The Monumental complex of Valsanzibio (Wikipedia – Italiana or Inglese version) was brought to its contemporary magnificence in the second half of the Seventeenth century by the Venetian noble GiovanFrancesco Berbarigo assisted by his sons Antonio and Gregorio. Actually, it was this last son, the first-born Gregorio, Cardinal, Bishop of Padua and future Saint, that inspired the symbolic meaning of the plan drawn by Luigi Bernini, top Vatican architect and fountain expert. In fact, the then Cardinal Gregorio Barbarigo, in consequence of a solemn ‘vow’ made by his Father to our God in 1631 (see bottom note 1), desired that the garden of Valsanzibio had to be a monumental symbolic road trip to perfection; a journey that brings man from the false to the truth, from ignorance to Revelation. The ‘Diane Pavilion’ or ‘Diane’s Doorway’ was not only the main entrance by water to the estate of the Barbarigo in the 17th and 18th century, but, this majestic and impressive doorway, represented, as it does still today, the beginning of the salvation’s itinerary, wanted by Saint Gregorio Barbarigo, that ends in front of the Villa, in the square of the Mushroom Fountain, the Ecstasy’s Fountain or, indeed, the square of the Revelations’ Fountain.
This exceptional example of baroque gardens consist of 70 statues, engraved in Istria stone by the Merengo (see bottom note 2), and many other different minor sculptures that integrate into a world of architectures, streams, waterfalls, fountains, small ponds, water games and fish ponds, between hundreds of different trees and plants, over an area of more than 10 hectares. Furthermore, inside the monumental complex and essential stage within the itinerary of salvation, there is the century-old boxwood maze, the symbolic Hermit’s Grotto, the Rabbits Island and the Monument to Time.
The symbolic set up of the garden, realized between 1665 and 1696, with its abundant beauty, its unusual amusements and the major message entrusted by its Founder, ranges as one of the most vast and complete historic gardens in the world and was awarded with the first prize as ‘the most beautiful garden in Italy’ in 2003 and as the third most beautiful in Europe in 2007. The merit of this goes to the unceasing and careful attentions provided first by the Nobili Homini Barbarigo, during all the Seventeenth and Eighteenth century, by the Nobil Homo Michiel in the nineteenth century, then later, by the Conti Martinengo da Barco, in the beginning of the twentieth century by the Conti Donà delle Rose and from 1929 by the Nobili Pizzoni dei Conti Ardemani.
1 In 1631 the Barbarigo family, who already owned most of the land in Valsanzibio, even if they had yet to create the garden (1665-1696), took refuge in this location to escape the black plague outbreak, that raged in Venice and the rest of Europe and that had already killed Lucrezia Lion, wife of Zuane Francesco Barbarigo. In this circumstance, Zuane Francesco made a solemn ‘vow’ to God that, if the rest of his family would have been spared from this terrible disease, he would have create a marvelous masterwork to commemorate and glorify the might of God; this solemn ‘vow’ was took up himself also by the first born Gregorio that, for this reason, his demand having been granted, wanted that the garden of Valsanzibio have an entertainment purpose, but, above all, that it had to have a spiritual objective.
2 Enrico Merengo, (Vestfalia, 1628 – 1723, uncertain the date of birth and death), once considered as a Flemish, today he is identified with good certainty as the Vestfalia German sculptor Heinrich Meyring. His work as a sculptor is well known in Venice between the years 1679-1714. He is considered the best pupil of the Flemish sculptor Giusto Le Court (from Wikipedia) – In Valsanzibio: the garden contains seventy statues made by Henry Merengo, all of which with engraved inscriptions on their supports and among this we mention the personification of the Time, the statue of Endimione, Argo, Tifeo and Polifemo.