us of a place from another time and a very different tradition, where we have already been: the Buddha Park in Laos.
Image by Bruno

Garden Daniel Spoerri
As a 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

Unicorns Seggiano
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.

  1. "Ogni pensiero vola" in Italian stands for "Every thought flies" and is not a quote from Alighieri's Commedia.

  2. Thank you Francesco, it was a mistake in the translation. I rewrote the caption, I hope it makes sense now.


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