Carnal Conversations is a monthly event that Colin Richards hosts at Home House, London’s private members club in Portman Square, Marylebone. Each evening has a topic as the focus but in the open forum guests are invited to discuss their own subjects or issues and share thoughts and ideas even their fantasies about sex.
This month’s guests may appear to be diverse in their specialisation but then again sex and sexuality itself has many faces. Participating to this event will let people discover stuff about sex they thought they would never know. Those who attend will appreciate as well as stuff that they should know but have been afraid to ask. Truly an evening not for the fainthearted.
The guests are: an expert from the UK’s leading sexual health clinic in Dean Street, Soho, London, and two erotic performance artist, Amy Kingmill and Apple Tart, whose work draws from surrealist and fetishistic influences.
Since moving to London in 2009 to study Amy Kingsmill has been exploring its underground scene in tandem with feeding hisartistic practice. Here in London, Kingsmill has been able to cross fertilise queer imagery with fine art aesthetics to create arresting endurance works which solicit the body as a platform and often use dressing as a form of three dimensional surrealist collage. Amy Kingsmill has performed at the Torture Garden Club and presented his paper, Pervarts alongside Annie Sprinkle at the Performing Porn symposium at Performance.
Apple Tart is born in London. She is a performance artist working with a cross range of mediums, including experimental darkroom photography, Lenticulars, and Holography. Her backgrounds is coming from the underground Cabaret scene in London over the recent years. Apple Tart’s work can be found across London of public and private art galleries. Currently holding monthly events at The Jamboree, Limhouse, and performs across the UK within The Late Night Shop Collective. She currently lives and works in London.
Although held as a members event it is possible to be invited at Carnal Conversations as non members to join by writing an email to Richards.
Infection and Reflections is Wednesday, 18th June 2014, at 7.30pm, Home House, Portman Square, Marylebone, London.
But it was not the end of troubles for Watson Taylor, who was already in Turin attending his trial, when by the end of August the steamer Orwell docked in Montecristo, its captain Raffaele Settembrini. The steamer left from Genoa and was directed to the south of Italy to help Garibaldi. Raffaele was the son ofLuigi Settembrini a famous Italian patriot.
In his adolescence, Raffaele was troubled and sent to London to study under his father’s friend Sir Antonio Panizzi, an Italian migrant who has been a very famous Director of the British Museum Library, knighted for his extraordinary services by Queen Victoria, in 1869. Raffaele studied at the Kings College, but soon returned to Turin and later joined the Kingdom of Sardinia navy. But Raffaele had problems in the navy because Luigi, his father was jailed. Therefore, he decided to go back to London and joined the Royal Mail Service.
Due to his activities with patriots, in 1859 Luigi was charged and sent to exile to America. While the steamer Stromboli was docking in Cadiz (Spain), bringing to America Luigi and other 67 Italian patriots from Naples, Raffaele was also in the same harbour, working on a merchant ship. Raffaele get on board on Stromboli disguised as waiter, soon after Cape St. Vincent (Portugal), he wear the English navy uniform, and ordered to the US captain to move to Ireland, instead of deporting the Neapolitans to America. Prisoners arrived in Queenstown, Cork, and then moved to London, where they can join other Italian patriots, such as Mazzini, Crispi, Saffi and Pilo.
Raffaele Settembrini espoused the cause of Italian patriots and went back to Italy. When Garibaldi asked for help, Raffaele with Pilotti and others hired – or maybe stolen – the steamer Orwell and set sails to the south of Italy. Many of them were Italians expats in UK, and some of them were actually born in UK, such as Paolo (or Gian Paolo) Pilotti who was defining himself as English from an Italian family.
Soon, they docked at Montecristo and created problems. As Jack De Bolina, a friend and comrade-in-arms of Raffaele Settembrini,
Cala Maestra bay at Montecristo Island
reports in his monograph Italia Artistica, n. 74 Arcipelago Toscano (Bergamo, 1914): “The steamer (Orwell) docked in the Cala Maestra bay. Volunteers – who were extremely undisciplined – asked to land. It seems here they burnt a couple of cabins just for useless spirit of destruction. Mr. Taylor has already abandoned the island. His farmer let him know about the event, probably extolling damages.” De Bolina was also a friend of Renato Fucini, a renowned Italian writer from Massa Marittima (Grosseto) who was also an expert of local legend and tradition.
