It’s Not About The Décor But The Purpose

The "Angel With the Cross" is one of ten statues that decorate the "Bridge of Angels" in Rome, Italy. The bridge has witnessed centuries of change, almost two millennia worth, in fact. Both the bridge and the statues have a purpose. However, paradoxically, the necessary emblematic bridge of repeated but failed resurrections is significant, not the statue or its counterparts. What do the ancient bridge, the figures, and science have in common?

It’s Not About The Décor But The Purpose

No. This article is not about religion, but it does involve belief. Yes, our cultural roots are much older than this bridge going back to pre-history, and "pre-history," in Christian terms, is "pagan" times. Our western history, our cultural identity, however, is entirely European. There was always an exchange of goods and knowledge between cultures, even pre-dating the Bronze Age "Amber Road," for example. We know this from archaeology (science), not history. Our cultural identity, which defines us today, is changing as it always has and will. Our early culture had several essential phases over two millennia that still impact today, and not all of it in a good way, and that's because Sumerians invented money about 5,000 before the present (BP). No historical period is more significant than the post-Roman Imperial, dare I say, the "Imperial Roman Catholic" period, known by its other names, the Medieval or Dark Ages beginning in the fourth century and ending around the fifteenth century – more than a millennium ago. Then, of course, there's the defining sixteenth-century, the so-called Age of Reformation, which had more to do with politics than it had with religion, regardless of what the "experts" insist on being "truth." Thus, "Ponte Sant'Angelo" has many stories to tell. The much younger statue and its other counterparts lining the bridge, not as much, but the "Angel with the Cross" is, nevertheless, significant because humanity had never bled more for a divine few than when the statues' patrons' mediaeval predecessors reigned supreme over literally everything. It's called empire, and we have still not learned history's lessons. We appear to be doomed to repeat past errors of judgement. Not because the many are evil, just a few.

If truth be told, none of us can possibly know everything, but whatever you do, don't tell that to someone with a personality disorder like narcissism, or worse, know more than a narcissist, or you will be instantly ostracised! So, in pragmatic terms, our history is radically different from popular "pulp fictionesque histories" offered on bookshelves, written for profit, mainly by people who know just enough history to be dangerous, without doing serious research which is time-consuming and expensive. Profit, not fact, is the "pulp fictionesque historian's" motive, and that requires a little factual basis for "fact-checkers" to cross-reference to make a story plausible, a shoestring budget, and a lot of myth as their basis for history. Scandal and sex, after all, sells. Anyone can do it, and in the "digital age" of social media, any fact-checker can be an instant genius without really understanding what and whose facts they just based their fact-check on. It certainly wasn't the genius' cross-reference against personal knowledge. As for the "pulp fictionesque histories", once someone writes it, markets it, and the thing becomes popular, it's eventually repeated over generations until myth metamorphoses into "truth."

On the other hand, to tell facts takes years of study, just to know a little. Thus, a profound historical paragraph concerning a singular fact is backed up by years of archival research, hundreds of books, and lots and lots of writing and thinking. Tragically, the single paragraph of profound fact will not impress the "pulp fictionesque historian's" readership because reality will oppose their established millennia-old cultural mindset. Reality will be heresy to someone, somewhere.

In the late nineteenth century, John Burdon Sanderson (JBS) Haldane (d.1964) was born into a privileged family when the world began to slide towards two apocalyptic global wars. He was a son of a noted physiologist; he became a geneticist. Eric Hoffer (d.1983), who had a keen interest in what Haldane had to say, was an American social philosopher. Both were also literary men. "J. B. S. [John Burdon Sanderson] Haldane," Eric Hoffer said, "counts fanaticism among the only four really important inventions made between 3000 BC and 1400 AD. It is strange to think that in receiving this malady of the soul, the world also received a miraculous instrument for raising societies and nations from the dead - an instrument of resurrection." Haldane observed - "between 3000 BC and AD 1400, there were probably only four really important inventions, namely the general use of iron, paved roads, voting, and religious intolerance." [From my book, Chrysalis I: Metamorphosis of Odium (2019) quoting Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951), Ch.18 Good and Bad Mass Movements, p.125, citing Haldane's The Inequality of Man (1938)].

