Monster Madness in Italy, 16th-century style.

Inside, no one can hear you scream: An orc in the Bomarzo Monsters Park, which lies just a couple of hours outside of Rome. (Photos by San-Suzie.)

To grieve the death of a loved one, there’s nothing quite like commissioning almost a couple dozen freaky stone statues and then laying them around the yard. In 1552, the broken-hearted Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, of the Italian province of Viterbo, did just that. To mourn the death of his beloved wife, Giulia Farnese, he created the Bomarzo Monsters Park.

The park was designed by architect Pirro Ligorio, known for overseeing construction on the mega-church of all mega-churches — St. Peter’s in the Vatican — as well as designing the formal Villa D’Este gardens, in Tivoli, a UNESCO world heritage site. (The fountains there put the Bellagio in Las Vegas to shame.) At Bomarzo, instead of going for imposing, Christian grandeur or super-duper water show, Ligorio went for all out Dungeons & Dragons nuttiness. The grounds are strewn with super-sized stone monoliths of dragons, a gaping-mouthed ogre, Hannibal’s elephant, and a nausea-inducing, leaning house that looks like the sort of thing Disneyland would shut down for safety reasons. Beats me how one’s bereavement is quelled by statues of giant turtles, but perhaps the answer lies between the gargantuan fins of a stone mermaid with a gaping hairy wishing well.

Click on images to supersize. Mermaid after the jump.

Nothing says “I love you” like a limestone cooter.

The Dungeons and Dragons corner.

Hercules rips Cacus in half.

Who says they didn’t have a sense of humor in the 16th century?

Mermaid/gargoyle round-up. Soothing and serene.

It came from the deep.

Hannibal’s elephant, with legionnaire.

Ceres, the Roman counterpart to Demeter, aka the goddess of agriculture and motherly love. Not to be confused with Ceres, California; Ceres, Georgia; Ceres, Iowa — or the smallest of the five identified dwarf planets. (Wikipedia, how I love you.)


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