Raffaele Settembrini was able to put ashore the volunteers in Naples. He was captured by an English corvette and jailed in Malta. He later was acquitted and continued his career in the marine until he get retired, but ranked Admiral of the Royal Navy.
Through Cavendish –Bentinck, Watson Taylor applied for justice and to be refunded by the UK government, because an English officer, Raffaele Settembrini, using an English boat, the Orwell, has committed piracy acts. Taylor claimed he spent over one million in transforming Montecristo island, but this is probably an exaggeration in order to get more refund.
Last decades of Montecristo
However, Montecristo island was then purchased by the Italian Government on 3 June 1869 for the sum of £100,000. Faced with the huge sum of money claimed by Watson Taylor to repair the damage, the Italian Government thought it was better to buy the island.
Montecristo was still uninhabited and so remained until the end of the XIX century when it was transformed in a hunting sanctuary, from the end of the XIX century it was used by the Royal Italian family, the Savoia, until the end of the Second World War.
Nowadays, the island of Montecristo is a very restricted zone. It is part of the National Park of the Archipelago Toscano, and therefore it is forbidden to make landfall, to bathe, to visit the island without permission. Its environment is a habitat protected as ‘Site of Community Importance’ by the European Union. After so many invasion and burglar, the only four people who live there today are: the guardian, his wife, and two agents from the Italian national police agency State Forestry Corps (Italian: Corpo Forestale dello Stato or CFS) – every two weeks they alternate with another couple of agents. Every year 1,000 people only are allowed to visit the island. The queue is about three years long, at the moment, and you need the permission of an office of the Corpo Forestale dello Stato in Follonica (Grosseto), which is in a different province than the administration of Montecristo – Italians like to make it complicated.
The treasure found in Sovana is still a mystery but for its very high value it has been now on display at the Saint Mamiliano Museum inaugurated the 30th July 2012, inSovana. Piergiorgio Zotti, The Archive of Folk Traditions of Maremma Coordinator: “It is very notable and we, as Archive were the first to tell its story during the exhibition “I Corsari e la Maremma” (ed. “Corsairs and Maremma”), at the Cassero fortress in Grosseto, in 2008. I cannot tell the value of the treasure, but it is not a little treasure. The little treasure we usually deal with is the one of the legends and ancient text. Many little treasures have been found in Maremma. The little treasure comes from fear, from the arrival of an army, from the death of the person who hide it. It consists in fifty, one hundred coins in a small “pignattino” (tn. an olla), walled in or buried in a specific place. Walled in is more often, because burying is more for novels, the one who hide a treasure he walled it in. For example, a treasure was found inScarlino, another in Sassoforte. Treasures are small episodes of greed, prevention, and death because the person who hides it did not revealed the place or the people who knows are all dead. And these are treasures from Roman times, Medieval times and Modern times. Look, I can reassure you, I am very much curious to know the purchase value. As if the value is of various millions, at that time they can even change the course of the war. Sovana, together with Sorano, was part of a byzantine defensive line, but was conquered neither by the Lombard Duke of Lucca, nor by the Lombard Duke of Chiusi (Siena), but was attacked from behind by the Lombard Duke of Spoleto (Perugia). It was the VI century, and then the Lombard domination lasted until the Charlemagneinvasion. At that time, with such an amount of gold, it was possible to purchase an army. And it was not so unlikely that groups of Lombard could go over the other side. TheArimanni, the chiefs of the Arimannia tribes (ed. the Lombards were organised into small tribes), were very independent in themselves. Some were fighting for one side, and others were with the enemy, second as convenience dictated. But, they are not to be considered betrayer: it is the tribal organisation in itself that brings to this sort of behaviours. For example, in that period Maurizio, on behalf of the Byzantines, was governing Perugia, where was passing the corridor connecting the North of theExarchate of Ravenna, to Rome, both of them under the byzantine control. Maurizio was a Lombard and when the Lombard Duke conquered Perugia condemned him to death. So, it is easy to understand that with 498 gold coins it was possible to reject a siege. Why? Because the commandant could be bribed or a group of soldiers could be hired to help, and things like this.”
