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In Rivodutri there is a unique door that popular tradition calls the Alchemic Door, or “Nicolò Door”, named after the owners of its original building, the Nicolò family since 1757, as a result of the will of Don Bernadino of the Camisciotti family.

In 1874, it was handed over to the municipality to be used for the Women’s School and Homes for Employees.  At the end of the nineteenth century, the main street of Rivodutri (via “Dritta” now via Umberto I) was widened with the removal of several houses, among which was the old-school building: to which the Alchemic Door belonged.

It is possible that the door was initially located inside that old building and that after the road was widened it was relocated to the new façade where it remained until December 31, 1948. That day a strong earthquake destroyed the building and completely changed the whole appearance of the inhabited area. The door was saved, dismantled and preserved in a communal store.

Approximately thirty years later it was re-assembled on the original site as an access to a small public garden.

So, what is the Alchemic Door?

It is a structured array of alchemical symbols and Latin that has eluded full decipherment.  The door has survived the centuries, but it has not been possible to identify the expert in alchemical arts and knowledge responsible for its creation.

Meanwhile, there is some justification for the hypothesis that the person may have been from the Camisciotti family. There were frequent mentions of the family members in important positions in public administration and ecclesiastical roles from the seventeenth century.

At this distance from its origin the studies of interpretation of the door reveal that most of the symbols deal with the mystery of transmutation, not only and not so much of metals, but also of psyche and the relationship between body and spirit in man.

According to interpretations, the builder of the door must have already moved on from metals, from laboratories seeking gold, to philosophical speculation by projecting the secret and the drama of life (human and divine, material and spiritual) onto its various manifestations.

What had happened, evidently, from the seventeenth century, when it was realized that the traditional alchemic ‘art’ (the transformation of base metals such as lead and copper into silver and gold) could never have created solid gold, was that, while the chemist continued to put these materials into laboratory experiments, the philosopher began to look for the gold that was not solid.

By the 18th century the illuminist approach had contributed to wiping away the mystical approach to base materials, isolating the spiritual from the physical.

Many of the figures sculpted on the door are in common with Christian symbolism. It is said that many alchemists were Christians or at least respectful of the religious environment in which they lived. Some of the rest felt that God’s help to the success of their work was indispensable. While the agnostics adorned their thoughts with Christian images simply to escape unpopular inquisitorial intervention.

So visit the Alchemical Door, look carefully at the symbols and endeavour to read and understand the story from bottom of the door to its apex. Maybe a ray of solar or reflected lunar inspiration will cross the door to excite you to further study.

Some Inscriptions on Nicolò Door

The reading of the inscriptions begins from chaos, from the dark and powerful conflict between states and leads to balance between those states that were previously disputed: conscious and unconscious, matter and spirit, ignorance and knowledge.

With this background, the reading of the door starts from the lower right panel with the inscription: QUID HOC FORTIUS. Here ‘the mystery of the four elements’ alludes to four straight lines that run in opposite directions from a single individual point. The point represents the origin, the beginning, the raw material. In the base of the door there are four straight lines intersecting at one point.

While the written text to decipher has escaped discovery, the pentagram that is displayed is understood as the classic representation of man.

In addition, the symbol of the element mercury on the door is considered important as mercury has a dual meaning of active and passive, male and female.

In the upper section navigation across the sea is represented. The sea, in its classical significance, is the initial condition, so it is similar to the original Chaos. On this door, the sail of the ship reads: OMMA BONA MECUM (All my good is with me?). The ship’s mast is a small palm that can take root and grow. Then there is the earth. On the psychic plane this is said to symbolize the unconscious that fosters the conscious, the coexistence and the union of darkness and light.

Everywhere there are symbols of opposites, maybe a guide to positive and negative forces in life that must be resolved to create the inner gold. There are the signs of celestial bodies which the alchemist invokes to get help through their influence, believing that they could exert some action on the metals and on the human being and his spirit.

To alchemists, on the psychic plane, the appearance of the moon and the stars, that are inferior to the Sun, indicate that even the unconscious has its own light. The impulses that come from the unconscious must be in balance with the contents of consciousness.

So, in this alchemic door, at the top, the conflict between opposites leads to a union, because a state of hostility is contrary to the harmony of life.  The sun shines with all its light and heat because it in some way coexists with its female counterpart (Moon).

The phrase EX TUA MEA LUX EX MEA TUA may possibly be read to mean that we have come to the conversion of the body into spirit and spirit into the body, though this is not prosribed.

At the top is TOT MIHI SUNT VIRES (maybe ‘This is all my strength’?) and in the apex there is the figure of the Hermaphrodite, that is, two opposite parts in one. REX and REGINA united by a single crown, the unity resulting from the conjunction of opposites, male and female, or spirit-matter. The male is the spirit and exists because there is also the female counterpart and vice versa.

Search and discover.

Gavin Tulloch

Scienziato e poeta. Ama la chimica, il vino, le donne e l’opera, ma non sappiamo in quale ordine