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23 Settembre 2010

Earlier this month, the people of Rome could have been remembering a relatively obscure speech given by Benito Mussolini in 1940. Instead, the occasion of this speech has been going unannounced– until recently. Saturday, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi spoke at a planned event from the senate building on the Campidoglio to establish the importance of the little known date in the dialogue of Roman Society.

Saturday’s Event was held to give praise and honor to Benito Mussolini, the head of Italian National government from 1922 through 1943. It was his foresight that called for the paving of the Campidoglio to be completed in the manner originally planned by Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1536. Mussolini believed that it was “a travesty to have a half completed work of architecture at the heart of Rome,” which should have be revered by all as a place of unrivaled political and cultural stature.

At Saturday’s event, Berlusconi revealed that there is actually much more to the paving’s meaning than explained by Michelangelo or understood by Mussolini. The former Italian leader had suspected the Holy Roman Church’s disapproval of the design. It was understood at the time that Michelangelo was frequently less than sincere about the motivations behind his work, and that he liked to preach to his civic audience in ways other than his typical discussions with his political contemporaries. Fearing the graphic’s potentially sacrilegious meaning, the Church kept the project from being completed during Michelangelo’s lifetime and long after.

The work was in fact commissioned by Pope Paul III to be a symbolic representation of new Rome during the Renaissance. Throughout history the paving itself has come to be understood as a reference to Rome as the center of the world. The interlaced twelve-pointed star of the design was also thought to reference the constellations, revolving around this space called Caput mundi, the “head of the world.”

With the Campidoglio’s history coming to light, those who consider themselves well-educated about this Roman seat of power are in for a great surprise. Recent revelations are alluding to a much richer history behind Rome than contemporary thinkers could have suspected.

“Our great capital deserves the truth,” announced Berlusconi in a wave of political fervor, during the event last Saturday.

Four months ago in the German City of Heilsberg, an archeologist by the name of Alberto Salvatori discovered a never before seen journal belonging to the great Renaissance scholar and astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus. What was subsequently found reveals much about the inspiration of his worldview-changing work. Copernicus’ journal covers a period of his life before any evidence that his first scientific theories were circulated, establishing his ideas of a heliocentric model of the universe– theories that consequently sparked the Scientific Revolution, changing our perception of Earth and its surrounding planetary bodies.

Now an authenticated piece of archaeology (verified by experts at Stanford University by means of hand writing analysis, material samples, and carbon dating), scientists now have in their possession the very repository for the thoughts and experiences of Copernicus which led to his breakthrough theory about the nature of our existence, as well as evidence of the scholar’s visits to Rome in the 1500s. This was around 10 years before his first manuscript, the Commentariolus, was produced to distribute to his close acquaintances for extended study about his Heliocentric philosophy.

According to Copernicus’s journal, during his travels to Rome he came upon a partially uncovered ruin of a symbolic paving near the Ancient Forum. The symbol of a curvilinear star expanded out several times, in an infinitely circling pattern around the center, urged him to find meaning in what was left of the ancient ruin. The symbol is now thought to have inspired Copernicus to come to his new understanding of orbit, which displaced the earth from the center of the universe, and replaced it with a massive star.

This notion of revolution of the celestial spheres around a central sun was later elaborated on in his epochal book, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium. Through Copernicus’ entries, the journal explains how he shared this information with a select few fellow astronomers with whom he collaborated in observing eclipses from 1515-1530. This news radically changes our understanding of the arc of history and questions the origins of our knowledge as a society.

In the minds of many scholars enveloped in this quickly unfolding history, credit is due to one particular prehistoric culture which was remarkably forward-thinking for its time. Historians are being forced to set aside their accepted knowledge, in order to allow some of what’s been discovered to alter their primary beliefs. That being said, historians now believe that a Pre-Roman civilization once took part in sky-mapping and the charting of constellations from the very site the Campidoglio now rests upon.

Incomprehensible evidential writings that once were left out of historical accounts, are now being reintroduced to the debate. One such piece of evidence describes a tower-like structure that was believed to have been stolen from the piazza on the Campidoglio during the sack of Rome by the Gauls in 387 B.C.