So there is no evidence, at the moment, that the Treasure of Montecristo has been found. It is still a mysterious legend according to
Piergiorgio Zotti: “The Treasure of Montecristo still remains in the mythology and fantasy world. On the other hand, when I made my speech at the conference for the opening of the exhibition in Sovana, I made an example by the Verne’s, journey to the Centre of the Earth, who connected an Icelandic volcano to the one in Stromboli in Sicily pretending that people could easily walk down to the earth. This is a story that brings the deep imagination inside the people and that it trigger the spark of the wonder. A key point of literacy stories is in the wonder. Imagination is like an egg, it is hatched to allow the birth of baby chicks. But, there must not be excess with imagination or else it become magic and it spoils everything. Because, with the magic it is too easy and foregone, to do anything you want. Imagination becomes Disneyland, which is a nice place, but it is not there that imagination is stimulated and become creative. There, imagination takes a rest. That is why fat cats of the governance do not like to stimulate imagination but more to realise rest places. Because these rest places bring a lot of people, many people visit the Dinosaur exhibition, the Leonardo Machines show or the Torture Museums. But this is a subculture, this is anti –pedagogy. It can be made by traders, but not by teachers like me.”
In waiting for news from the experts, the mystery of the Treasure of Montecristostill remains unsolved but the people of Sovana will be happier in any case.
The island of Montecristo, St. Mamiliano and later occupiers
Island of Montecristo, courtesy Wikipedia
The history of the island of Montecristo begins with Neanderthal man. The Greeks gaveMontecristo its oldest known name, Oglasa or Ocrasia, after the yellowish colour of the rocks. Afterward, the Etruscans exploited the forests of oak needed to fuel the bloomeries on the mainland. The Romans called it Mons Jovis and erected an altar to Iuppiter Optimus Maximus of which some traces remain.
Any treasure is linked to a quest. The one of the Montecristo starts in the middle of the V century AD, when Saint Mamiliano took refuge in the island caves.
Born in Palermo, Mamiliano was the bishop of the town, where he is still venerated as patron saint. After the persecution from the Vandals of Genseric, Mamiliano was exiled in Cartagena (Tunisia), from where he moved to Sardinia. Eventually, he landed in Montecristo together with his friends and disciples, the other hermits Saint Ninfa, Eustochio, Proculo, Gobuldeo (from Quod vult Deus), Lustro, Vindemio, Teodosio, Aurelio, and Rustico. They christened the island “Mons Christi”, from which the modern name is derived and evangelised also the entire Tuscan Archipelago and surrounding areas.
The cult of Saint Mamiliano was very important at the beginning of the VII century, and Pope Gregory the Great submitted it to the Benedictines monastic rule. In this period in Montecristo, the Monastery of St. Mamiliano was founded and a chapel was built in the St. Mamiliano cave, where he had really lived. The Monastery received many donations from several noble families, including the Marquees of Corsica and their feudatories, becoming powerful and rich: this gave rise to the legend of the Montecristo treasure.
From then on, the Montecristo island has been targeted by many as a place where to find a treasure; therefore suffered many troubles and destructions. Incessantly object of pirates attacks, in Medieval times Montecristo became a possession of the Republic of Pisa and later was acquired by the Principality of Piombino (near Leghorn). In 1553, Ottoman pirate Dragut assaulted the monastery, incarcerated the monks and declared its end. After that, the island was abandoned. In the second half of the XVI century, it became part of the Stato dei Presidi – a small part of the Spanish Empire built to protect Rome and located in the Tuscan Archipelago with capital Orbetello (province ofGrosseto). Annexed to the French Empire under Napoleon, after his fall the Stato dei Presidi became the possession of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
All of the abovementioned people were fascinated by the treasure legend born with the fabulous wealth of the Monastery. In the middle of the XIX century, the legend burst onto the worldwide scene, due to the publication of one of the most famous book ever printed, “The Count of Montecristo”.
