The Legend of Blood Castle and the Terra Cotta Box, by Max Caruso

Dear "famiglia Abruzzo", I am doing research for my book. I need help with factual information about the live and times of the local people of the Abruzzi region.
The story I want to tell needs to be entertaining and historically correct (with some poetic license). The main purpose of my book is to show that good can prevail over evil and that every human being has value and worth. Any stories about family history from the region are welcome and can be sent to me. Please understand that I am writing FICTION based on historic facts and family folklore.

I am making every effort to be historically accurate. Any corrections or additions will be appreciated. Grazie per tutto. [If you wish to add to the story, please begin with a date so I can keep the time-line in order.] Please forward any contributions to this upcoming book to Max Caruso.

The Story Begins

In the spring of 1887, the beaming young newly weds were whisked away by their honeymoon coach as the church bells filled the air. Little Antonio carefully folded Father Sarducci's vestments and returned them to lovingly to the drawer marked: "solamente matrimonio"(for weddings only). The nine year old was the most dependable altar boy at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in the small village near L'Aquila, Italy. He grinned from ear to ear as he squeezed the shiny silver coin that filled his hand. He thought to himself: "a handsome sum for an hour's work".

Antonio left church from the side door that faced his home on Rocco street. Signor Pavone could see the joy on the face of his daughter, Maria Rosario, as she greeted her son at the front door with a big hug. Before Maria could speak, Antonio told his mother not to be angry with him because he was coming from church "Non vada in collera, vengo dalla chiesa". Moments later, at breakfast, Maria notices that her son is too excited to eat. "Voi non mangiate...voi non mangiate nulla!" You do not eat, you do not eat anything", she says. "I am too excited to eat", he says. "Oh, and why is that?" asks his mother. "Today I go for a ride on the gondola, and maybe they even let me hold the stick", he said. His sister, Mary, asked: "can I go Mama?" No, she said.

Antonio ran non-stop up the hill to the wooded area behind the church and across the fields until he finally reached the river. There he saw families being moved into a small but bustling new village. The little town was being built on top of the ruins of the village that was destroyed by Garibaldi a generation earlier. Several communities in the province were being rebuilt during this brief time of peace and prosperity after years of fighting off, and hiding from, invading armies.

Antonio ran non-stop up the hill to the wooded area behind the church and across the fields until he finally reached the river. There he saw families being moved into a small but bustling new village. The little town was being built on top of the ruins of the village that was destroyed by Garibaldi a generation earlier. Several communities in the province were being rebuilt during this brief time of peace and prosperity after years of fighting off, and hiding from, invading armies.

The view pans across town, in and out of the shops and buildings, up into the mountains, across rolling pastures, up to the heavens focusing in on a beautiful full moon. The moon suddenly turns into a fuzzy white ball. As the picture zooms out, the ball becomes the top of a hat worn by the gondola pilot as he ferries west across a shallow canal and cuts north alongside an ancient Roman aqueduct wall.

The guide talks about the clever wartime escapades of the local citizenry that kept the village from being overpowered by outsiders for over nine hundred years. The gondola makes its way through the network of canals as it heads north in the direction of the old castle. As the canals feed into each other, they become very narrow and eventually join into just one very narrow passageway.

When the guide pilots his boat into a curved section of canal, it becomes covered over with a hanging forest canopy. The daylight is blocked out and a strange wind begins to blow throught the branches overhead. This prompts the passengers begin asking questions about the history of the old castle and the origins of its owners. The voice of the pilot is heard telling of how the castle was used as a village retreat after night time raids on the camps of the various invading armies.

"......... The main body of the castle dates back to Roman times when the.......... (his voice fades out as an ensemble of mandolins sing out an Italian folk song with the typical tremelo of chords).....". [dream sequence back in time...view of earth from a starship at it travels at the speed of light ...zero in on the northeastern shore line of Greece.... A small merchant ship sets sail into the Mediterranean Sea ...

...it is the year 753 B.C. in ancient Rome where we see the 7 forest hills and land being cleared as the city is being built...scene flashes back to coast of Greece and the small boat...zoom in on the ball carved into the end of the push off staff used by the first mate as the ship leaves the dock....several routine trips back and forth to ancient Europe through the years showing the change of seasons and the various styles of dress and ships ... the screen shows the year 729 B.C. as this scene continues with the fateful trip of Ba the Greek.........

