Books and Other Pleasures

“Around ROME with ‘Angels & Demons'”

“From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole,
‘Cross Rome the mystic elements unfold.
The path of light is laid, the sacred test,
Let angels guide you on your lofty quest.”[1]

I have lived in Rome for 20 years (after 10 spent at the Castelli), so I think I know it quite well; above all because every time some friend or relative comes from outside I am hired as Cicero, so even if somewhere I had escaped by myself, I certainly recovered her as a group. Rome is huge, so I’m sure there are still hidden areas, but I know the central part, the most “popular” part.

“Science and religion are not at odds. Science is simply too young to understand.”[2]

Why do I make this premise? Because of the book I read six Springs ago, but only in this March I convinced myself to follow step by step to understand if I really know my city so well or if an American who seems to have never been there live knows about it. more than me…

Backpack on your shoulder, bottle of water, a snack, comfortable shoes and away … around Rome with “Angels & Demons” as a map[3], to search for the churches and secret caves described by the novel, because if it is true that it is an invented story (despite the thousand controversies that arose also and above all after the release of the other novel “The Da Vinci Code[4]“), the places described by Dan Brown should be real. But do they really designate the “path of the Illuminati?”.

“Skepticism has become a virtue. Cynicism and demand for proof has become enlightened thought. Is it any wonder that humans now feel more depressed and defeated than they have at any point in human history?”[5]

I started from the basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, precisely in the Chigi chapel built by Raffaello Sanzio. Here the novel’s protagonist, Robert Langdon, finds the first of the four kidnapped cardinals dead and buried in the crypt.

Ok, I must be ashamed, but I had NEVER been there before, it is not part of the tourist tour that we offer to friends and relatives, but who knows why it had never happened to me to even come alone or with school. Absurd! I mean I almost always pass here in front of it, but I had never entered. I am really baffled.

I pause on the steps to re-read the part that concerns the EARTH element, then I enter and I am dazzled: the chapel is extraordinary, the paintings are wonderful, how did I miss it? In the next chapel there are some Caravaggio !!! I made absurd lines of hours and hours to see his paintings in some exhibition, when I had two within reach of the subway … I go back to the one in the book, I enter suspiciously, you never know I too would find some corpse … fortunately the only what I find is ART, the real one!

The second stop is San Pietro, and at least here I am sure I have been there, not only in the square, but under the entire colonnade, inside the Basilica, in the Dome and in the basement. He has no secrets for me. Too bad, however, that the two stages are not so close, and I have to walk for a long time in the wind under a sky full of rain ready to explode in my head. But it doesn’t bother me, because Rome is wonderfully beautiful and with swigs chirping and flowers blooming it’s even more so.

I arrive at the AIR element just as the wind blows away the skirts of the German tourists.

In the center of the square stands an obelisk surrounded by a sundial with a wind rose (created with oval bas-relief tiles) for which the obelisk acts as a gnomon. Of these ovals the best known is the “West Ponente” on which Langdon finds another dead cardinal.

I stop under one of the arcades and reread the part of the novel that is set here and I am already beginning to find too much imagination. Never, never would they have let Langdon into the Vatican into the archive without a special permit obtained through an endless bureaucracy at least a year earlier! It starts to rain but the tourists don’t care, they continue their tour, and so do I.

Drawing a line from the central head of the bas-relief placed on the obelisk, the professor then goes to the other side of the city, now, Brown in the novel makes this also look like a healthy walk, in reality it must necessarily takes the subway (Barberini metro ) or a taxi.

The third stage, that of FIRE, is in my opinion the most beautiful, I know this church but I have not entered it for at least ten years, from a trip with my parents and my uncles from the south. Since the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria is active, I have to be cautious not to run into mass time, while I wait for the ceremony to end, I take the chance to read the part on the Summer of Santa Teresa. Here the third cardinal hanging in the air with chains is on fire without the protagonists being able to stop him; indeed, the commander of the Vatican gendarmerie dies, Vittoria is kidnapped by the murderer and Langdon after an unequal fight (after all he is still a university professor not Indiana Jones!) under which, however, he risks being suffocated, survives.