Written by Alexandre Dumas (père), The Count of Montecristo was firstly published between 1845-46. It is the story of Edmond Dantès, a man who spends his life in looking for revenge for wrongdoing he suffered. In between the many troubles, Dantès is jailed for fourteen years in the Château d’If in Marseille (France). There Dantès becomes friend to the Abbé Faria (“The Mad Priest”), a fellow prisoner who is trying to escape through a tunnel, and who claims knowledge of a massive treasure and continually offers to reward the guards well if they release him. Faria gives Dantès an extensive education and he also confide in him. Just before dying, Faria tells Dantès the treasure location on the Montecristo island. Soon after Faria dies and Dantès uses his burial sack to stage an escape to a nearby island. He is rescued by a smugglers ship; he works with them since when they set sails to Montecristo. There Dantès simulates an injury and convinces the smugglers to temporarily leave him on Montecristo. He finds out the treasure and he returns to Marseille, where he learns his father had starved to death. Dantès buys a yacht, hides the rest of the treasure on board and purchases both the island of Montecristo and the title of Count from the Tuscan government.
Dumas, his travels and legends of Maremma
Is the Count of Montecristo pure fiction? Dumas travelled to Tuscany, the first time in 1840-42. Dumas was a passionate of Italy and of Tuscany. He has written books about his travels in Italy, for example, about Florence, the Medici family, and the Bourbons family. He also helped Garibaldi – both were Freemasons – and took part of the military Expedition of the Thousand that defied the Bourbons, kings of the South Italy, so reunifying Italy. He also founded a journal L’Indipendente to support the cause of Garibaldi.
Dumas visited the Tuscan Archipelago so many times that he probably has heard of the treasure legend. Piergiorgio Zotti said: “Sure. When Dumas was sailing the Mediterranean sea, hosted by Bonaparte, a relative of Napoleon, for sure he could have heard these legends. On the other hand, the legends of Maremma, such as the one of the Bella Marsilia who was kidnapped by the so called pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa (en. Barbarossa was an Ottoman Turkish admiral whose naval victories secured Ottoman dominance over the Mediterranean sea during the 16th century) can be found in Maremma but also in Venice, in Corsica and Constantinople. For example, in Moriani (Corsica) they used to make a big fire on the beach to remember St. Mamiliano. Because, when St. Mamiliano died, a big fire was made. It was a signal addressed to the people of the area, and they came from Corsica, from Tuscany, from Elba island, from Giglio island, and from the surrounding territories. The people of the Giglio island were given an arm of the saint as relic, which is still today kept in a silver reliquary in Giglio Castello, the island Castle (ed. This is on the hill just up above the reef where the poor relict of the Costa Concordia lays).”
The colonisation of Montecristo and George Watson Taylor
A map of the area around the island of Montecristo
Many attempts to colonise Montecristo have been made: all of them failed. The first was in 1840 by two German hermits, Augustin Eulhardt and Joseph Keimrstly, at that time owned by Charles Cambiagi. In 1843, was the young Tyrolean Adolph Franz Obermüller, and after him a few months later, the Frenchman Charles Legrand and his girlfriend, followed by the French agriculturalist George Guiboud. In 1846 some Genoese tried again, while in 1849 the Frenchman Jacques Abrial was able to farm the island for three years.
The last non Italian attempt was made in 1852. The rich Englishman, George Graeme Watson Taylor, determined to invest his fortune in the purchase of the island of Montecristo. His story is so interesting and it connects this website to this millenarian legend.
George Watson Taylor bought the island for 52,000 Tuscan liras. He transformed into a garden Cala Maestra, the main wharf, planting eucalyptus and many exotic plants, among them the Asiatic Ailanthus Altissima, an invasive species which now infests the island. He also realized the few modern buildings such as the Royal Villa.
Watson Taylor was so proud of his refuge in the middle of the sunny Mediterranean sea that, without any title, started to call himself the Count of Montecristo, maybe referring to the homonymous and famous Dumas’s book.
We can say that George Watson Taylor had problems as soon as he arrived. The unfortunate Watson Taylor was involved in the events of the Italian unification, so far that he was prosecuted for an alleged act of sedition and his case was discussed by George Cavendish- Bentinck, the Conservative MP for Taunton – “Little Ben” to his contemporaries – who in 1862 reported to the House of Commons about Mr. Taylor’s situation: “When Mr. Taylor purchased the island, there was doing duty there a corporal belonging to the Board of Health or Sanità, named Durante, who was guilty of very gross misconduct towards Mr. Taylor. The latter made a representation on the subject to the Governor of Elba; the case was investigated, and Durante was removed.”
