Borghese and Bernini - The Heart of the Matter

One of the main parks in the centre of Rome is known as Villa Borghese. It is a beautiful park and well worth a good stroll around or better still, hire an electric bike.

Temple in Borghese

Borghese Park - A temple with Goats

Villa Borghese can be approached on George Washington avenue (viale) which leads into the park from Santa Maria del Popolo. This is one of the main access points to what is a beautiful park not too dissimilar in style to those found in the United Kingdom. Within a very short walking distance the road splits and leads to a statue of Victor Hugo before leading to a statue of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who also has the following road named after him.


Hugo writing


Just off this road an usual sculpture features a tug of war between what appears to be the goat god Pan (of Arcadian mythology) and a woman with a half human half goat child at the centre of the contest. I understand that the name of this piece is Fonte Gaia. Roughly translated this means fountain of mother nature. Follow the white rabbit (see the lower part of the image)?

fonte gaia

This route leads directly to the Museo and Galleria Borghese, a large house formerly called Villa Borghese Pinciana.

Borghese Galleria

The collection of art works there began in the late 16th century through the Italian Cardinal Scipione Borghese who was patron of the painter of Caravaggio and the artist Bernini. Both of these were masters at their work and both were somewhat controversial at times. The Borghese coat of arms features an eagle and a dragon. Much of the art work including the surrounding area to the gallery features many dragons and eagles and is quite beautiful.

Other statues can be found around the park including that of Lord Byron (1788 to 1824) who was famous, or perhaps infamous, for his written works and his behaviours.


His most well known work is Don Juan. Byron was a non-conformist and a revolutionary. He assisted in the Greek War of Independence fighting for the Ottoman Empire. Intringuingly, it is believed that he was a freemason and joined a southern Italian masonic lodge. He was also a member of the Carbonari, a secretive separatist movement in southern Italy, as discussed in my book.

More on Byron can be found here.

Perhaps then this is purely a coincidence but George Washington, first president and founding father of the USA was a freemason, Von Goethe was the author of the story, the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily described in my book and a work of some significance in the story and to an order of freemasonry, and Byron was a freemason with involvement in Greek and southern Italian separatist movements and secret societies (e.g. the Carbonari).

So what about Victor Hugo? Hugo (1802 to 1885) was a poet and novelist with one of his most famous works being Les Miserables. But he was also an alleged member of the so called Priory of Sion. Whether the Priory of Sion existed at all is debatable as we discussed in my book but what is particularly interesting is the attention Hugo received from the Catholic church. Hugo was publicly attacked some several hundred times by the church for his work on Les Miserables and other controversial subjects he was keen to promote. Hugo did not help with Catholic church relationship building by suggesting that he was going to form his own version of Christianity (as it was originally intended) rather than what we have today.

These were all revolutionary figures with relationships to freemasonry or other esoteric mystery bodies over the centuries so why were they all located in close proximity in this park in Rome? Why did they seem to point towards the Museo and Galleria Borghese? What was inside there that was of importance?

Before we enter the Museo and Galleria Borghese it is important to discuss the famous artist Bernini. Gian Lorenzo Bernini lived between 1598 and 1680 and during this time his works and influence can be found across Rome including within the Vatican. Bernini featured heavily in Dan Brown's book Angels & Demons, a tale about the Illuminati. These being an organisation of enlightened individuals and scientists with a grudge against the Catholic church for their persecution across the millennia including that of Galileo. Bernini was an alleged grand master of the Illuminati and although he worked for the vatican (including Cardinal Scipione Borghese) on numerous projects his work was sometimes controversial and contained esoteric symbology. Whether the Illuminati is or was real or not doesn't really matter here. It is his work that is intriguing. Popular examples of Bernini's work include David, Apollo and Daphne, and of course the centre piece in St Peter's in the Vatican, the four pillared Baldacchino. But his works also include the ecstasy of St Teresa contained within the church, Santa Maria della Vittoria. This was controversial because St Teresa has been described as being in an orgasmic state whilst in an intimate pose with an angel. This featured in Dan Brown's book Angels and Demons as well as the movie version.

There is however another piece at Chigi Chapel (literally only just outside of the Borghese park) and located just a few hundred yards from George Washington avenue. The chapel is a part of the Basilica Parrocchiale Santa Maria del Popolo. The chapel featured in Dan Brown's Angels & Demons book. Both Bernini and Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino - the renaissance artist and architect whose work includes the School of Athens in the Raphael rooms of the Vatican and as described in my book) had a hand in the design and build of the complex mentioned.  I did however notice an unusual relief which was quite probably Bernini's work in Chigi Chapel.

chigi relief

Within the relief there is an 'all seeing eye' within a pyramid (the eye of providence) and a book with an arrow on the page, pointing to something off the page, as though written by a fountain pen, which is also in the relief. There is what appears to be a heart on the page of the open book with the arrow below it. What is the arrow pointing to? Is it a direction? Somewhere to go or to follow? Oddly the heart seems to have two holes in it which would clearly make it defective. What did the holes signify? That the heart was broken or faulty or that the love symbolised by the heart was faulty in some sense? What might plug the gaps or what might explain why the heart, the love, is faulty in the first place?

Coming back to the Roman park of Villa Borghese, I wondered if there was a connection to this unusual relief. This was clearly a park of significance or contained things of significance to those with an interest in the esoteric or Gnosis (as described in my book) given the homage paid to Washington, Hugo, Goethe, Byron and others.

