|Location||41° 54' N , 12° 30′ E|
|Original Name||Mons Vaticanus (City of the Dead)|
|Year Founded||As Cemetary pre 600 BCE, as Temple to Cybele 204 BCE|
|Location Function||Primary Temple (Phrygianum) to Magna Mater (Cybele)|
|Etymology||City of the Dead|
Vatican Hill (Latin Mons Vaticanus) (originally around 130ft in height from the river flood plain) is the closest hill on the west side of the Tiber, opposite to the seven hills of Rome and outside the ancient 1st Century BCE Republican Walls to the city.
Vatican Hill is approximately one and half miles north-west of Capitoline Hill (around 150 ft), traditionally the tallest of the seven hills and home to the Capitolium, the most important temple complex to the early gods of Rome built by Lucius Tarquinius Superbus around 520 BCE.
Significantly, the Vatican Hill stands as the closest and highest point in direct line of sight over the Field of Mars from the sacred Capitolium Temple Complex on Capitoline Hill.
Given its height above the Tiber River flood plains, its powerful geometric line of sight to the Capitolium and being outside the ancient city walls, from the 5th Century BCE onwards it became the most sacred Necropolis (Cemetery) for famous and noble Romans. One of the original names for the Hill being the “City (Hill) of the Divine” and a city of the dead.
Cybele arrival as the Magna Mater- Great Protector of Rome
In the year 204 BCE, the Punic War resulted in disastrous consequences for both the Roman army and the safety and security of Rome herself. Hannibal had plundered the Roman countryside and the strength of the traditional gods of the Capitolium Temple fell against growing unease.
A tradition recorded by several independent Roman authors is that several of the Sybline (Cybele) Oracles including Delphi, Athens were consulted and prophecized that Hannibal could be defeated only if the Idaean Mother of the Gods (Cybele) was brought from Pessinus, Phrygia to Rome. The personification of the Mother Goddess was the largest iron meteorite of the ancient world, a massive conical object over 16 ft in height worshipped as The Simulacrum of Cybele and weighing several hundred tons.
In the same year (204 BCE) an embassy consisting of five Roman Senators, with M. Valerius Laevinus as head of the delegation, was sent to Pessinus, the ruler of which was Attalus I (269-197 BCE), King of Pergamon (Turkey), an ally of Rome. Attalus initially refused the request. However, the Roman legend accounts that an Earthquake occured during the period of negotiations and was declared an omen and the voice of Cybele calling for release for her journey.
The Simulacrum of Cybele, the largest black iron meteorite in the world along with a large number of priests and attendants from the original temple complex made their arrival into Rome to a massive welcoming festival in 204 BCE undertaken by the Roman Senate.
The Phrygianum, Vatican Hill
So important was the new Goddess to Rome, the Senate commissioned two Censors M. L. Salinator and C. Cl. Nero to plan, design and construction an edifice worthy of housing the Black Stone- the Goddess Cybele (known as Magna Mater to Romans). A grand temple over 200 ft long was planned.
They selected Vatican Hill, on account of its important proximity and geographic relationship to the Capitol Capitolium Temple Complex on Capitoline Hill and that it did not hold any primary temples to the old gods of Rome. However, the site presented significant religious and engineering problems. Firstly, the Vatican Hill was the most important and sacred Necropolis of Rome. Secondly, the soft clay soil did not provide sufficient stability to support a typically grand Roman engineered Temple of bricks, stone and marble.
Instead, the Romans designed a brilliant series of levels of open chambers or "catacomb" structures as platforms into the soft soil allowing the weight to be redistributed evenly and flattening out the hill to provide greater space. It also meant most of the original 200+ year old Necropolis of Vatican Hill would be undisturbed.
The massive foundation catacombs and the Temple complex is recorded to have taken 13 years to build between 204 and 191 BC. On April 11, 191 BC, Praetor Marcus Iunius Brutus inaugurated and dedicated the temple to Cybele on Vatican Hill.
On this date, the Magna Mater was enthroned as the Sacred Protectress of the City by carrying a much smaller conical meteorite in a procession to a second Temple to Cybele midst the sanctuaries of the other gods upon Palatine Hill. In honour of this occasion the Ludi Megalenses were instituted and celebrated for the first time.
