Montovolo Retreat 2 (versione in italiano)


Remains of an Etruscan Oracular Centre In the Montovolo’s Legends and Traditions


It is reported in some books1 that Montovolo and its near places, located in the Appennino Tosco Emiliano, was inhabited already in Villanovian, Etruscan and Roman ages as demonstrated by numerous archeological finds which have been found on the slopes of this Sacred Mountain. After the reading of the book of R. Temple2 in which is reported, among several other interesting notices, that two birds and a plant are the code more used to represent an oracular centre, I have realized that the two doves facing each other, and the two plants portrayed in the lunette of the Montovolo’s Sanctuary portal (see above) might be an indication that in origin Montovolo was an ancient "oracular centre" probably an Etruscan one. Often other indications are present in order to define an oracle centre such as the presence of an ovoidal stone, called Omphalos by the Greeks, and the presence of a serpent generally coiled on the stone.

Now, we wish to analyse some local legends1d and popular traditions in order to find other elements to define with more certainty that Montovolo was an Etruscan oracular centre. Looking through the veils of legends, depository of ancient memories, often it is possible to know the true about the mysteries of the history. About Montovolo we found a legend of a serpent which is hidden under a large stone or under the altar of the temple. This serpent is the guardian of a tresaure and it is waiting for a kiss of a young girl to return to his original human form. There is too a serpent legend associated with the founding of Delphi, the best known oracle of the ancient Greece. Originally, this sacred place was dedicated to the earth goddess Gaia and was protected by his child, the serpent Phyton. Then Apollo speared the guardian serpent and upon the site of the battle Apollo erected his own oracular temple. (In ancient Egyptian iconography and literature the snake was the symbol of the Goddess Mother worshipped for thousands of years. The killing of the serpent may be the affirmation of a new male God and the succeding religion used the serpent to represent the evil.) As reported by R. Greaves3 at Delphi there is also a very ancient ballad narrating the destruction of a temple of an hero who took the form of a serpent. As you can see this ballad is very similar to the Montovolo’s legend. In addition it should be noted that in several omphalos stones there was portrayed a coiled snake called the guardian serpent of the oracle. Then the figure of an ovoidal stone and of a serpent is fundamental to define an oracular centre: Also in the presumed Montovolo’s oracular centre it is present, in the legend, a snake associated to a large stone. The stone might be an ovoidal stone with over carved a snake. Up to now it is remained only the legend but the oval stone might be buried under the church or in the vicinity. The presumed "oval stone" might be the origin of the name Monte Ovolo. In the Middle Ages the ancient name Monte Palense was substituted by the name Monte Ovolo or Montovolo probably by the people of the place because they see this unusual oval stone whose meaning was unkown. In fact in the documents of the XI-XII century the name Monte Ovolo was already present together with the name Monte Palense. This name derived by the Etruscan-Roman goddess Pales.

In the Temple’s book2 some reproductions of Etruscan and Roman omphalos stones are reported. In these reproductions the ovoidal stone with its coiled serpent is under a small temple with a gable roof such as reported in figure 1.

Then, at this point I have represented the presumed temple of Montovolo with the figure 1 where the lunette with the two doves and the two lilies replaced the original gable .

Now, we analyse two ancient local traditions in order to find other data to confirm the above presumed oracle temple.

Every year Lucumones (high priests) of the twelve Etruscan cities (the "dodecapolis") have a meeting in a sacred place to make important decisions after the consult of the Oracle or Haruspice. Montovolo might be one of these sacred places. This fact is in accord with an ancient tradition to meet every years ( on May 3rd) the near twelve parishes while in the Holy Year the parishes were twenty four. (It should be noted that in the Etruscan religion the twelve was considered a magic and religious number; the year was thus divided into twelve months, the day in twenty four hours etc.)

Another tradition of this place has been that to depose some stones on the small temples called Maesta’ or Edicola (see figure 2) which are located along the road leading to the top of Montovolo. I remember that sometime these stones formed a large pile similar to a large stone. This tradition might be only a strange custom but it might be also the "remains" of an ancient worshipped Sacred Ovoidal Stone. Similar tradition is also observed in other places in the near Alto Reno 5. It should be noted that the tradition to depose small stones on the tombs is also observed by contemporary Hebrew people. Perhaps both peoples (Etruscan and Hebrew) have the same mesopotamic origins !

If the above reported news are not only strange coincidences we can conclude that probably Montovolo was an ancient oracular centre already in Etruscan Age and perhaps a Sacred Mountain for the Etruscan religion or a geodetic point of the ancient Etruria from the 8th to the 1st centuries before the Advent of Christ (see the map below).

However, we will to continue to search for new data or "coincidences" to explain other unexplained misteries in connection with the above history of the supposed Etruscan site of Montovolo.

For example, because of the reported analogies of the site of Montovolo with Delphi and because it is well known that Delphi was occupied by the Miceneans from 1500 to 1100 BC, we may suppose the Etruscans, one of the most mysterious peoples, have their origins and their earliest connections from the same area of the Eastern Meditteranean or Asia Minor as reported also by several modern historical scholars following Herodotus4.


The map of the ancient Etruria in the VI century BC and the location of Montovolo.





1 a) S. Calindri . Dizionario corografico , ecc TomoIV, Bologna 1782. b) Arturo Palmieri Un probabile confine dell’Esarcato di Ravenna nell’appennino Bolognese Montovolo-Vimignano , Bologna 1913. c) Arturo Palmieri Montovolo nel Bolognese e le sue leggende. Palermo 1895. d) Arturo Palmieri La montagna bolognese del Medio Evo, Bologna 1929. e) Oriano Tassinari Clò, Terra e gente di Vimignano , Bologna 1987 and references therein .

2 R.K.G.Temple The Sirius Mystery (Il mistero di Sirio ,ed.PIEMME)

  1. R.Graves The Greek Myths (I Miti Greci, ed. Longanesi 1999, 159).
  2. Herodotus TheHistories Vol.I, 94( Storie trans. by A.Izzo D’Accini. Rizzoli,1998.





Figure 1 -------- and - -----------Figure 2

 Prof. Graziano Baccolini

Dipartimento di Chimica Organica, Università di Bologna


Continuing researches about this Sacred Etruscan Mount:

Montovolo retreat 3 (Montovolo’s Black Madonna and its Presumed Ancient Temple of Isis)(Italian version)

Montovolo retreat 4 (Delphi's "Castalian"Spring and Montovolo's "Cantalian" Spring:

Another Strange Coincidence or Another Ancient Correlation ?) (Italian Version)

Montovolo retreat 5 (The Two Etruscan Necropolis of Marzabotto and their Sacred Ties with Montovolo)

 Montovolo retreat 6 2002 (Found an Unequivocal Data Confirming Montovolo was the Sacred Mountain of the Northern Etruscan Dodecapolis (Italian Version)

Montovolo retreat 7 2002 (The Crypt of Montovolo is Actually an Intact Etruscan Temple! (Italian version)

Montovolo retreat 8 , 2003 Montovolo : an Etruscan Geodetic Point? ( italian version )

Montovolo retreat 9 2003 The Tomb of the Bulls and its Religious Symbols: The Oval Stone and the Cross (Italian Version)



 See also a summary of our researches about Montovolo as Sacred Etruscan Mount or the index of Montovolo Retreats


My preferred web site about Etruscan Civilisation:


Home page of GBG