In Rome, I Saw Written On Top Of A Door
In Rome "I saw written on top of a door." (Inferno, III, v. 11, Dante)
In Rome, hidden a corner of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, one will find the last remnant of the Academia dell’ Arcadia, an esteemed group of alchemists, formed four centuries ago. The Porta Magica, or Magic Door is a monument that was constructed in the last decades of the 17th century by the Marquis Maximilian Palombara on the property of his country villa on the Esquiline Hill. His villa was sometimes referred to as the home of the ‘Alchemical Cenacle’, the literary clique with the abdicated Queen Christine of Sweden, as its central figure. There was more than one door, but only this one had been saved from the demolition of the villa during the late 19th century when the City of Rome decided to build the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II on the site.
The Marquis Maximilian Palombara (Image © Dr Roberto Volterri)
In their book, Porte Magiche (2019) authors Drs Roberto Volterri and Bruno Ferrante provide an analyses of the symbols engraved on the doorposts and their meanings. The symbols represent the planets, paired with their corresponding metals, each having a distinct meaning. During the late 17th century it was believed celestial bodies influenced human destinies.
The author of the book Porte Magiche, Dr Roberto Volterri with Professor Luca Vanozzi, a scholar of the door at the Mystical Door of Rivodutri (Rieti), about 100 km from Rome. (Image: Courtesy Dr Roberto Volterri)
The belief was that cosmic order could be re-established on earth by reconciling opposites, synergistically opposing Macrocosm and Microcosmos, by pairing matter or metals, with the planetary influences. The alchemical symbols shown on the doorpost follow the sequence of the planets and are associated with the corresponding metals: Saturn-lead, Jupiter-tin, Mars-iron, Venus-copper, Moon-silver, Mercury-quicksilver. This sequence is taken from the text " Commentatio de Pharmaco Catholico", published in the " Chymica Vannus" of 1666.
The symbols for Saturn and Lead (Image: Courtesy Dr Roberto Volterri)
The Inscription under Saturn. (Image: Courtesy Dr Roberto Volterri)
Saturn and Lead
To the right of the architrave - the main beam resting across the top of two columns - one finds an engraving of Saturn and Lead, with the inscription: Quando In Tua Domo Nigri Corvi Parturient Albas Columbas Tunc Vocaberis Sapiens, translated as "When the black crows in your house give birth to white doves, then you will be called a sage.”
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Top Image: The "Magic Door" of Rome, guarded by two statues of the Egyptian god Bes at the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome (Image: Courtesy Dr Roberto Volterri)