"Resurrection" and the "malady of the soul." It's the harsh reality of the paradoxes which infect the telling history when considered in pragmatic terms. Why are scientists like Haldane and Hoffer influential for the historian that cares to think independently of peer pressure? Scientists are driven by purpose and empirical facts, not by ignorance. They are guided by the history of their predecessors in their area of expertise. To be successful, they ignore superstition and emotional "noise." But one's purpose is not something one is born with. Nor is it taught in any school. It's something attained after many years of study and personal life's experience, one's personal trials and tribulations. When Haldane was still historically ignorant and believed his time's written history as we all do at a point in our lives, propaganda drew him to Marxism, which promised to uplift humanity from misery during the inter-war years. Then he realised that Marxism was simply usurped Leninism - Marxism-Leninism - and Haldane's speculative bubble of social reform burst. He discovered real history, in other words. But the damage to his social reputation had been done. His past had been noted during the onset and fanaticism of the Cold War. Haldane's Marxist past almost cost him his career, and communist hunters metamorphosed him into a Cold War "politically incorrect heretic," and the world nearly lost a man who would make a difference in the world. Despite being betrayed by his scientist colleagues and disillusioned, Haldane did not give up. But he did turn his back on political ideology, England, and moved to India. It's here that he discovered his purpose, making significant contributions to science. So, it's easy to understand Haldane's early opinions on history and chalk it down as "communist atheism," but politics, religion, and fanaticism aside, Haldane's not wrong. There wouldn't have been any Marxists if he was, and despite some shortcomings of their theories, the world would have turned out quite differently had there been no Marxists, Nazis, or any empire, for that matter. You know, the things which fascinate people. So, what did Haldane know, besides genetics and political theory?

Emperor Augustus head statue near paintings on walls and ceiling in gallery of maps at the Vatican museum, Rome, Italy.

The Hellenistic period seeded European imperialism with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 before the common era (BCE). His generals carved up his empire between themselves. For example, Ptolemy I (Ptolemaios I, r.305 BCE – d.282 BCE) snapped up Egypt, launching the Ptolemaic Greco-Egyptian royal dynasty. The Macedonians acquired Egypt by pillage, and the Ptolemaeans were doomed to be pillaged themselves. The Roman Empire was born with the battle of Actium when Octavian (Gaius Octavius Thurinus) defeated Anthony (d.30 BCE) and Cleopatra (the last Egyptian queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra IV Ptolemaioi, d.30 BCE). Octavian metamorphosed himself into a divine first Roman divine imperator-pontifex maximus (emperor-supreme pope) Augustus (r.27 BCE - 14 CE). He seeded the Classical Roman Imperial period, which, in turn, inaugurated western civilisation (as we know it).

In 122 in the common era (CE), Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Pius (Emperor Antoninus Pius, or Hadrian, r.138 CE - d.161 CE) toured his Provincia Britannia Inferior (Province of Northern Britannia). He visited Nevirnum (Newcastle upon Tyne) on the River Tyne in the east and determined that his empire needed a wall to keep the much-feared unconquerable northern "barbarians" – the Picts (Picti, Scots) - out of Britannia. The wall would stretch from the Roman fort at Nevirnum in the east across the country to the west. The mobility and the provisioning of Rome's legions were critical, and so, he also commissioned the construction of a bridge, the "pons Aelius," or "Aelian Bridge," crossing the River Tyne. But Romans were a pious people who venerated several gods, including divine emperors and family members. So, at the same time, Hadrian ordered another, identical "pons Aelius" bridge constructed in Rome. It would span the Tiber River, connecting his mausoleum (today "Castel Sant'Angelo") and the rest of the city to provide easy access for pilgrims to venerate him as a god after his death. It was essential for the survival of the empire. Thus, two bridges were constructed, one with military and another with a spiritual utility or purpose.