I realised the connection when I looked at the map of the park. It was a heart. A heart not unlike that on the book in the relief at Chigi Chapel. The heart in the relief was a map and the two holes making it defective must correlate to features in the park. Superimpose the two and the holes, the defects, correlate with Villa Medici and the Museo and Galleria Borghese.

Borghese Map

Heart in relief with holes
Borghese park x marks the spots

In ancient times the site of Villa Medici was a part of the fabled gardens of Lucullus. It was ultimately to become the property of Cardinal Ferdinando de'Medici, the son of Cosimo I de'Medici who was mentioned in my book. Cosimo was inspired by Good King Rene d'Anjou to collect manuscripts from around the world pertaining to knowledge that was both exoteric and esoteric but especially the latter. Good King Rene was Duke of Calabria and he is believed to have democratised thought, taking it away from being the sole preserve of the church. He was also a descendent of King Charles I of Naples (Charles d'Anjou) who the Colosimo knight(s) served and likely aided in the discovery of Mary Magdalene's remains at St Maximin in the south of France. Is it likely that the Cardinal de'Medici inherited the secrets from his father, Cosimo, and stored them at Villa Medici? I think it is possible.

Upon entry to the Museo and Galleria Borghese sub‐floor ticket office there is a most unusual feature. It is a feature which most will not notice and quite probably walk over. It is an 'eye' of several metres across drawn into the floor. It is however, upon close inspection, a lift down to the cellars or some further, deeper, basement level. It is incredibly subtle and is quite probably a spectacular descent and all round spectacle when in action. And yet no one (not even the staff) seemed to notice it nor know anything about it. None of the other tourists seemed to spot it either. I wished I had photographed it. I did however inspect it and through a tiny gap was able to discern a large screw thread upon which this disk shaped lift was perched upon. What rests in this basement I do not know but it did intrigue me. Why have such a spectacular descent mechanism if there wasn't anything of importance or anything of a wow factor below? At this point however I had not quite made the connection to Bernini's map of the heart so I underestimated the significance.

Within the gallery main hall one of the first pieces is a Bernini sculpture of Hades' abduction of Persephone. As described in my book, this was an abduction that would lead to the underworld where they would rule together. An underworld that is Calabria, southern Italy for the reasons I explained. An underworld protected by wolves, werewolves, or supernatural dogs of some kind. Just like the one in the sculpture.

Bernini Hades

Bernini Hades and Hound of Hell

Elsewhere in the gallery there are several other pieces by Bernini including David (as in David and Goliath, and father of King Solomon - revered amongst freemasons), two children playing with a goat, Apollo and Daphne, and Pauline Bonaparte (as in Napoleon). There are many other interesting esoteric and pagan god sculptures, as well as frescoes which include multiple depictions of the Arcadian deity Pan.


Indeed, elsewhere in the building, and what was the main dining hall for the cardinal of the time, it contains a ceiling fresco that our tour guide described as the council of the Pagan gods. This features all of the usual suspects including Apollo, Hades and Persephone.

Pagan council of gods

Another fresco features what our tour guide described as the god of time and next to him was a woman with the 'light of truth'. Our guide explained that this was a message to say that the truth will be revealed in time and that time cannot hold the truth back.

God of Time. Goddess of Truth.

There are many paintings and at least one statue of St John the Baptist within the gallery which made me wonder about the alternative messiah theory suggested by Picknett and Prince in their intriguing book The Templar Revelation. Perhaps most importantly is a work by the great artist Caravaggio, called Madonna, Child and Serpent. It was originally commissioned by the Vatican but they refused it when they saw it. Their argument was that the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ, was showing too much upper body flesh. Not only that but her face was said to have been based upon a well-known Roman prostitute of the time. Clearly Caravaggio had issues but these did not stop with Mary or the haggard portrayal of St Anne (grandmother of Christ) also in the painting. They extended to the young Jesus who unlike Mary and St Anne was displayed without a halo above his head. Jesus is crushing the head of a writhing snake in the painting and which may symbolise something more than a triumph over evil or the original sin. Supressing something perhaps? For more context on what the snake may have symbolised please refer to my book. After refusal by the Vatican, Cardinal Scipione Borghese bought it.

Caravaggio Madonna Child and Serpent

There is much more to add and say here about the Museo and Galleria Borghese but I'll perhaps leave this for another time. What I find more intriguing is that the content couldn't be further at odds with Christianity. And whilst there is much art contained within the gallery that even the most determined conspiracy theorist would be struggling to point out for attention, it is still overwhelmingly pagan and esoteric in nature. Why a cardinal would choose to dine with his guests under a ceiling of pagan deities is anyone's guess but perhaps he liked to provoke or to remind his guests of the old enemy? Except his enemy filled the villa from top to toe and the examples of Christian art were not exactly pure. The simple answer may be that Borghese, Bernini, Caravaggio, and some others were in the same club. They shared the same secret knowledge and beliefs.

So here are my reflections and caveats. I do not know for sure if the park had always been heart shaped other than some anecdotal evidence I have found or whether this was more recent enterprising marketing. If it transpires to be a recent thing then the correlations I've made between the relief and the map of the park are probably purely coincidence. Nonetheless, this is still an intriguing coincidence don't you think? The relief is quite probably Bernini. It features an all seeing eye. It is located on the edge of the park. It has arrow pointing off the page as though to follow it. It has a faulty heart. And the holes seem to correlate with Villa Medici (owned by the son of esoteric manuscript collector Cosimo Medici) and the borderline occult Galleria and Museo Borghese. Both buildings are architecturally similar by the way.

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