In the summer of 729 B.C., Ba Zillahpolis, a Greek metals merchant and lover of the arts, was en route to the island of the Celts (known today as Great Britain). He washed up on the beaches of Etruria at the mouth of the Tiber River (fiume tiber) when his boat blew off course during a storm while at sea on the Tyrrhenian (il mare Tyrrhenian). He walked the shoreline and admired the lush terrain during daylight hours and slept under the stars at night. He ate raw fish and wild berries as he made his way up the Tiber River to the Hill of Palatine. After several days, Ba reached the area we now call Rome. Ba put his skills with metal and love of art to work and became prosperus. Eventually he became skilled in the art of terra cotta (ferrajo terra cotta). He became friends with the people of Latium who were called "Latins". Rome (Villa di Roma). The descendants of Ba remained in the area and carried on the art of terra cotta and metal works centuries.

In 594 B.C., Antonius Bazillahpolis, great-great grandson of Ba the Greek, was hired by Cumaean the Sibyl to fashion a gold medallion to honor the god Apollo. When Cumaean returned for her medallion, she paid nine pieces of silver (nóva l'argento pagare) and asked Antonius to burn nine old scrolls for her. When he asked the Sibyl why she wanted the scrolls burned, she told him: "the king of Rome is looking for them because of the secrets they contain and anyone found with them will to be put to death." According to family legend, the scrolls foretold the future and contained secrets of eternal health, wealth and stealth.

Cumaean told Antonius she had offered the scrolls to the king for her weight in gold (probably about 100 pounds). This was a relatively small price to pay (the modern equivalent of around one million dollars) for what was said to contain all the secrets of the universe. When the king refused Cumaean's offer, she returned to her camp which was just outside the palace walls. During the night she had what some claim was a visit from Apollo. Others say she only had a vision of the god of the sun. Whether real or in a dream, the message was clear: "your life is in danger, take the scrolls and leave under the cloak of darkness or you will die". Cumaean obeyed and fled the area at once. He did not deserve to have the secrets of the scrolls but any one who hid them from him would be put to death so burning them seemed to be the solution to this problem. Antonius agreed to do just that.

Antonius was curious about the scrolls so he threw them in the fire pit off to the side away from the flames. When Cumaean was gone, Antonius retrieved the scrolls and hid them in a large clay water jug. As time passed, the secrets of the scrolls helped build the fortunes of the family. The family passed the scrolls down to the first-born son of each generation.

The scrolls had been copied from Greek to Latin to German to Spanish to French to old English to modern Italian and finally to modern English. Select passages of the scrolls are said to have been translated into virtually every major language on earth - and beyond. The original scrolls were sealed in a cedar box within an ornately inlayed hardwood box inside a solid metal box covered with an ancient terra cotta design. Sometime during the mid third century A.D., a short Greek poem was engraved on the bottom of the box.

In 162 B.C., Antoni Bazillahnopolis decided to support the new "Roman" thinking. He won favor with the emperor and was appointed the first of a long, unbroken chain of "Bazzillia" ministers to the emperor. The descendants of Ba served from 162 B.C. to 567 A.D. [729 years]

Equites was a special class of people in the Roman Empire. It was made up of wealthy landowners, business people and government officials. Anton di Aquila (from the eagle) belonged to this class and was well respected for his shrewd yet fair business dealings.

He formed partnerships with merchants throughout the Empire and greatly increased the wealth of his family. Anton had the added responsibility of being paterfamilias, which literally means "father of the family". Anton saw a need to build a fortress large enough to house the entire Bazillahpolis (now known as Bazzillia) clan. He chose a site near the fertile valley in the heart of the area known today as Abruzzi di Italia. The fortress served the family well for centuries.

In 459 A .D., Anton Bazzillia di L'Aquila was appointed by Emperor Romulus Augustulus to serve as chief counsel of the city of Rome. His job was to settle disagreements within the local community with the equites and paterfamilias. Because of his business contacts throughout the known world, Anton had a keen sense about the true will of the people.

After long sleepless nights in anguish, Anton decided to warn Romulus of the growing belief that the Empire had grown over confidant after centuries of world dominance and its army had grown weak. Anton met with Romulus and revealed to him the existence of the terra cotta scrolls. He told Romulus that the scrolls foretold of a time when the ruler of the pasture land of the ox "Italia" must divide his warriors by three and make ready for the sons of Gomer "Germania".

The great Roman generals of old understood the need to be able to defend the Empire on several battlefields at the same time. However, with his current generals in disagreement over military strategies and pressure from the Senate to limit military spending, Romulus ignored Anton's warnings.

After many years of faithful service to the affairs of state, Anton asked for and was given permission to retire from public service. Anton returned to his estate near L'Aquila in the spring of 474. Rome fell within two years.

Anton and his grandson, Roberto, met with the new ruler, Odoacer the German, in 477 as representatives of the equites. Roberto's ability to speak flawlessly in the new emperor's tongue won him a position on the court staff. He was named chief counsel to the king. While Anton returned to L'Aquila, Roberto took residence in Rome in an apartment above the family-owned terra cotta workshop. Roberto soon found himself pitted between two masters. Odoacer's army came under attack from fellow countryman Theodoric and the Ostrogoths. Even though Odoacer was defeated, his army was not enslaved and he was allowed to stay in power. Theodoric reasoned that if Odoacer continued on as a joint ruler and the two armies united, any thought of an invasion from the Byzantine emperor, who ruled the eastern part of Roman Empire, would be discouraged.