The nature of the misconduct was not specified, but Watson Taylor was then in an almost calm situation until 1859, when the Italian Unification took place. Mr. Cavendish –Bentinck continues: “Shortly after the Provisional Government was proclaimed, the guard of the island of Monte Cristo, which consisted of four privates and a corporal, became unruly and insubordinate, and these men with drawn swords constantly threatened Mr. Taylor, unless he gave them provisions and money. Mr. Taylor made a complaint to the Provisional Government established at Florence, through the medium of our representative, Mr. Corbet, and other authorities, against a corporal named Ricci, who had insulted Mr. and Mrs. Taylor in the grossest manner; but though the offence was proved, he escaped punishment, owing to his being the relative of an officer.”
When Tuscany was annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia at the end of March 1860, the news remained unknown in Montecristo because the post arrived there in the beginning of April, as there was only one post per month. From Mr. Cavendish- Bentinck speech: “On the 1st of April, after an absence of five or six years, Durante, the very man who had been dismissed for misconduct, reappeared in Monte Cristo, and assumed the command of the guard. It was an important question how this man came to be sent there. He had been dismissed for notorious misconduct; and it must have been within the knowledge of the authorities that he was most disagreeable to Mr. Taylor, whom they were bound to protect. Mr. Taylor had no doubt that the man was sent there in order to get up a charge against himself.”
On the 3rd of May the announcement that Tuscany was annexed to Sardinia reached the Montecristo but Mr. Taylor never received any official notice. Durante left, and his successor behaved no better than he had done. On the 3rd of July, Watson Taylor wrote a letter to Sir James Hudson about the soldier who were behaving with insolence, insubordination and constantly making robbery. Taylor requested to Sir James if he would ask the Government of Sardinia to order the immediate removal of those offenders. In reply Watson Taylor was charged of sedition; because the evening of the 28th April 1860 the soldiers fired musket-shots should they were celebrating the birthday of their master. It was alleged that Mrs. Taylor told the soldiers that their King, Victor Emmanuel, was a bullock merchant, and that the corporal was struck on the breast by Mr. Taylor with his open hand without receiving any injury. Mrs. Taylor was sentenced to fifteen months’ imprisonment and Mr. Taylor to eighteen months’ imprisonment, for having incited their labourers to seditious manifestations, which were proved to have had no existence.
The following is the story of a mysterious treasure, no one has ever seen. Its legend is born in the V century, when a saint was exiled inMontecristo, and through the centuries the treasure has been target of pirate attacks, implicated in wars and revolutions, led to robberies and murders, and involved in change of governments and from different nations. It was described by novelists and story tellers. It was able to connect the Mediterranean Sea, from the Tuscan Archipelago to the African and Turkish coasts, and from the Corsica arrives to London. At last, an accidental finding of a mysterious huge amount of gold coins could put the word end to this story: but we are not sure at all…
This long article will be published in serial form. To make the most of it, you need to use your good sense of narration, as it is needed for a legend, and let your imagination flows.
An exhibition has been recently organised
The gold hoard was discovered by accident under the pavement of the Church of Saint Mamiliano in the little village of Sovana (Grosseto) during restoration works. Recently, for the first time an exhibition showed this immeasurable treasure. Some of the coins could be exhibited in Sovana, while the rest remains to the governmental Sovrintendenza ai Beni Artistici (Commission for the Architectural and Landscape Heritage) in Florence for study purposes. But in Sovana they want the coins back to show them in a suitable local museum. It is a hoard made of 498 gold solidus, coined under the Empire of Leo I (457 – 474) and under the Empire of Procopius Anthemius (467 – 472), weighting each 1/72 of Roman pound (approx. 4,5 grams).
Montecristo or not, it is a fortune everyone would be happy to come across. Of course, everyone in Sovana is glad because it is an enormous quantity of money. The entire world was startled about the finding, but in the meantime doubts raised.
