Ever get the urge to create a giant park filled with frightening monsters, carved in stone, out of grief? No? Me neither, but we’re not Pier Francesco Orsini.
In the 16th century, Orsini was an Italian prince cursed with horrible misfortune. He had lived through war, seen his best friend killed, and been captured and held as a prisoner, only to be released and have his wife die.
Origins of The Park of the Monsters
In an attempt to cope and commiserate some grief, Orsini hired Pirro Ligorio to design the garden, and Simone Moschino to carve the magnificent sculptures.
The idea behind the park was to astonish anyone who saw it. Filled with an abundance of symbolism, each of the sculptures is an enormous monster.
The Monsters Within the Park
There are approximately 20 sculptures that fill the park, each carved out of stone and bedrock.
The most famous, most often photographed and perhaps most terrifying is the featured image of this post, a giant head with a wide open mouth. This figure represents Orcus, a god of the underworld. There is an inscription in Latin on the upper lip that translate to either “all reason departs”, or “all thoughts fly”. Interestingly, there is a picnic table inside of the mouth, perhaps representing the effect of simultaneously eating and being eaten.
Other sculptures include the winged horse Pegasus, sirens, a whale, bears, an elephant, a dragon being attacked by lions, a giant ripping apart a person, Aphrodite, a turtle, and much more.
Legacy of the Park
For almost two centuries, the Gardens of Bomarzo were neglected and became overgrown with vegetation and weeds. Famous artist Salvador Dalí visited the park and loved it so much that he created a short film and it inspired a painting named The Temptation of Saint Anthony. An appropriately strange and grotesque painting of monsters.
This was not the only art inspired by the park. Many paintings, poems, scenes in films, an opera and even a board game have been directly inspired and influenced by the mystical monsters.
After regaining popularity, the Bettini family organized a restoration program and brought the park back to some of its previous glory. Finished in the 1970’s, the park has become a very popular destination for tourism, and some great instagram pics.