Montovolo Retreat 1 (versione in italiano)
Montovolo: perhaps an Ancient Etruscan Oracular Centre
By Graziano Baccolini
The most celebrated Oracular Centres (1) are found around the Mediterranean area and were sacred places dedicated anciently to quasi-religious cult. The most ancient ones up to now known correspond to the first dynasties of the Pharohs (approximately 2900 B.C) and presumably all have origins much remote and more ancient than how much it can be supposed from the ascertained historical news or the registrations on the place.
Their location has never been accidental or dictated by practical uses such as near to a city or easily accessible places. On the contrary, often they are localized on inaccessible mountain places. We can remember some of the most famous ones like the Dodona's on mount Tamarus , the Delphi's on mount Parnassus, the Delo's on mount Cynthus. It moreover seems that the places were equidistant among themselves .
Wherever these centres were, for many centuries, successive their creation, they attracted people from remote regions, probably because of the reputation conquered by the ministers or priestess of the temple with their predictions. These centres have a God or Goddess as religious references in order to confirm their ability to predict.
These temples have perpetuated their reputations in the course of several ages. In the classic antiquity, people went from remote regions to ask the response of Apollo oracle and these believers influenced the Greek culture. Usually, any centre had one stone object which the Greeks called omphalos, "navel", ovoidal or hemispheric stone defined also stone-navel and for this reason several centres are defined " navel of the world ".On the top of any stone-navel there are often portrayed two birds, usually doves, facing each other . To any oracular centre it was also associated an arboreal code : Dodona had an oak , Delphi had a laurel, Delos a palm, Sidone a cedar , Hebron an acacia etc, and these plants are often portrayed on the stone-navel or another stone. The plant was a code in order to define the oracular centre and perhaps served to define the latitude of the place. The two doves and the plant are the "glyph" more used to indicate an oracle centre. It is known that all the oracular centres were in contact among themselves and probably the doves were carrier pigeons which were used to maintain the contacts even to remarkable distances (several hundred of kilometres ). News on the use of such mass media are found in ancient literature, for example we remember Herodotus. Therefore a world-wide network of oracle centres was created and this fact assured to the managers of these centres to have news with remarkable advance regarding the normal transmittation for earth or sea. A distance of a day of some pigeons could demand some months with normal messengers. Consequently, the priests of these centres took advantage of their ability to "preview" some events which really were already happened and that they would become known only after several days or months. In such a way these priests or world-wide chaste came to exercise a remarkable influence on the political and social life of several countries for many centuries and increased their power. The arrival of the new God of Christianity signalled the decline and then the death of the ancient oracles. Subsequently, several of these sacred sites were dedicated to the cult of the Christian religion.
Now you will say: what means Montovolo with the oracular centres ? It is simple.
Montovolo is a mountain located between Bologna and Florence with a very ancient Sanctuary whose preroman and Etruscan origins are still in part unknown even if they are supposed and defined by some historians "a mystery of the history". The lunette of the Sanctuary portal shows the inscription A.D MCCXI and this date (anno domine 1211 ) is considered up to now the date of this lunette. But the thing for us more interesting is that there are portrayed two doves, facing each other, and below, to the two sides, two plants which seem the "lily " of Florence. In the centre of this lunette there is a cross formed by five holes in an inscribed circle and probably this is not a Christian cross but the symbol of the omphalos, "navel". Then, after the premises on the Mediterranean oracles it is easy to presume that Montovolo may have been in origin an ancient, probably Etruscan oracular centre: there is a typical glyph of oracles with two pigeons and an arboreal code represented by two lilies or similar plants presumably typical of our Appennino. The truth date of this lunette is difficult to establish but I presume some centuries B.C. The shrine probably became a temple dedicated to goddess Pale, then a temple dedicated to goddess Isis and finally a Christian temple dedicated to a Black Madonna. If this hypothesis was confirmed by other data or eventual excavations I think that Montovolo may have also a remarkable interest to world-wide level and contribute to explains the developments of ancient civilizations such as the Etruscan one. This discovery may be also a confirm of the hypothesis about the arboreal code of oracle centres as reported in the fascinating book of R.Temple (1).
The portal lunette with the two doves and the two lilies
The top of Montovolo and its very ancient Sanctuary
1) A large part of the above notices about the oracular centres are reported on: Robert Temple The Sirius Mystery
Last version July 1999
Now, Summer2004, a documentary about Montovolo as Etruscan oracular centre and other famous places of ancient Etruria is in production by Vintage Adventure, LLC, an American company that specializes in historical/adventure documentary productions.
see also the preview article of this documentary Stones and Secrets: Pursuing the Lost Origins of Ancient Etruria by Writer/Producer/Director Michael John Olafson (http://www.vintageadventure.com/flash/history/default.asp)
See my subsequent chronological researches about this Sacred Etruscan Mount:
Montovolo retreat 2 1999(Remains of an Etruscan Oracular Centre In the Montovolo’s Legends and
Traditions ) (Italian version)
Montovolo retreat 4 2000(Delphi's "Castalian"Spring and Montovolo's "Cantalian" Spring:
Another Strange Coincidence or Another Ancient Correlation ?) (Italian Version)
Montovolo retreat 11(2005) An afternoon dedicated to the Art: A Meeting with Antonella Roncarolo, writer and journalist
Recently a my article titled Montovolo: Montagna Sacra della Misteriosa Dodecapoli Etrusca Settentrionale has benn published in HERA n 16, pg 61, 2001 or Montovolo, Ombelico del Mondo Etrusco ?!! http://members.xoom.virgilio.it/Farf/montovoloombelico.htm
(Hera , n 41, 76-79, 2003)
Index of Montovolo Retreats