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From the age of 10, di Sangro was educated at the Jesuit College of Rome. In 1730, at age 20, he came back to Naples using the title “Prince of Sansevero”. He soon joined the ranks of occult secret societies.
In spite of the religious training that he had received with the Jesuits, the young man soon joined the secret brotherhood of the Rosicrucians, where he was initiated into ancient alchemic rituals, the so called “sacred art” or “king’s art” which had been handed down through the centuries from Egyptian priest to their disciples. Don Raimondo had found his life calling. While maintaining the outmost silence about “his brothers” and the teachings he was receiving (he left no documents whatsoever on the activities of the mysterious sect) the Prince radically changed his life and devoted all his time to alchemy. Vials, ovens and alembics filled the cellar of his palace and at nighttime it was not rare to see strange, colored vapors and disgusting smells coming out of the barred windows of his cellar. It was at that time that Neapolitans started labeling him a sorcerer.”
– Rino Di Stefano, Raimondo de Sangro,
the “Sorcerer” Prince
Di Sangro introduced Freemasonry to his city as he became the head of the Neapolitan Masonic Lodge. This fact, combined with his knack for presenting peculiar inventions, such as an “eternal flame” made from a chemical compound of his creation and human skull bones, only grew the legend surrounding Di Sangro.
Prince Raimondo di Sangro was known as an eccentric, enigmatic, and mystical man. He was the head of the Neapolitan Masonic lodge, the symbols of which are interspersed throughout the chapel, and was a student of numerous areas of the sciences, as well as alchemy and other mystical disciplines. He also spoke several exotic languages such as Hebrew and Arabic and was an inventor, some of his inventions of which were rather bizarre, such as a mechanized carriage with wooden horses that was said to be able to travel over both land and water.
These eccentricities led to the Prince garnering a reputation as a practitioner of wizardry and black magic, and rumors abounded that he performed sinister magical rituals, human sacrifices, and curses. It was also said that he could perform great feats of alchemy, such as creating blood out of water or even thin air, and that he used the various body parts of his sacrificed victims in his odious spells and potions. The Prince was said to lock himself away for days on end and perform demented experiments on human beings, such as reanimating the dead. These dark rumors and legends that swirled around the Prince made him into a man to be feared and avoided; a larger than life black sorcerer who could bend magical and natural forces to his will. The Prince did little to deny these rumors and it is thought that he even encouraged them.” – Brent Swancer, The Bizarre Anatomical Machines of Italy
One of di Sangro’s many “hobbies” was Bel Canto, which means “beautiful singing”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t appreciate beautiful singing?
However, for di Sangro, “Bel Canto” means buying little boys from impoverished parents, castrating them and forcing them to sing.
In spite of his being acquainted with the pleasures of family life and having children (…), the Prince enjoyed going around his many estates looking for young boys with beautiful voices. Usually he would find them in the church choir. Then he would “buy” them from their parents (usually poor, illiterate peasants who had many children) and had his personal physician, don Giuseppe Salerno, castrate them. He would then lock them up in the Conservatory of Jesus Christ’s Poor in Naples, where these young castrated boys started their careers as “sopranist”.
Before it was transformed by Raimondo di Sangro, the Sansevero Chapel was already the subject of bizarre rumors. It was said to have been constructed on an old temple of Isis and, to prove this fact, locals point to a massive Statue of the God of the Nile, located just around the corner from his home.
Adding to the sinister factor, the Palazzo Sansevero was the scene of a brutal murder at the end of the 16th century, when the composer Carlo Gesualdo caught his wife and her lover together and hacked them to death in their bed. Up until 1888, a passageway connected Palazzo Sansevero to the Sansevero chapel.
