In ancient times, an oracle was considered both a sacred place and a prophetic answer. Pilgrims used to address the oracle with questions about the unknown or the right way to react to certain circumstances, then wait for the divinity to respond by some sort of sign or human medium.
At Orta San Giulio, Paolo Brambilla aimed to create a parallel place, a set of passages between reality and its imaginative dimension. Not far from the Villa Bossi’s garden, the Oracolo (Oracle) appears on the surface of lake as a mysterious gate adorned with stars. On the nearest dock a set of hand-painted flags flap in the wind. They are ensigns of broken spells, magic figures, traces of oracles without time which reclaim a mystic and fantastic supremacy on the landscape, waiting to welcome someone or something that could come through the floating gate.
These works come from the archaic identity of Orta San Giulio, a place which is always been characterized by a strong narrative and legendary component. It has been said that around the 4th Century Saint Giulio arrived at Orta Lake to evangelize the locals. The Island was haunted by dragons and monsters but, in a stormy night, Saint Giulio sailed the lake on his cape, fighting the beasts and freeing the island. Only one monster managed to escape the massacre, hiding in a grotto nearby which is now part of a 19th century Mansion known as Villa Curioni-Mazzetti. In the same grotto, during the 17th century, a giant vertebra was found whis is believed to be the last remain of that same monster and it’s now exhibited inside the island’s Church. The San Giulio’s island is also the scenery to the short story by Gianni Rodari C’era due volte il Barone Lamberto ovvero I misteri dell’isola di San Giulio (There was twice the Baron Lamberto, that is the mysteries of San Giulio’s island). The story is about The Baron Lamberto whose name the servants were obligated to repeat continuously in order for him not to die. On the hills just behind Orta San Giulio there’s the Sacro Monte of Orta. Here, between the chapels which contains intricate sculptural depiction of Christ’s Passion, is where Friedrich Nietzsche and Lou Von Salome maybe kissed for the first time: a mysterious episode which is now knows as Orta’s Idyll. During the centuries, the island has been scenery of wars, sieges, dominations but, in recent times, it has become host of a cloistered convent, going back to be a place of silence and mysticism.