Roberto was a clever statesman and managed to stay on as chief counsel even after Theodoric murdered Odoacer in 493 after envy and greed overpowered his better judgement. This violent act gave Theodoric sole control of the western part of the Roman Empire. When Roberto became disillusioned with the emperor, he advised his son, Giuseppe, to establish a friendship with Justinian, the Byzantine emperor who ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire.

In 558, Giuseppi was appointed Chief Counsel to the emperor on the newly reunited Roman Empire. He held that position until 567 when he retreated to the family estate near L'Aquila. The family gained favor with the citizens of the area because of their generosity. They became land barons and operated several large farms and businesses throughout the region. Throughout the years invading armies came and went, but the legendary people skills of the descendants of Zillahpolis the Greek usually kept them out of harm's way.

During the seventh century, the poem on the bottom of the terra cotta box was translated into Latin on a gold plate affixed over the original poem.

Forty-three years after Charlemagne's rise to power as emperor of the Romans (800 A.D.), his three grandsons divided the kingdom. Lothair inherited the heart of the kingdom. His was known as the middle Frankish kingdom. It extended from the North Sea to central Italy. Since his empire included Rome, Lothair declaired himself to be the new Roman emperor. The lands east of the Rhine River went to Louis II (the German). Charles (the bald) was given the western part known as Gaul (modern day France). Lothair was an arrogant, self-centered man who was obsessed with Roman history. Although he had limited talent as an artist and musician, he considered himself an expert.

He was visited in the year 810 by art merchant and military history buff, Michaelangelo Bazzillia. Michaelangelo was on a business trip in search of new suppliers when he was introduced to Lothair by the emperor's nephew, the minister of culture and commerce, Kirsch of the Rhine. Kirsch had met Michaelangelo several years earlier while in Rome on holiday. The two became life-long friends. Kirsch thought his uncle, the emperor, might profit from Michaelangelo's keen military insight. Unfortunately, Lothair's perpensity to control all conversations prevented him from heeding the advice so freely offered. Eventually, the descendants of Lothair faded in power and influence. They ultimately lost the kingdom.

In the early ninth century, a silver clad plate was added to the bottom of the terra cotta box. This time, the poem appeared in medieval french.

In 936, Henry's son, Otto, began a quest to reunite Charlemagne's old Frankish empire. Having heard of the visionary wisdom of the Bazzillia family, Otto went to Aquila and met with Stephano, great-great grandson of Michaelangelo in 951. He made several additional visits and became a close friend of the family.

The "Celebration of Ba" was an annual event that drew a crowd of hundreds from all the villages for miles around. Sometime during the mid 950's, Otto met Anna Elizabeth while attending the "Celebration of Ba" (la festa di Ba Zillahpolis) on the grounds of the family's country estate near Aquila. Anna was the widow of a provincial king and a cousin to Stephano's wife Rosario. Otto and Anna fell in love instantly.

It was a tradition for the head of the family "paterfamilias" to hold court and grant favors to close family and friends during the festival. Otto was given permission to take Anna as his new bride.

The formal telling of the story about the terra cotta box (scatola terra cotta) was the highlight of the celebration. Being invited to attend was a great honor. The head of the family would secretly give out silver coins throughout the three day celebration to those he considered worthy to hear the ancient words of wisdom. When the coin was placed in one's palm, the host would lean forward and quietly say: "la scatola" (the box).

On Saturday night at sunset, all those invited to "la scatola" would gather at the main entrance of the old castle. All present would be asked: "do you believe the god Apollo is the flesh of our future selves who came from the distant heavens as a friend of the ones who choose? ". Those who say that they do not believe (Non credo niente!) are invited to leave. After the skeptics are gone, those who remain are invited to stand before the great castle door.

A loud knock is heard coming from inside the castel. Someone from inside cries out: " There is a knock!" ("Bussano!") "Somebody knocks!" (Qualcuno bussa!") "Go and open the door! ("Andate ad aprire la porta!") At that moment the doors burst open and all are invited inside. They are led down the main corridor, into a side room, through a hidden door, down twenty-seven carved-stone steps, along a narrow passageway and into the ancient gathering room. And it is there that the story was told. After nine hours, all who remain awake are quietly urged to enter another room through an opening that appears in the floor under the right hand of a hugh statue of God with his arms outstretched. It was there that the terra cotta box sat on an altar made of one solid marble block. The altar was 9 feet wide 4 feet high and 3 feet long. The box had 9 ancient silver coins fashioned in a circular pattern with beautiful terra cotta artwork on all four sides. The box had no visible seams, hinges, or doors. The head of the family would go up to the altar, raise his hands over his head, make 2 fists, bring them down, lean on his fists, move forward toward the guests and declare: "it is true!". "Vi assicuro che è così").