The works of art in the Sansevero Chapel are indeed unique, powerful and unsettling, forcing visitors to ask: “How did he do that”? And, when one knows the esoteric and alchemical background of the Prince, observing them leads to the question: “Was this done through an occult process?” The most compelling example of this is The Veiled Christ. Set in the middle of the chapel, this sculpture of Christ covered by a thin veiled has an unnerving quality: How was this marble sculpture made using a block of stone and a chisel? The veil is too … real.
“Completed in 1753 by Giuseppe Sanmartino and commissioned by Raimondo di Sangro, it portrays Christ deposed after crucifixion, covered by a transparent veil. This veil is rendered with such subtlety as to be almost deceiving to the eye, and the effect seen in person is really striking: one gets the impression that the “real” sculpture is lying underneath, and that the shroud could be easily grabbed and lifted.
It’s precisely because of Sanmartino’s extraordinary virtuosity in sculpting the veil that a legend surrounding this Christ dies hard – fooling from time to time even specialized magazines and otherwise irreproachable art websites.
Legend has it that prince Raimondo di Sangro, who commissioned the work, actually fabricated the veil himself, laying it down over Sanmartino’s sculpture and petrifying it with an alchemic method of his own invention; hence the phenomenal liquidness of the drapery, and the “transparence” of the tissue.” – Bizarrobazar, The Mystery of Chapel Sansevero
For centuries, a “black legend” surrounded this sculpture and others in the chapel that held that the Prince used a mysterious alchemical process to “marbelize” a fine cloth placed over the sculpture.
Some observers noticed a troubling detail about that sculpture: Christ appears to still be breathing.
“There may be another small “anomaly” in this Veiled Christ, as there is a slight indentation over the nostril, as if the shroud is being sucked in by breath – is this “dead Jesus” alive? Did di Sangro believe that Jesus had not died on the Cross? If so, perhaps he was not only a Mason, but a member of another, even more mysterious, order?
On the left of Veiled Christ is The Chastity, a sculpture modeled after di Sangro’s mother Cecilia Caetani d’Aragona. The naked woman is covered from head to toe by a thin veil which reveals her forms in every detail. This work of art is, once again, another “supernatural” feat of sculpture. How can this effect be achieved using marble?
“The Chastity (La Pudicizia) by Corradini, with its drapery veiling the female character as if it was transparent, is another “mystery” of sculpting technique, where the stone seems to have lost its weight, becoming ethereal and almost floating. Imagine how the artist started his work from a squared block of marble, how his mind’s eye “saw” this figure inside of it, how he patiently removed all which didn’t belong, freeing the figure from the stone little by little, smoothing the surface, refining, chiselling every wrinkle of her veil.” – Op. Cit, Bizarrobazar.
Although the statue was modeled after di Sangro’s mother, it is clearly a tribute to the most important figure in Freemasonry: Veiled Isis.
“The veiled woman can be interpreted as an allegory of Wisdom, and the reference to the veiled Isis, special divinity of the science of initiation.” – Made in South Italy,
The Alchemist Chapel Indeed, in occult symbolism, Veiled Isis is the ultimate representation of occult mysteries where the truth is veiled to the profane until true esoteric initiation.
To the modern seeker she is the epitome of the Great Unknown, and only those who unveil her will be able to solve the mysteries of life, death, generation, and regeneration.”
– Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages
Another perplexing sculpture infused with profound symbolism. Modeled after the Prince’s father Antonio di Sangro, it depicts a man struggling to free himself from a net as he is being helped by a winged youth.
Once again, a mystery surrounds this sculpture: How can a net be sculpted over a body that appears to have been already sculpted underneath? Was an alchemical process used to achieve this astonishing result?
Not unlike The Chasity, this sculpture is an allegory for a fundamental Masonic concept: The freeing of Man using the intellect.
“Its allegorical meaning is that man is intent on freeing himself from false beliefs (the net) with the aid of the intellect (the young man).” – Rino Di Stefano, “San Severo”
these three sculptures constitute an “esoteric triangle”. With The Chastity on the left (representing the female principle), Disillusionment on the right (representing the male principle) and Veiled Christ in the middle (representing the “perfected man”), the sculptures esoterically represent the most fundamental hermetic principle: Duality merging to create a perfected being.
