Lunetta of Montovolo

Montovolo Retreat 4 (Italian Version)

Delphi's "Castalian" Spring and Montovolo's "Cantalian" Spring:

Another Strange Coincidence or Another Ancient Correlation ?

At northwest of Athen, stands the sacred mountain called Parnassus. Nestled in the forested slopes and rocky crags are the ruins of the ancient and wonderful city of Delphi which however is best known as the supreme Oracle Centre of the ancient Mediterranean World. The development of the Sanctuary and Oracle Centre began in the 8th century BC with the establishment of the cult of Apollo. According to legend the shrine was originally guarded by the serpent Phyton killed by Apollo. In the subsequent centuries became the "navel of the Earth" for the ancient Greeks and an Ovoidal Stone was set in the ground to mark the centre of the world


Recent reproduction of the Ovoidal Stone at Delphi (Photograph by Giulia Guizzardi 2000)

It is known that the oracular priestesses of Delphi would first bathe in the waters of the nearby spring of Castalia and then setting on the tripode gave the oracular response. Castalian spring to the East of the sanctuary proper in the ravine separating the twin Phaedriades, takes its name from nymph Castalia, and, in classical times, it was where pilgrims purified themselves before entering the sacred sanctuary of Apollo. Below it is reported a summary of description of the Fountain of Castalia reported in the Web Site of Democritus University of Trachy ( and observing The Web Perseus Project "1b,c regarding Delphi.

In this spring all who came to Delphi for any religious object whatever had to purify themselves. The bathing of the hair seems to have been the principal part of the ceremony and is one attributed to the god himself. Murderers, however, bathed the whole body. The later fountain as we see it today is of Roman or Hellenistic date. The water was collected in along narrow reservoir (9m x 1 m) which fed seven jets . These jets fell into a rectangular court, 9m x 3m, reached by rock-hewn steps. A more ancient square fountain house is located nearer the road.

Delphi: Temple of Apollo and the near site of Castalian Spring (Photograph by Giulia Guizzardi 2000)


The 8th century temple of Apollo which had been destroyed by fire in 548 B.C. was rebuilt 510 B.C with funds collected throughout the Mediterranean world. and the fame and prosperity of the sanctuary continued to grow. The cities which had constructed the treasuries at Delphi were many ancient cities among them Strabo, Greek geographer and historian of the first years BC, adds the Etruscan city of Spina.

In 191 BC, Delphi was conquered by the Romans and during the Roman occupation the site was sometimes plundered by some of the emperors. With the spread of Christianity, the sanctuary lost its religious meaning and was permanently closed with a decree of emperor Theodosius and the last recorded oracle was in 362 AD.

The Archaic Castalian Fountain (Photograph by Giulia Guizzardi 2000)

The later Castalian Fountain(Photograph by Giulia Guizzardi 2000)

Montovolo with the Cantalian Rocky Peak and localisation of Its Spring.

Located in the Appennino Tosco Emiliano between Bologna and Florence stands the sacred Mountain called Montovolo with its very ancient Sanctuary which was probably an Etruscan Oracular Centre: I reported this astounding hypothesis in the Montovolo Retreat 1 because ,at first, I have observed that its name might be means Mount of Ovolo Ovoidal Stone) , but principally I noted on the Lunetta of the Sanctuary’s portal, two doves , (observed also in other ancient Oracular Centers such as Delphi, Delo ecc ), and because Etruscan finds have been found in the zone in the past years. In addition, in the same lunetta it there is also the stylised figure of two lilies or jonquils, flowers typical of the zone. This find have given ulterior possibility to my hypothesis since every ancient oracle center had a local typical plant as Arboreal Code. Subsequently, analysing the legends and the local traditions I have found other data that have strengthened the hypothesis of an Etruscan Centre. In an ancient legend it is narrated a history which is very similar to an ancient ballad of Delfi. (see. Montovolo retreat 2) This legend gave me a vague idea of a possible similarity between Delphi and Montovolo. Now I have found another relationship or coincidence, that ties Montovolo to Delphi. It exists to Montovolo a forest and a rocky peak denominated Cantalia (See above) and this name is also reported in different books published in the past.years. I have immediately wondered whether a spring exists in that place. Yes, once time a beautiful Spring existed in the wood of Cantalia and at the bottom of Cantalia’s peak. When I was young I went with some friends in this beautiful place with its fountains that gushed out from a stone wall. All the water of fountains were collected in a great basin called the Barrel (Botte) of Cerreta because the water of this Barrel, collected during the night, moved, in the daytime, the wheel of Cerreta’s Mill located about 100 -200 meters above. Now days the Fontain does not exist anymore.!! Now, on that place where this Spring there was with its basin, a cement water Depot there is. Any traces of the fountains destroyed . (see photo of Depot). This "public work" has been done about twenty years ago!!!. Only the hope to find a photo of this Fountain it remained to me! . After almost a year of search a friend has found a photo of the Spring made in 1945. Fortunately the photo (see photo of Cantalia Spring) presents all the fountains in their niches, and also a big part of the basin. An estimation of its dimensions could be done by comparing the Fountain with the man( the Miller) present in the photo. The facade of this Spring is of circa 9-10m and the fountains are seven (as the seven holes of Delphi 's Castalia spring!!). The basin has about the same length and its dimensions could have been modified and perhaps widened since it served as cistern for the mill.

Spring of Cantalia or Barrel with the Miller of the Cerreta. (Photo  by Lina Penelli, 1945)

Today  the Spring of Cantalia is in this manner!


Now I think that all the finds and clues reported by me regarding Montovolo as a possible Etruscan Oracle Centre are not just coincidences because they are too many. These "coincidences" are:

1) Two doves in the Lunetta (MontovoloRetreat 1).

2)two plants in the Lunetta (arboreal code) (MontovoloRetreat 1).

3)The legend of the guardian serpent and its great stone (MontovoloRetreat 2).

4) The name of Montovolo which perhaps means Mount of Ovolo ( Ovoidal Stone ) (MontovoloRetreat 2).

5) The religious traditions ( procession of 12 or "24 parochs , the depositing of small stones above the small altars) (MontovoloRetreat 2).

6) The Black Madonna and the Isis Temple . (Montovolo Retreat 3)

7) The Cantalian Spring

All these data are in accord with an Etruscan Sacred Site which probably in the period of maximum expansion of Etruscan civilization (VI sec A.C) was considered a copy of the Oracle Center of Delphi. Perhaps this site became the Center or Navel of the Dodecopoli of the North Etruria or , for a brief period, of All the Etruscan World.

Now, I think that others data, already found or to find, which are in connection with above conclusions could be divulged and welcomed without too much skepticism. These results have been found carring out only an archaeology that I call "mental". That is examining only the finds which are already or in front of us, or on the books, or in the Web pages, or in some legends etc. Obviously digging and dating the finds with spectroscopic analysis we could have other data to confirm the previous findings.


1, For a complete description of Delphi with many images see : a)Web site of Hellenic Ministry of Culture,

b) Crane, Gregory R. (ed.) The Perseus Project,, nov, 2000.

c) For a vision of the plans of Castalians Fountains see:

2) a) Oriano Tassinari Clò, Terra e gente di Vimignano , Bologna 1987.

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

Prof. Graziano Baccolini

Dipartimento di Chimica Organica, Università di Bologna

FAX: 051-209-3654 E-mail:

Dec, 2000


See continuing our researches about Montovolo:

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 Version9

 Montovolo retreat 7 2002 (The Crypt of Montovolo is Actually an Intact Etruscan Temple! (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:, or its new

commercial-free version



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