The Sacred Grove

by Marisa Menna

groveThe Sacred Grove was conceived by the famous Neapolitan architect, painter, and antiquarian Pirro Ligorio and built by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, called Vicino, Lord of Bomarzo from 1542 to 1585 the year of his death.
Vicino was born in 1523, in 1544 he married his beloved Giulia Farnese, becoming related to Pope Paul III who wanted him among his military advisors. His career as a leader ended in the 50s when disgusted by political and military life, he retired to Bomarzo where he surrounded himself with writers and artists and dedicated himself to alchemical and esoteric disciplines and it was precisely the passion for these disciplines that pushed him to build a Philosopher’s residence destined to transmit the vision of life and esoteric knowledge through a symbolic message and an initiatory path.
The construction of the park accelerated the death of his beloved wife Giulia Farnese, to whom later not only the entire work was dedicated but also the Tempietto which is located at the end of the route.
We are in the middle of the Counter-Reformation, the reaction of the Catholic world to the Protestant reform, and to cover the real alchemical nature of the work and not to arouse suspicion, the work was called Villa of Wonders. Through a game of references to mythology and puzzles, the goal of its creator was to surprise the visitor by leading him into a dream.
But why a Wood? Symbolically, the wood circumscribed in its extension represents a place of recollection and quiet encounter with superhuman beings and powers, offers protection to fugitives and there is a dominated and cultivated nature that cannot harm.
Neighbor, poet, dreamer, and expert of mystical arts has given great importance to the element Water, the wave principle that shapes and dissolves everything, inviting guests of the Sacred Grove to contemplate its sound and movement.
When the heirs failed, this place was forgotten for about 400 years. After the Second World War, the place visited by some local shepherds with their flocks was rediscovered and taken over by the Bettini family who took care of the complete restoration.
Some statues have been moved over time: the Sphinxes, the Giani Bifronti, and Quadrifronti originally were located respectively near the house and in the Nymphaeum area.

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