The first Christian supreme pope usurped pagan Roman emperor-popes to seed western morality and history (as we know it). Catholicus (Catholic) Roman imperial popes inherited their virtuous purposes and skills from their predecessor imperial pagan Romans with a twist. In 537 CE, Hadrian's mausoleum was looted, his corpse was wrenched from his tomb, ripped appart, and scattered. This was conveniently blamed by Roman Catholic popes on "barbaric" Germanic Goths who sacked Rome, and not for the first time. The Goths, by the way, were Arian Christians, not Roman Catholic Christians, and that was a problem for universaly (catholicos) supreme Roman pontiffs. And so it went for centuries. Rome was obsessed with ridding the world of heretics and heathens until they were finally forced to wave the white flag in the late twentieth century, and here we are.

The Roman Catholic Church (the Vatican, Holy See) gave us our "Metamorphosis of Odium" - you know, imperial hatred and all the unsavoury things associated with it to crush the enemies of Christendom. Modern historians call it "colonialism" in secular terms. The mediaeval Vatican (not Christianity) in Rome unwittingly (out of religious fanaticism) orchestrated major failures as it competed with other Christian churches for catholicus (universal) spiritual supremacy - imperial style - and writing their brand of history was one of their weapons with which to shackle the minds of their suzerain emperors and kings. The illiterate masses did not matter. It's why civic projects practically ended after the Classical Roman Empire fell for about a millenium. The Vatican will never admit it, but it's undeniable. The Church's orchestrated "Dark Ages" seeded our collective western histories with its infallible versions of national origin stories of cultural identity, among other infallible "truths."

Only one place in this medieval tragedy stood up to Rome and its emperors - Ungaria (not the same as today's Magyar Hungary, but pre-1526, including present-day Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Eastern Ukraine, Northern Ukraine Bulgaria, and Northern Serbia). This was a place of "Carpathian Liberty," whose secular population, leadership, and European allies opposed the supremely divine Vatican and its suzerain Holy Roman Empire. Wait! What? There never was a place called "Ungaria!" Why? Because the "experts" say there wasn't and because you believe them? Welcome to real history for those who dare to think for themselves!

So how does one debunk myths or propaganda history before the early modern period that infuriated sixteenth-century reformers? The Church is the original author of most of history up to that time as we understand it. Without knowing and accepting this as a fact, one will remain historically ignorant in realistic terms, and one simply cannot write a factual history of anything! Today, very slowly, however, historians, with the aid of science – archaeology - are finally beginning to realise that most of the Vatican's history of western civilisation, if not all of it, is simply propaganda myth. It's mostly an invention of the mediaeval Church's and Holy Roman imperial industrious historians like the ones who wrote "Viking Saga's," for example, written about five centuries after the Age of Vikings, or the "pagan" Vikings, like the "pagan" Anglo-Saxons who were also brutally Catholicised. Some Vikings migrated to Iceland, Greenland and eventually, to Newfoundland, Canada. They were not colonising but escaping the brutal repression in their homeland! It's what oppressed people do.

Sixteenth-century reformers understood history in radically different terms than we do today. The Chrysalis books are a historiolocal introduction necessary to understand them and the main subject of my interest, Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the most powerful woman that ever lived. Understanding the historiological inconsistencies to understand what motivated the Bathorys and their allies in the sixteenth century is the intent of my first two books - Chrysalis I: Metamorphosis of Odium (2019) and Chrysalis II: Carpathian Liberty (2019). Suffice it to say, they are not "standard" history books which brings me back to that Roman statue and bridge.

View to the Castel Sant'Angelo and the Ponte Sant'Angelo in Rome at night.

Legend (what else?) has it that an angel appeared atop Hadrian's mausoleum announcing the end of the Plague of Justinian (Emperor Iustinianus I, r.527 CE – d. 565 CE) in the sixth century CE. It's a legend today, but it was a fact in Justinian's day. He was a divine emperor reconquering lost imperial territories, resurrecting the Roman Empire. In real terms, Pope Gregorius I (Gregory I, r.590 CE – d.604 CE) is the man who orchestrated the Roman Catholic missions to Britain to Catholicise supposed "barbaric pagan heathens in Britain," among other things in the late sixth century CE. The bridge was known as the "pons Sancti Petri" in Gregory's lifetime, meaning "Bridge of Saint Peter." The bridge was plain, with no statues already a relic from another age. In his "Divine Comedy," Dante (Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri, d.1321) writes of hundreds of heretics drowned in the river below – by the Apostolic Inquisition.