In occult circles, this concept is personified by Isis and Osiris uniting to create Horus – the perfect being.
What the heck are those things might you ask? Well, they’re exactly what you’re hoping they are not. And maybe worse. This exhibit consists of two actual skeletons of a mature male and a pregnant woman. Their entire nervous system is exposed, where the arteries are colored red and the veins are colored blue.
The fetus of the pregnant woman was on also originally on display but the specimen mysteriously disappeared.
How did Raimondo di Sangro preserve the nervous system of these human remains? Well, that’s a mystery that keeps on being mysterious. And, once again, a “dark legend” surrounds these “anatomical machines”. It was indeed rumored that “Adam and Eve” were two servants of di Sangro who were injected with a substance that crystallized their nervous system – killing them in the process. Here’s a dramatic account of the legend:
“The Prince, just like a sorcerer, is stirring the preparation in a big cauldron. Eventually, the long-awaited reaction takes place: a mysterious liquid is ready. On the other side of the room, the two bound and gagged servants can’t even scream anymore. The man is sobbing, while the woman, even immobilized, stays vigilant and alert — perhaps the new life she carries in her womb prevents her from giving in to fear, commanding an already impossible defense. The Prince hasn’t got much time, he has to act quickly. He pours the liquid down a strange pump, then he gets close to his victims: in their eyes he sees an unnameable terror. He starts with the man, puncturing the jugular vein and injecting the liquid right into his bloodstream with a syringe. The heart will pump the preparation throughout the body, and the Prince watches the agonizing man’s face as the dense poison begins to circulate. There, it’s all done: the servant is dead. It will take two to three hours for the mixture to solidify, and surely more than a month for the putrified flesh to fall off the skeleton and the network of veins, arteries and capillaries the process turned into marble. Now it’s the woman’s turn.” – bizzarrobazar, The mysteries of Sansevero Chapel
originally posted by: FauxMulder
I don't know, I would think you've got nothing but time back in the 17th century to do stuff like that. Pretty amazing either way.
originally posted by: Sahabi
a reply to: FauxMulder
Do you know if Raimondo di Sangro simply attended a Jesuit school...or was he actually initiated into the Society of Jesus
He was head of the Neapolitan masonic lodge until he was excommunicated by the Church, making an enemy of the Neapolitan cardinal Giuseppe Spinelli. The excommunication was later revoked by Pope Benedict XIV, probably on account of the influence of the di Sangro family.
An inscription over the main entrance of the complex, which reads:
“Alessandro di Sangro, Patriarch of Alexandria built this temple, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, as a tomb for himself and for his family in the year of Our Lord 1613”.
Cesare d’Engenio Caracciolo tells in his Sacred Naples of 1623 that, in around 1590, an innocent man who was being led to prison in chains passed before the garden of the di Sangro palace in Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, and saw a part of the garden wall collapse and an image of the Madonna appear. He promised the Virgin Mary to offer her a silver lamp and a dedication if only his innocence might be recognized. Once released, the man was faithful to his vow. The sacred image thus became a place of pilgrimage and prayer, and many other graces were received there.
Shortly afterwards, the Duke of Torremaggiore, Giovan Francesco di Sangro, seriously ill, turned to the Madonna to plead for his recovery. Miraculously cured, he erected in thanksgiving a “small chapel” called Santa Maria della Pietà or Pietatella in the place where the venerable image had first appeared (still visible above the High Altar).
The statue represents the Nile God, recumbent with a cornucopia and lying on a now mutilated sphinx.
"With the Veiled Christ and Disillusion, Modesty makes up the triad of artistic excellence in the Sansevero Chapel, as sanctioned by travellers, guides and art historians since the seventeen hundreds."
Statues of Virtues
"Sweetness of the Marital Yoke"