Current Research: Palombara and the Porta Magica in Rome

Maria Fiammetta Iovine is researching that enigmatic and enthralling remaining monument of the villa of Massimiliano Palombara, marquis of Pietraforte (1614-1685), as she informed The Ritman Library when she paid a visit in March this year. Her email address is added below for anyone wishing to contact her on her research into Count Palombara. The following presents a brief précis of her current research.

Although much has been written on the Porta Magica itself, she believes that the biography of marquis Palombara needs to be taken into account to solve the puzzle of the Porta Magica.

Porta Magica - Rome

Here are some of the more significant facts from the life of Palombara that are already known:

  • On 13 October 1652 Palombara affirms to have received a revelation of the arcana natura
  • Palombara’s acquaintance with the well-known practititoner of alchemy Francesco Giuseppe Borri (1627-1695) stems from at least 1654
  • In 1656 Palombara openly refers to the Fraternitas Rosicruciana (or, as he calls it, the Aurea or Rosea Croce)

Fiammetta Iovine believes Palombara was already familiar with the Rosy Cross before the arrival of Christina of Sweden in Rome in December 1655, having gained the arcana of alchemy without her patronage and despite the close friendship they entertained through life. She also thinks that Palombara wrote the first manuscript version of La Bugia in 1656 possibly with the intent to be admitted to a Rosicrucian circle, a ‘master proof’, as it were, as he showed his intimate knowledge of alchemy by allegorically covering the whole Opus alchemicum.

Christina of Sweden by Jacob Ferdinand Voet

Francesco Maria Santinelli (1627-1697), one of Queen Christina’s gentlemen, a practitioner of alchemy and a close friend and collaborator of Federico Gualdi (who himself was an adept active especially in Venice around 1660) may have been the man who promoted Palombara’s interests in this respect. The so-called Aurea and Roseacroce was an association whose recently rediscovered statutes have been recognized by scholars to be Catholic in principle, though openly “tolerant”, and inspired by ancient chivalry.

Another line of investigation she is pursuing concerns the relationship between this circle of Italian practitioners of alchemy and their use of Hermetic poetry as a way of both “transferring” their knowledge under a set of conventional “disguises” and still recognizing one another as initiates. Both Santinelli and Palombara produced a large number of Hermetic poems, most of which have remained unpublished. Palombara’s poetry and his scholarly Rimario especially still await further study.

Porta Magica

Questions that Fiammetta Iovine has been asking herself in the course of her research are: As Santinelli, Gualdi and Borri are often referred to as members of an Italian Rosicrucian circle in contact with “peers” in the rest of the then known world, what exactly was Palombara’s relationship to them? Is it through them that he became acquainted with authors like Mynsicht/Madathanus and Monte-Snyder, as the Porta Magica clearly shows? And why would he carve in stone, on the jambs, sill and architrave of a door, his mastery of Hermetic knowledge and secrets in 1680?

Through Santinelli, the thread connecting alchemy, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry in Italy becomes visible. As Massimiliano Palombara is a major player in the context that has been briefly outlined above by Fiammetta Iovine, and given the broad Hermetic interests of Christina, her closeness to proto-masonic circles and her friendship with Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), the Jesuit who, among his numerous scientific works, revived the interest in hieroglyphs and claimed to have been able to explain them in his Lingua Aegyptiaca restituta (1643), it is her belief that we should look at the Porta Magica as a sophisticated and complex legacy expressing the historical conjunction between alchemy, kabbalah and the ancient tradition of Egyptian mysteries in the 17th century.

Contact details:
Additional information:
Fiammetta Iovine has conducted archival and bibliographical research for Jason d’Argot’s La bugia di pietra, a Hermetic novel placing the Porta Magica of Massimiliano Palombara in its historical and philosophical context in light of some new evidence and intriguing interpretations. The book is to be published by La Lepre Edizioni, Rome, in November 2013.

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