(This image does not properly represent the likely front of the Phrygianum)
(The Phrygianum was almost certainly of a facade of columns similar to the standard temple facade of Roman built shrines ABOVE)
The Megalesia continued to be celebrated for a week at the beginning of April recognized as the Goddess' birthday, on which great games were held in her honour in the Circus Maximus and culminating in the procession from Vatican Hill to Palatine Hill.
The design of the Phrygianum also provided additional benefits to the priest families of the cults of Cybele, Attis and Dagan/Ba'al/Moloch. The layers of catacombs that supported the structure were used as secondary chapels, frequently for human sacrifice rituals and initiations.
Under Claudius I (41-54 CE) the cult of Cybele on Vatican Hill underwent dramatic change as the Emperor as Pontifex Maximus (Roman Pontiff) claimed his rights as High priest over all cults including the Magna Mater. From around 43 CE onwards the Roman Pontiff became the new High Priest of the Phrygianum and the dates of Megalesia were changed to March 15 to 27 so as to coincide with the Spring Equinox.
Internal Design and Features of the Phrygianum, Vatican Hill
There remains some evidence of important features of the Phrygianum, including some prominent relics that remain in primary use today.
It is recorded that at least until the Dark Ages (600-900 CE) as one entered through the facade, to the atrium was at its centre a massive bronze pinecone known as the Pigna, dedicated to Attis, son and lover of Cybele.
The internal and main building consisted of five aisles, a wide central nave and two smaller aisles to each side, which were each divided by 21 marble columns. At the end (Transept) stood a massive ciborium (internal covering) over a sacred status to Cybele, behind which a reinforced structure held in place the massive Simulacrum (black meteorite) of Cybele.
The design of the baldacchino in the present St. Peter's Basilica by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1623 was said to have been inspired by its design. Its pagan origins remain in stark contrast to the rest of the church.
The Great Fire of Rome and aftermath
The Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE deliberately lit by Pope Linus and the followers of Paulinity (St. Paul the Apostle) did not damage the Phrygianum on account of its isolation from the main city.
It is highly likely that the priest classes of the Phrygianum provided some support and even early places for worship for the followers of Paulinity on account of the close association to the worship of Cybele and Hellenised Ba'al.
Prior to the fiction created that Apostle Simon bar Jonah (St. Peter) was not executed upside down outside the walls of Jerusalem during the siege around 69 CE, but transported to Rome and executed as the "first Bishop", it was said that St. Paul was buried beneath the Phrygianum in pride of place within the original Necropolis.
Recently, the Vatican posted the announcement that they believe to have the bones of St. Paul the Apostle, recovered "nearby" to the alleged burial of Simon bar Jonah.
Closure of the Phrygianum, Vatican Hill
Under Emperor Domitian (81-96 CE) a decree was issued across the Roman Empire that human sacrifice was considered a capital crime (death penalty). While no historical evidence remains, a legend is that Domitian was influenced in his decision upon the revelations of the elderly Flavius Josephus also known as St. Luke, who before his death rejected the counterfeit movement later known as Christianity and reverted to the original Nazarene/Gnostic gospels of the person we know as Jesus Christ.
All temples that participated in human sacrifice were closed down, including the Phrygianum. The priest families were banished from Rome and re-settled around Tusculum, south west of Rome.
However, using secret tunnels from a network of Necropolis around the region of Vatican Hill, the secret ceremonies of Cybele, including Paulinity of child sacrifice and worship continued within the catacombs.
Above ground and with succeeding Emperors, the strength and influence of gnosticism continued to grow and the Phrygianum remained closed. Under the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161) and at the height of the popularity of Gnostic Valentinius, the Emperor ordered the secret tunnels and satanic Catacomb temples sealed shut and banished several noble Roman families including a number of the Fulvius from Tusculum to Libya.
Septimus Severus and the restoration of the Phrygianum
In 193, Emperor Septimus Severus from Leptis Magna, Libya and with the support of the exiled Fulvius was the first Emperor to lift the ban on Paulinity as a Capital Crime. This ban was never Christian, as the word Christian was not invented until Constantine one hundred years later. Nor was it extended to the Boethusians of the Eastern regions of the Empire.