Doubts about the treasure finding
Is it really the famous Treasure of Montecristo? A first hesitation comes from the location of Sovana, which is in the very countryside of Southern Tuscany, close to the border with Latium.
Montecristo, instead, is a little island of the Tuscan Archipelago between the south coast of Tuscany and the Corsica (France) – a few miles from the relict of the Costa Concordia ship, of notorious captain Schettino. Between them, there are about 200 km of sea, lagoon and vineyard hills. The legend, instead, clearly talks about the island ofMontecristo.
The Archive of Folk Traditions of Maremma is the best place to enquiry about it. Founded in 1979 by the municipality of Grosseto, which is the capital of the province, the Archive is ‘THE’ local research and study centre about legends and traditions of the area. Piergiorgio Zotti, Archive Coordinator, doubtfully said: “I would not call it ‘the treasure of Montecristo’. I would rather call it ‘a lucky series of coincidences’. The first of them is the witness of some ancient maps and some old manuscripts studied by scientists, not only from the fantasy point of view. These documents testify the Treasure of Montecristo was hunted even in remote times, by the Princes of Piombino, by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, and of course, by an expedition of Corsican guys. They took a boat to Montecristo but to find nothing, just a “pignatto” (tn. a jar, also called olla) full of ashes and calcined bones. Here it is the coincidence. And in what does it consist? The coincidence is that those young people searched the treasure by the altar of Saint Mamiliano, who was an African bishop, evangelizer of the Tuscan Archipelago and of Sovana, who lived and died in Montecristo. The coincidence keeps on, because few years ago archaeologists have found out this ‘small treasure’ in the church of Saint Mamiliano in Sovana. However, I would not call it ‘small treasure’, but rather ‘a treasure’ because it is a consistent hoard of gold coins. They have been coined in the period of Saint Mamiliano, the period of the Eastern Roman Empire. Here is the analogy, which is interesting for legend and tradition researchers, but neither for archaeologists nor for historians. It is because analogy develops between two elements, each other apparently far in space and time, which stimulate always imagination and thrill of mystery.”
Lost in the countryside of Tuscany, Sovana village is so small that today only 138 people live there. Despite of that, this little gem has a
Sarcophagus of Pope Gregory VII, Cathedral of Salerno, co. Wikipedia.
glorious past. It has been one of the Etruscan centres, and later was a Roman “municipium”. From the V century Sovana was an Episcopal See. But, it was conquered by the Lombard’s in 592-605, and became their administrative centre in the area.
In the Middle Ages, Roselle the capital of the county was abandoned due to Saracen depredations. Sovana became the capital of the county under the Aldobrandeschi, the dominant family, who were so powerful that Ildebrando Aldobrandeschi di Sovana was elected as Pope Gregory VII. He was born in Sovana and he has been one of the most important popes of the history. He died in exile in Salerno, where his body is still preserved in a sarcophagus in the main Cathedral.
Sovana importance declined when the county was acquired by the Orsini family, who moved the capital to the nearby city of Pitigliano in the XIII century.
Today is a rural and touristic centre, a picture of the ideal Tuscan countryside, with one Medieval castle and relative Etruscan walls, three archaeological parks, two museums, one archive centre for local history, five grade A listed buildings, two churches, a cathedral, one oratory, one chapel, and a square – nothing older than Renaissance time – and everything is spread on a 500mt area only.
The recent exhibition in Sovana about the treasure was much discussed. Piergiorgio Zotti: “An article published on the Corriere della Sera (ed. the most important Italian newspaper) transformed a legend into a real fact, saying that the Treasure of Montecristo was found in Sovana. But, this is stretched. But as a stretch, it has been much appreciated by many. I have received many calls about it and the last from you. Because the all of you are looking for the treasure, you want to find the way to it (ed. he smiles). The hoard was in the church of St. Mamiliano. But archaeologists, who are reliable people and do not play with fantasy, cannot say who was the owner, or why it has been buried. Think about: the origins of the village of Sorano (ed. the nearby municipality capital today) are linked to mercenary’s armies of the Byzantine Empire coming from Syria. Someone said, for example, that this hoard could be their wage. Others said, it is not possible, because the value of the hoard is too high. Researchers should determine the real purchase value of that gold mass.”