I find this part a bit unnecessary, also because the damage created would have ended Langdon in prison without going through the Via, but it is worth entering.

“The media is the right arm of anarchy.”[6]

The tour stops momentarily, both because I am dead tired and because there is a terrible storm. I go home with the feeling that Rome still has some secrets for me, and I like that.

The next day I leave from Piazza Navona, one of my favorite places, the Piazza degli Artisti. In winter this place is truly magical, with Christmas stalls, painters, magicians, jugglers. But even in this bizarre Spring in which yesterday it pulled down the sky and today are temperatures from the sea and the beach, it is worth a visit.

In the center of the square there is the Fountain of the Four Rivers representing the water element, with the famous central obelisk by Bernini (which the same blew to Borromini not without several moments of contention) which reproduces in human form the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube and the Rio de la Plata. Here Langdon discovers the fourth cardinal, who has drowned.

HOW?????

HOW?????

HOOOOOOOOW???

How is it humanly possible to drown in this fountain? – I wonder as I turn it from every angle. Not even with lead weights, not even with iron armor on! The water is so shallow that it would take very little to get up, even with injuries and weights, especially since Langdon is there a few steps away fighting with the killer in the water …. HOW? I still ask myself .. it is too, too low to be even remotely trustworthy, but it is fiction, it is a novel, we will let him pass it … The cardinal inclines and all that remains is to finish the journey.

“…In the end we are all just searching for truth, that which is greater than ourselves.”[7]

angeli e demoni

On top of the obelisk placed above the fountain there is a dove, the symbol of the angel of peace. The dove has its beak placed in the direction of Castel Sant’Angelo, and so Langdon understands that it is there that he must go.

Now, I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, I know the city and never, never in my life could I have gotten there simply by looking at the dove above the obelisk, as does the professor who doesn’t even know Rome ????

I’m starting to remember why it was so many years before I took this novel into consideration.

However, it has an advantage, it made me discover the Passetto, the long secret passage that connects the former prison to San Pietro, unfortunately it can only be visited at specific times of the year and up to a certain point, so I see myself forced to follow him with eyes from below.

Castel Sant’Angelo is my favorite monument in Rome, I have visited it at least fifty times, by day, by night, in all seasons. But it doesn’t stop fascinating me, it doesn’t stop making me break my breath when I see all of Rome from the top, when I raise my eyes and focus on San Michele with his fearsome sword.

“For centuries the church has stood by while science picked away at religion bit by bit. Debunking miracles. Training the mind to overcome the heart. Condemning religion as the opiate of the masses. They denounce God as a hallucination – a delusional crutch for those too weak to accept that life is meaningless. I could not stand by while science presumed to harness the power of God himself! Proof, you say? Yes, proof of science’s ignorance! What is wrong with the admission that something exists beyond our understanding? The day science substantiates God in a lab is the day people stop needing faith!”[8]

I do not describe the scene set here to avoid spoilers for those few who have not read the book or seen the film but …… NO.

I just don’t pass this on to him, fiction or non-fiction there are limits, the Tiber is one of these ………………………………………

Eating my white pizza with mortadella with gusto, I set off towards the Pantheon, the place where Lagdon initially believed the Illuminati path started. The reading is over and the tour too, I liked the novel at the end, despite some very Americanized scenes, because it talks about my city, it also makes it known to those who for one reason or another cannot see it in person.

Surely reading it in the places it describes makes it more attractive, exaggerations are tolerated a little more, but even sitting comfortably on the sofa I think it is the most beautiful (perhaps the only one worth reading, for me) novel by Dan Brown .



[1] From the novel
[2] From the novel
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels_%26_Demons
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Da_Vinci_Code
[5] From the novel
[6] From the novel
[7] From the novel
[8] From the novel

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