In 193, Severus also promptly closed down the Gnostic school of Valentinius teaching the original scriptures and message of Jesus, now being run by his son Hippolytus, who at the age of 79 was shipped off to Sardinia and died soon after.
Significantly, Severus ordered the reopening of the Phrygianum of Magna Mater, (the Great Temple of Cybele) on Vatican Hill, granting the temple to the Paulinists under his uncle Gaius Fulvius Victor. However, instead of returning the Temple to its ancient rituals for which the High Priestess was the most senior, Fulvius appointed himself Bishop of Rome (Pope) using the name Victor (Victorius) as a symbol of their victory over the Gnostics of Valentinius.
This made Pope Victor I only the second Bishop of "Christianity" in Rome since Linus 129 years earlier. However, Victor and his family who followed him including his son Pope Zephinrynus I (199-205) and his son Pope Callixtus I (217-222) were far from Christian.
Instead of the traditional sacrifice of children at major feast events, Victor instituted the sacrifice of children every time Mass was conducted. So bloodthirsty was their reign in the number of innocents sacrificed and corruption of office that in 222, Emperor Marcus Severus Alexander (222-235) had Callixtus executed.
The return to paganism of the Phrygianum
After the execution of Callixtus in 222, the Phrygianum returned into the hands of purely pagan priest families and regained its importance as a pagan shrine.
During the reign of Pope Fabian (236-250), it is certain he did not have control of the restored Phrygianum, nor Pope Novation (250-252) nor any of the following intermittent reigns of Popes including Eusebius of Caesaria (309-310).
The reign of the Theodosian Popes from Damasus onwards through Siricius, Anastatius, Innocent, Boniface, Celestine and Leo were the first to firmly make the Phrygianum a christian temple.
Pope Siricius around 384 was also given by his relative the Emperor, the title of Pontifex Maximus or "Roman Pontiff" (Pope).
By the time of Pope Vigilius (537-555) and the great plague sweeping the Empire, the Phrygianum was renamed St. Peters and the fictious line of Popes as written in the Liber Pontificalis came into existence.
The myth of Vatican Hill
A series of poorly constructed and supported myths remain to the present day concerning the origins of Old St. Peter's Basilica and Vatican Hill.
The first extraordinary fiction is that Emperor Nero (54-68) built a private race track over, or near the most sacred graves of nobles on top of Vatican Hill. The second part to this fiction is that Simon bar Jonah (St. Peter) and St. Paul were executed at the site of this private track and buried nearby on the hill.
Apart from the substantial archeological evidence published concerning investigations underneath the Vatican which indicates the majority of the hill was once a Necropolis and apart from the fact that no Roman Senate, nor Praetorian Guard, nor citizenry would have allowed an Emperor to commit such a sacrilige and have a private race track over or next to a cemetary, the source of the claim itself is suspect.
The source of these claims are said to be from Tacitus in a well-known passage of the Annals, (xv.44); a Roman historian who is said to have lived around 116 CE. The problem is no original manuscript of Tacitus survives except the 10th century testimony of a christian monk who claimed to have accurately transcribed the original work.
However, surviving fragments of an original surviving manuscript by Sulpicius Severus called Chronica from the 5th Century which also quotes Tacitus contradicts many of the alleged same statements "transcribed" by the christian monk. The second source of the claims is the highly dubious and heavily re-edited Liber Pontificalis.
The Liber Pontificalis also introduces an additional set of deliberately fraudulent allegations including the admission that a Temple to Cybele did exist on top of Vatican Hill but along with a private race course of dead emperors, a small Necropolis and a grand Basilica built by Constantine as a "gift" to the people of Rome which took "thirty years" to build from 326 to 356.
Apart from the other great fraudulent "gifts" of Constantine, including the infamous letter claiming authority granted to the Catholic Church as well as Pope Sylvester happening to be the person who "christened" Constantine, there is no hard evidence of Constantine devoting any of his funds or time improving or creating buildings in Rome when he was busily lowering the power of Rome by building his "new Rome" of Byzantium.
The end of the Phrygianum
In 1505, the Phrygianum was finally demolished on the orders of Pope Julius II in order to make way for the new massive pagan temple we know today as St. Peters Basilica.
The massive new structure underwent a number of architectural redesigns and progressive building over the next one hundred and fifty years, with Michaelangelo playing a crucial part.
St. Peters Basilica