After Cleopatra committed suicide, Rome took control of Egypt and appropriated many of its artefacts such as obelisks. Special cargo ships were used to transport these monolithic monuments down the Nile to Alexandria and then across the Mediterranean to Italy.

Like giant needles meant to pierce the sky, obelisks abound in Rome more so than in any other city in the world. One such obelisk is in Vatican Square.

Although today we associate the term “Vatican” with the Catholic Church, the word comes from the location itself once known as Mount Vatican. It’s not certain but it could be that the Vatican Hill got its name from the Latin word “vaticanus” in allusion to the oracles that were once delivered there. In other words, a place of pagan cult.

In 40 A.D. Caligula brought the obelisk to Rome to use as a centrepiece for his Vatican Circus. Here Caligula organized horse and chariot races. Caligula loved horses. It’s said that he loved his horse, Incitatus, so much that he wanted to make it a senator.

Roman emperors were not in favour of the Christian movement seeing it as being seditious. Thus Christians were often persecuted and even tortured. St. Peter, for example, was crucified upside down. Then, in 313 A.D., Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity and built the original St. Peter’s Basilica on the site of Caligula’s circus.

Although there are no hieroglyphics inscribed on the Vatican obelisk itself, on the east and west sides of its base are inscribed exorcism formulas.

Once person who was fascinated by the presence of Egypt in Rome was Ezra Pound’s son-in-law, Boris de Rachewiltz. Boris was a penniless prince fascinated by the esoteric. He’d met Pound’s daughter, Mary, at a party in Rome hosted by Princess Troubetzkoy aka Amélie Rives, a moody but golden haired Southern Beauty who kept herself entertained by writing naughty novels and hanging out with controversial personalities.

In 1946, Mary and Boris decided to get married despite the protest of Mary’s parents. Boris, eager to dazzle and flaunt his noble blood, bought the run-down Brunnenburg Castel that gained fame when father-in-law Pound went to live there. Here Pound wrote many parts of his “Cantos”.

After he married, de Rachewiltz studied Egyptology at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and began focusing on the presence of Egyptian culture in Rome. Obviously, he became an expert in obelisks. Thanks to his ties to the Vatican, de Rachewiltz had access to the Tulli Papyrus, the first know written account of a UFO sighting. Named after Alberto Tulli former director of the Vatican’s Egyptian Museum, de Rachewiltz attempted to make a name for himself by translating the papyrus. The Tulli Papyrus provoked much controversy as did de Rachewiltz himself.

De Rachewiltz, a disciple of Julius Evola, had his residence in Senegal which led to an accusation of being involved in international arms trafficking with the Camorra. Although the Egyptologist, was absolved, de Rachewiltz continues to be a mystery.

St. Peter's Obelisk

It would seem that having a pagan obelisk in the middle of a Christian piazza would be a contradiction. But that depends, in part, on your worldview.

Eastern thinking tends to see contradictions as a yin yang correlation where mutations can create harmony. The western mind, instead, sees contradiction as a conflict, as “me vs. not me” situation.

Some contradictions are not apparent because of their context.

I have edited this post eliminating the many contradictions created by the coronavirus as it’s now spring and I am waiting to turn into a flower.


Boris de Rachewiltz is buried at the Verano Monumental Cemetery in Rome in a family plot.

About Art for Housewives

The Storyteller....
This entry was posted in Art Narratives, Rome/Italy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Contradictions

  1. Pingback: When (not) in Rome…prepare to be | romandespatches

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s