During his last visit in 953, Otto impressed Stephano with his knowledge of and respect for Roman history. Otto was allowed purchase a handwritten copy of the terra cotta scrolls from Stephano. He succeeded in re-establishing the Roman Empire. Otto passed the scrolls on to his son Otto II just prior to his death in 973. Otto II established himself as a fearless warrior like his father but failed to appreciate the value of the scrolls. It was forbidden to share the secrets of the scrolls with anyone who was not approved by the family council in Aquila. During the last month of the year 981, Otto II was in Rome visiting with Giovanni, a grand-nephew of Stephano. After an evening of wining, dining and story telling, Otto II revealed that he never really believed in the scrolls. This confession disturbed Giovanni and, after additional libation, purchased the scroll copies back from Otto II. The price? Nine silver coins! Otto II died two years later at the age of 33. His son, Otto III, was a great disappointment to Anna, his grandmother. The reign of Saxon emperors ended with his death at the age in 1002. He was only 22 years old.

In 1305, Cola di Rienzo was considered a great Italian patriot when he defeated the nobles and established a democratic republic 1n 1347. His lust for power and indiscriminate appetite for young girls proved to be his undoing. He is said to have been killed in a street riot shortly after attempting to purchase twin sisters from a poor goat herdsman near Aquila.

1455 - Vladimir Drakul was a member of the secret Order of the Dragon. More about this later...

1521-1559 Spain defeats France to take control of Italy. In 1557, at the annual meeting of the keepers of the terra cotta box, a bronze clad plate was added. This time, the poem was engraved in Spanish.

1796- Napoleon Bonaparte seized Italy for France.

1799- Rosetta, a city near Alexandria, Egypt -- the stone Ptolemy V Epiphanes, kink of Egypt from 203 to 81 B.C. Hieroglyphics / Demotic / Greek

In the winter of 1861, Garabaldi and his red shirt army moved into central Italy and stopped in a small village near Aquila to rest. While there, some of his men decided to collect some "gifts" to bring home. They found that the people were poor farmers with little to offer. After a few days of wild parties and reckless indiscretions, the red shirts went up to the castle on the hill outside the village about 3 miles north of the church of St. John the Baptist. In the spirit of hospitality, Ernesto "paterfamilias" Bazillia, told his grandson, Luigi, to invite the guests to join the family for pasta and wine. After they had their fill, some of the red shirts wandered off to the servants quarters in search of female companionship.

In the years that followed, several conflicting versions were told about what happened that night. Luigi was the only family member who saw the horror and lived. He was found hiding in the wine cellar three days after his entire family was butchered by the red shirts.

Some say that Garibaldi himself never actually went to the castel that night. Others say he personally violated five of the servant girls and two of the Duke's daughters. One thing is for sure, the fountain in the court yard ran red with blood. Word of the massacre spread throughout the region and the village became known as the Castle of Blood "Castel di Sangro".

January 18, 1871 -
On a cool winter evening in 1886, Luigi Bazillia called his family together and broke his 25 year silence about that fateful night in the castle. He explained that his father, Giuseppe Alfonso, did not believe in the power of the scrolls. Luigi, on the other hand, would listen to his grandfather talk for hours and hang on every word. For that reason, Ernesto passed the family history on to Luigi along with the secret location of the box.

Luigi told his children that the terra cotta scrolls had been stolen by Garibaldi when the castle was ransacked. He went on to say that the terra cotta box was not a myth. Luigi claimed that the secret entrance to the passageway was hidden in the walls of the wine cellar. He explained to his children that the passageway ran under the castle along side a long forgotten ancient Roman aquaduct and into a large room next to a small room. The smaller room housed an altar of solid marble. It was there that the box could be found. After Luigi had finished telling the story of the scrolls and the box, two of the children looked at each other and began to laugh. Aguilla and Guiseppi reasoned that if the family was once so rich and powerful, why did they have to live in virtual poverty? Antonio and Maria did not laugh.

The box was brought to America and where the family heirloom was given to Maria at hew wedding in 1905. The poem was engraved once again on a silver clad plate. This time, it was translated from Italian to English.

Out of the darkness came the light.
He fell from the sky and lit the night.
Intelligent, honest, handsome and strong.
Apollo brought people together with song.

"To David he gave the words of the scrolls.
Solomon inherited the wisdom to save souls.
Jesse's stem descended into the fires hell.
Where Pluto the Saduj Toiracsi does surely dwell."