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4/30/2012

MANTOVA. SOMETHING YOU DON’T EXPECT

Still today it is not clear whether this small lakeside town has Etruscan or Greek origins.
As often happens in Italy the complex historical events are layered and blended together, so well that today archaeologists have much work to do, to reconstruct our past. 


 
Then we need the aid of ancient legends.



According to the  Greek mythology the name Mantova has its genesis from Manto, daughter of the seer Tiresias. She fled from Thebes and, after a long trip, she stopped in a marshy area along the river Mincio. There she created, with her tears, a lake that gave to those who had drunk the water, prophetic powers.
Manto was married with the river god Tybiris (Tiber), and had a son, Ocnus, who founded a city on the banks of the Mincio. He named the city Manto, in honor of his mother.



But a second legend highlights the Etruscan origins of this town.
Mantua owes its name to Mantu, the Etruscan god, lord of the dead in the Tyrrhenian pantheon.
In fact, it seems that among the first settlers there were the Umbrians, at least 2000 years before Christianity.
Then, in the sixth century BC, the city developed under the Etruscans and, later, under the Gauls.
Finally the whole territory was colonized 
by veteran soldiers of Augustus.


 This small but precious town stands on two small islands of debris deposited by the river Mincio which  along its course, widens and forms the three lakes that surround the city: Superior Lake, Middle Lake and Lower Lake. A fourth branch (Lake Paiolo) was reclaimed and buried at the end of ‘700.


 
Near the city lies a lush and fertile plain.
The same that, many centuries ago, inspired the great Mantuan poet Virgil, author of the “Georgics” and guide along the journey of Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy.

 
The golden age of Mantua began in Renaissance, during the long lordship of the Gonzaga family (1328-1707).
Symbol of their glory is Palazzo Ducale, one of the largest and composite Palaces of Italy, which encompasses some 500 halls and rooms, with many squares, courtyards and gardens.




 
To decorate their princely lounges, the Gonzaga family was also inspired by the legend of the prophetess Manto.
Walking through the building, large frescoes tell stories between myth and reality, display strange alchemical and esoteric symbols and hidden numbers related to the Qabalah.



 
But only few are able to see them and their meaning.
Among the many images is a representation of the maze, in the ceiling of one of the complex’ rooms.
Related to the maze is a mysterious phrase:
"Maybe yes, maybe not." 


 
A singular place is the "Room of the Dwarves of the Court", where every detail has been built in reduced measure. 
Indeed, the living room was no occupied by warves: it is a symbolical and hermetical hall.
An initiatory path, perhaps inspired by the biblical Jacob's dream of ladder. 


Inside the "Spouses Chamber", are also remarkable frescoes by Mantegna, who lived opposite the San Sebastian church, near Largo XXIV Maggio and now rests in the church of Sant'Andrea.





 
But the more esotheric place of Mantua is the Palazzo Te, built in the first half of the sixteenth century as the villa otium of the Gonzaga family.
Now it houses the Civic Museum and the International Centre for Art and Culture.


Inside the building are mytologic, alchemical and esoteric symbols, including the maze (again).


Another maze was made ​​by the hedges of the garden, 
now inexistents.


 
Moreover, among the many representations, we see the figure of the salamander, special animal for alchemists, which is often associated to fire and sulfur.
In a complementary manner, the lion, the bull and the serpent were associated with earth, the eagle to the air, the fish to water. 



To these elements also correspond certain stones.
All symbols probably scattered here and there, between into the spaces of the building.



The “Giants hall” is the largest room in the building.
Hallmark of the saloon are the frescoes that completely cover all surfaces of the room.
The Giants are seen from the floor while trying to ascend to Olympus.
In the dome is Jupiter who launches a beam of lightning to the Giants. 




 
The “Room of Cupid and Psyche” is the most sumptuous of the building, to accommodate the important guests for banquets and dinners.
It takes its name from the story of Cupid and Psyche, painted on the vault and lunettes.



The twenty-two steps, illustrated by the painter Giulio Romano, are taken from "Metamorphoses" of Apuleius, a Latin writer of the second century AD. 



The central theme of the decoration is Love: "monstrous" divinity, the most powerful of the gods, feared by Jupiter himself, to which nobody can escape.



 
On the walls are painted other mythological tales that say of love: thwarted, illegitimate, evil, unpaid.
Several are the relationships between gods and men (Venus and Adonis, Bacchus and Ariadne, Jupiter and Olympia), but there are also the passions between gods (Mars and Venus, Acis and Galatea) and between humans and animals (Pasiphae and the bull).


 
Few people know that one of the key books for the initiates to studies on theosophy is right "The Golden Ass" ("The Metamorphosis"), of Apuleius.
The same author was initiated to all cults, more or less secret, that in his time abounded in the eastern Mediterranean Sea: Mysteries of Eleusis, mysteries of Mithras, mysteries of Isis, worship of the Cabiri at Samothrace, and many others of lesser fame .
His hope was to find “the secret things" and, like his heroine Psyche, used to devote himself to all the demons of curiosity, venturing to the frontier of sacrilege.


 
The aristocratic and cultured family of Gonzaga was very familiar with the history and works of Lucius Apuleius.
Maybe they intended to follow its teachings, and therefore in their residences they scattered clues and messages intended to survive the time, waiting for someone able to decipher them all.




 
CALDI DOLCI
Hot sweets

Ingredients:
250 gr. cornmeal (the finer)
1 l. milk,
1 dl. mulled wine,
100 gr. butter,
100 gr. pine nuts,
100 gr. sugar
grated lemon zest,
cinnamon
4 cloves
  a pinch of salt



 
Execution:
Boil the milk with all the ingredients except the foil.
When the milk boils add the flour, stirring constantly.
Be careful not to form lumps.
Cook over low heat for about half an hour, stirring constantly.
Leave to cool this sweet polenta and form, working with the hands, pellets of the size of a large apricot, which will give the shape of an elongated meatball.
Remember: your hands must be wet all the time, to prevent the dough from sticking.
The sweets must be passed in a moderate oven to dry, and for helping them acquire a light golden brown.





1 comment:

Mr. Allan said...

Is the topic connected with your working position or is it more about your leisure and types of spending your free time?