Some scholars believe the central tower was taken as trophy to a site near the Rhine River in Western Germany.This theory is further verified by ancient texts and ruins found in the area of the piazza during the Middle Ages.

It is also rumored that Tycho Brahe, a 16th century Danish nobleman known for his technical skill in accurate astronomical observation, was influenced by the same Pre-Roman culture through his study of a fragmented ruin obviously displaced from its original site. Study of his notebooks has already called into question Brahe’s possible adaptive learning from the carvings found on stone blocks inside a German castle, from which he may have derived his systems of measurement and instrumentation. If these details are confirmed over time through rigorous scientific analysis, the paving of the Campidoglio could prove to be evidence of the most advanced and scientifically-influential Pre-Roman society to exist, centuries before the Scientific Revolution ever occurred.

In an act of classic Italian political maneuvering, Berlusconi is using this new knowledge to reinvigorate his political career and retell the history of science from a Rome-centered perspective. He stated in his remarks at the event last weekend that it was the “Italian initiative of Michelangelo and Mussolini that preserved the history of our origins.”

The Prime Minister even joked that if he looked deeper into recent history, the internet might have been invented by an Italian as well.

Berlusconi is now advocating that the public take a newfound interest in the history of our society in order to gain inspiration for future invention, philosophical breakthroughs, and cultural progress in Italy. Channeling Hans-Georg Gadamer, Berlusconi reinforces the idea that he will facilitate the “Fusion of Horizions” between our effective-historical consciousness and our potential for future action.

During the event atop the Campidoglio, Berlusconi introduces the work of several Architectural historians and projectionists who have been following the historical debate occurring over the piazza’s paving design. They call themselves Didascalo, and have been creating the context of history which many historians describe as imaginative but accurate at http://didascalo.com/project2.

Several historical images created by the Didascalo have been included in this article (pgs. 2 & 17) and demonstrate their understanding of how the paving and missing tower were used before the founding of Rome. The disappearance of the structure is also depicted, and historians now believe a  fusion of culture must have occurred after the introduction of new diseases to the region by Romulus and Remus.

It is believed that the ancient culture was heavily influenced by the celestial spheres and studied the cosmos to determine the truth of their society’s existence. It is thought that a small group of early scholars, composed of those who took action in society, would observe the stars and planets– then chart their movements on the maps that were stored in the structures nearby. Using precise methods of measurement, this Pre-Roman culture cataloged information in order to compare to previous numbers gathered during different months from different sectors of the night sky.

Historians hypothesize that this culture believed that through the process of understanding their context (by detailed observation, and re-creating the solar system) they would have better guidance for carrying out the duties of daily life

Those from Didascalo have proposed that there might have been an understanding of the elliptical nature of the earth’s orbit, based on the shape of the ancient paving; obviously Copernicus must never have made the connection. His diaries indicate that he was unsure of why the paving was not a perfect circle. His sketches of the universe represent the orbit of planets as pure circles.

The Didascalo has emphasized that their hypothesis is only conjecture because there is much yet to be understood.

Recently, scholars have agreed that the ancient culture had built temporary structures out of wood and canvas that blocked out unwanted light, allowing them to see stars and planets in a way unfamiliar until the invention of the telescope. These structures were ritually built and dismantled to be relocated on other points of the star throughout the year: most likely on a monthly basis. It is believed that instructions for its use were inscribed on the walls of the tower, but their understanding was never translated to Roman society.

After the tower was stolen by the Gauls during the first sack of Rome, all understanding of the paving’s significance were left to interpretation lacking any historical context. This tragedy is how a momentous piece of history was almost lost to the ages.

These discoveries illuminate Michelangelo and Copernicus as the great thinkers who initially recognized the true meaning of the Campidoglio’s paving design. It is quite astounding that the value of the site has remained buried in history for so long. The attempt to memorialize this forgotten monument with newly reconstructed pavement during the Renaissance was a noble idea unparalleled in its time. The culmination of these events, as well as the press episode that occurred on the Campidoglio last Saturday, has the potential to become an annual national celebration. Berlusconi wants the lessons of this story to be taught within the school systems of Italy. He is encouraging further study of Rome’s prehistory in universities and by the top professionals. Promises were made to increase the availability of research funds, claiming there is nothing more costly than the loss one’s history.

Project completed with David Lierly.