Chinese imperial boat

The Chinese Imperial Boat Hidden in the Woods of the Cimini Mountains

Amidst the lush woods of Tuscia Viterbese, there is a place that has the power to transport the visitor to another space-time dimension. This is the Tenuta Sant'Egidio where the remains of the surprising Church of the Holy Trinity guard a precious Chinese Imperial marble boat.
Table of contents:
  1. Where the boat is located
  2. Love for China
  3. Extraordinary meeting
  4. The promise of conservation
  5. Brotherhood and respect between peoples

The Sant'Egidio Estate

La Tenuta Sant'Egidio is a private area of about 130 hectares on the north-eastern slope of Monte Cimino, which has become, by the owners' will, a educational forest. Walking through the woods of the estate you can admire monumental oak and beech trees, caves, springs and rocky outcrops. And then suddenly the remains of the walls of a church, the Holy Trinity, dating back to the 13th century and for centuries a hermitage of monks. Together with what remains of the ancient church a striking and alienating Chinese imperial boat in white marble. But how did this boat get here and why?

The Blessings and Love for China

The Chinese Imperial Boat came to Italy thanks to theItalian entrepreneur-philanthropist Eugenio Benedettifather of Azzurra Benedetti, the current president of the GEA Association from which the idea of the educational forest originated. Eugenio, nicknamed 'the new Marco Polo', was in love with the People's Republic of China and for many years travelled all over the country, contributing to its economic and cultural renaissance. One of his most famous operations was the opening of 34 marble quarries in the Hebei and Honan mountains, which are still operating today, from which he extracted one of the most beautiful marbles in the world. In 1965 Eugenio also had the opportunity to meet theLast Chinese Emperor Pu Yikey character in unravelling the mystery of the Viterbo imperial boat.

An extraordinary meeting

By now demoted to a simple citizen and appointed head of the Gardens of the Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing, Pu Yi commissioned Eugenio to save and restore the boat built in 1865 to mark the 60th birthday of Empress Ci Xi, his mother. The boat is still moored on the Kunming River at Peking Palace. In ancient China, boats were true masterpieces of craftsmanshipused to transport precious goods along the rivers and canals of the vast Chinese empire. The imperial boat was a symbol of respect, power and elegance.

Restoration and Conservation

The conservation operation succeeded and was greatly appreciated by the Chinese government; Eugenio received a gift for his 75th birthday as a thank you for his work, 100 tonnes of white marble composed of 3,000 hand-carved and chiselled pieces. The material was used for build a 1:3 scale replica of Empress Ci Xi's boatas a sign of love from China to Italy. The imperial boat was then placed inside the estate, where Eugenio expressed his wish to be buried when his time comes.

Symbol of brotherhood between peoples

Thus the mystery is explained. The Chinese imperial boat on the Tenuta Sant'Egidio is more than just a monument; it is a homage to brotherhood between different culturesa symbol of peace and cooperation between peoples. But, above all, it is a representation of the love of a son for his mother and of the interconnection between seemingly distant cultures. The marble imperial boat in the heart of Tuscia Viterbese is a precious testimony to historyan indelible memory of great modern characters. A historical memory to be preserved and handed down to future generations.

The Castle Wheel

The Mysterious Object: The Wheel of Torre Alfina Castle

In a hidden room of the castle is an enigmatic vertically mounted iron wheel. What is it and what was the wheel of Torre Alfina Castle used for?

Objects used in past eras often appear mysterious and intriguing to our contemporary eyes. Beneath the appearance of simple artefacts are often hidden ingenious and innovative solutions that have marked the history and daily lives of people. One of these fascinating objects is the large Iron wheel of the Torre Alfina Castleobject that played a key role in the distribution of water in the rooms of theancient dwelling.

Table of contents:
  1. Access to water in medieval dwellings
  2. Bathing culture during the Renaissance
  3. Historical testimony of human ingenuity

Water in Medieval Dwellings

In general, medieval castles and noble residences were equipped with wells, cisterns and decorative tanks, often located in inner courtyards or gardens. These structures served as domestic water access points. But in the Middle Ages, the need for water was limited almost exclusively to cooking. There were no plumbing or sewage systems. Toilets, when present, were either open seats directly on the moat or on holding tanks. Personal hygiene was an unknown concept. Only gentlemen indulged in the occasional bath in a basin and there were no real bathing rooms. The water distribution was therefore entrusted to servants who filled buckets or other containers and carried them to the kitchen or to the stately rooms to satisfy daily needs.

Renaissance and Bath Culture

It was not until the Renaissance period that a new functional bathroom concept. The increased care devoted to personal hygiene, the drive towards refinement and comfort for the environment dedicated to body practices, led to the need to create a mechanised water distribution system and more efficient.
So we come to the unravelling of our mystery. The large iron wheel of the Torre Alfina Castle is a flywheel, a heavy disc connected to a hand pump which allowed water to be drawn from the cistern located in the castle courtyard. By operating the large wheel, the water rose to fill other cisterns strategically placed on the towers. From here, using gravitational force, water flowed through an intricate system of pipes to reach all the rooms in the castle.

Testimony of Human Ingenuity

The flywheel of the Torre Alfina Castle remained in operation until 1960when the manual pump was replaced by an electric one. Despite this the distribution system remained unchanged and water continues to supply the castle rooms by cascading down from the castle towers. Today it represents a historical testimony to the power of human ingenuity of transforming an everyday object into a fundamental instrument of innovation. The preservation of objects no longer in use represents a tangible testimony of our historical and technological evolution. Keeping the memory of these objects alive, we preserve the link with our past. These objects are not mere relics, but bridges connecting the past to the future, offering valuable perspectives on our ever-evolving journey.

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