entries 1 & 2, February 2023,
Look! - up on that
single-cymatium architrave, it's Capt.
of this page
Mild-mannered archeologist, Gabriele
Zuchtriegel (image) (now just "Gabe") is director of
the Pompeii Archaeological Park, an umbrella term that
includes Herculaneum, Oplontis, and anything in the
area that looks suspiciously ancient and worth digging
up. He has quickly earned the reputation as a bit of a
Capt. Archeo. This time around he is out to salvage
and restore the paleo-Christian grotto of San Biagio
below), at the base of the Varano hill
in Castellammare at the beginning of the Sorrentine
peninsula. The grotto contains a number of Byzantine
frescoes; it's a significant discovery —redescovery,
really; they have known about it since the end of the
1800s."Gabe" will team up with Antonio Ferrara from
the Frederick II University to work on the
restoration. The site has never been open to the
public! The project gets more interesting and
difficult when you consider that the grotto and
frescoes they want to get at are beneath Villa
Arianna, an ancient Roman piece of property that looks
as if it could use some work.
Plausible speculation is that the
original grotto, itself, was formed in days of
pre-Christian Rome by workers digging more and more
tuff blocks out of the cliff face to put up buildings.
Then, with the spread of Christianity, that empty
space became a place of worship ornamented with the
wherewithal of religious ritual. It eventually passed
into the hands of the Benedictine monastic order. A
number of frescoes in the grotto are identifiable as
coming from that period, including San Biagio, the
eponym for the grotto, itself. His Roman Catholic
feast day is February 3, which is why this latest
exploit of Capt. Archeo was spread over all local news
media on that day.
Researchers were in there after WWII, but the geologic
instability was such that they just decided to leave
it alone. Now they have their work cut out for them in
no uncertain terms. Beyond the physical restoration of
frescoes, there are any number of frescoes that remain
unidentified. Clean him up, looks great — but who is
he? That won't do at all if you want this place to be
a museum that will be part of the Castellammare chain
of attractions that will include the museum of Quisisana.
But, lovers of antiquity, take heart! While you sleep,
Capt. Archeo is out there. Digging!
But the Powder
If you are a pacifist, the term
"powder" in this item refers to gun powder and not
discussions going on about the disposition of
the former Royal Bourbon Powder Factory. The
Bourbons were put severely out of royal work
when the Kingdom of Naples was taken up into
united Italy in 1861. So, pray tell, what has
our powder factory been doing for the last 150
The site is in the town of
Scafati, right next to both Pompei (new) and
Pompeii (old) on the Sarno river in the
shadow of Vesuvius. Clever to build a powder
factory right next to an active volcano.
They'll never think to look for it there.
The factory was the idea of King
Ferdinand II of Bourbon in 1850. It really did
produce gun-powder for a few years but it
became a tobacco factory. But it all closed in
1980 after the earthquake and for 40 years
served as nothing but an illegal garbage dump.
It started to change in 2019 when they
first of all emptied 300 tons of refuse as a
prelude to "re-qualifying" the premises of 12
hectares (about 8 acres) for some benevolent
premises extend well below what you see in
always been seen as a fine piece of
architecture shabbily treated by
geology, wars, even scum-of-the-earth
vandals. It never seemed quite fair. One
recent idea was to turn the place into a
facility for young persons with
cognitive dysfunctions such as autism.
===text refers to
photo, right ===>
Director Zuchtriegel has
announced his plan to set up a "new system
of monitoring" the archeological site of
Pompeii. It will
consolidate the state of conservation of
the site and keep track of the
maintenance. He hopes to involve volunteer university students to
run cameras and catalogue information.
Ideally, this will lead to a point where you, the interested researcher
or teacher or tourist will be able to stop
anywhere in the ancient city and ask, What
was this building?
When was it built? Who lived here? -- and
get an answer thanks to the running stream
of new information and tabulations fed into the system.
It goes without saying that this a very
But today's paper spoke of talks
between the Scafati town admin and Gabriel
Zuchtriegel, director of the Pompeii
Archeological Park --a slightly deceptive term
that covers a lot: everything from Herculaneum
to Castellammare. He has been called Captain
Archeo due to his enthusiasm in
researching antiquity and building museums.
Are you thinking what I am? Look where it is.
Since the 1950s there has been talk of using
the site for what it looks like --a nice
museum. Any final say has to be in the context
of accepting that Scafati is on the Sarno
river, one of the most polluted rivers in
Europe. Calling it a vile "cesspool" used to
be accurate. Yes, but it is much better now.
Maybe. There is a lot of wiggle room in "much
photo credit - la
The Antiquarium of the Quisisana Palace
di Stabia was closed to the public in
1997.That's 25 years during which time 40
frescoes have been sitting there in
dusty boxes. Just sitting there. Now, thanks
to the director of the Archaeological Park of
Pompei, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, they are going to
be restored and resume their place in the
display of the Roman villas of Stabiae that
can be visited and appreciated.