Italy TravelLazio’s Park of Monsters Shocks Visitors

Lazio’s Park of Monsters Shocks Visitors
Published on Sunday, May 22, 2016 by

9981353343_18491dd6a4_zLike a carnival fun house set amid wild greenery, the Park of Monsters — also called the Gardens of Bomarzo and Sacro Bosco (sacred grove) — is meant to shock visitors with its bizarre, spooky statues and structures. Pier Francesco Orsini, also known as Vicino, was a condottiero, a leader of professional military free companies, or mercenaries, and commissioned the garden out of the crushing grief he felt when his wife, Giulia Farnese, died in 1552.

The massive sculptures were carved from rough-hewn volcanic rock and include one of Hannibal’s war elephants, a triton, a giant tearing another creature apart, a dragon with lions. Figures from Greek and Roman mythology are also present, including Ceres and Aphrodite. Perhaps the most haunting figure is of the Roman god of the underworld, Orcus, who is depicted with wide eyes and an open mouth in a shocked expression or maybe in mid-scream. Monuments include a crooked house and the Temple of Eternity, an octagonal building dedicated as a memorial to Farnese. Contributing to the disorienting themes, the moss-covered sculptures are scattered around the park in a disorganized manner.

Orsini commissioned architect and artist Pirro Ligorio to design the gardens, and sculptor Simone Moschino to create the sculptures. Ligorio designed the fountains at the Villa d’Este in Rome’s Tivoli Gardens, and worked as an architect and artist for the Vatican under Popes Paul IV, Pius IV, and Pius V. Moschino is known for working with Michelangelo on the Medici Chapel in Florence.

The surreal park was abandoned in the 19th century, but was restored in the 1970s after painter Salvador Dali made a short film about it in the 1950s. The garden is in the city of Bomarzo in the Lazio region north of Rome and is open daily.

Read more about the Park of Monsters here


By Kathy McCabe

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