Suffice it to say, the brutal Apostolic Inquisition and its genocidal European-Levant-North Africa crusades against heretics and heathens did not make Roman popes popular with the masses. The Vatican's Holy Roman Empire and its imperial kingdoms had gone bankrupt waging genocidal crusades when the world experienced the onset of punishing five-century climate change – the "Little Ice Age." What did popes offer? The purchase of indulgences to reduce people's sins, the cause of the erratic climate, divine wrath. Climate change was the sinful servile peasant's fault. Popes, cardinals, and bishops got filthy rich and obese while millions of their flock starved. The climate remained crappy, and the papacy had run out of infallible options. It was a crisis of faith. So, around this time, Roman popes converted Hadrian's mausoleum into a fortress, a place of papal refuge, today's "Castel Sant'Angelo." An underground tunnel between the Vatican and fortress was also constructed for popes to escape violent mobs, including invading armies. Another incident tells of hundreds of drowned pilgrims forced over the edge of the bridge by a large crowd en-route to Saint Peter's during the 1450 jubilee.

Thanks to Rome's anti-Reformist stance, corpses of executed heretics or criminals were displayed on the bridge from the sixteenth century onwards. These are not legends but historical facts. Then the papacy of Pope Clemens VII (Clement VII, r.1592 d.1605) implemented a bridge toll to pay for new décor for the bridge – ten plaster statues. They lasted less than a century. Pope Clemens IX (Clement IX, r.1667 – d.1669) commissioned new replacements, something more permanent. Pope Clement VII's ageing ten stucco statues were replaced with Clement IX's marble angels holding "instruments of the passion" in the same year that Clement IX died. The "Angel With the Cross" statue is one of those angels. Several sculptors were commissioned. One of them was Ercole Ferrata (d.1686), who sculpted this particular marble angel with the inscription of "Cuius principatus super humerum eius," meaning "that upon his shoulder."

Angel With the Cross on the Ponte Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy.

Today the Roman bridge connects the “Pizza di Ponte Sant'Angelo” and the “Castel Sant'Angelo.” The "Ponte Sant'Angelo" is utilitarian purpose-built for veneration, ironically, built during pagan times, by the pagan Emperor Hadrian, you know, the one whose legions and slaves built "Hadrian's Wall" in Britain to keep his pagans out of the empire's colony, Britannia. In Rome, Hadrian's citizens needed to easily cross the Tiber River to venerate this emperor after death. Pagan, Christian, or not, the bridge's utilitarian purpose of venerating deities will last as long as its ancient stone structure holds out with necessary care and maintenance. The statue and its nine other counterparts? Ironically, a pagan bridge holds these Christian symbols of divinity up, not the other way around. The purpose of veneration remains steadfast, although that may be a secondary purpose now. One may argue that the bridge's primary purpose today is tourist dollars. A tourist's faith no longer matters, but belief in written history does, although for many, history no longer matters in the "Consumer Age." Instant gratification and profit do.

People crowd on the street. View of Ponte Sant'Angelo from Castel Sant'Angelo, Tiber River, Rome, Italy.

Still, one should know that walking along this bridge, one retraces two thousand years of history - much of it, not exactly inspiring. As much is only becoming apparent today. Fixing a broken history is a complex process. It involves breaking down deeply rooted cultural beliefs and, put another way, the empire's product - historical ignorance. Without knowing history, one will never find one's purpose like Haldane.

Do you want to build a better world? Wisdom takes time and cannot be bought. Be a better person. Seek your purpose, something to believe in. Learn to think for yourself. Listen to all. Believe none. Learn your ancestor’s true history. In time, you will find wisdom and come to know your purpose.