The Villa of Mysteries was home to a secret religious cult, and as such is located outside the walls of Pompeii. It is the one of the largest villa's here covering 2895sq/m and has over 30 rooms, including a private bath area and rooms devoted to wine production. The highlight of the Villa is the huge fresco, considered one of the finest example of ancient art. It adorns the walls of the triclinium and depicts the initiation rights of a young girl into the cult, known as the Dionysiac mysteries. It is likely that this is the room used for initiation.
It really is worth making the trek down the tomb-lined Via Sepolchri to reach the Villa Dei Misteri, which is the most complete structure in Pompeii.
It lies just outside the city, only accessible via the main site entrances and its owner is uncertain. The name derives from the superb wall-paintings in one of the rooms (possibly a triclinium, a dining-room) which seem to show the initiation process of a woman into the cult of Dionysius (or, possibly, before marriage).
It's a very upmarket villa and obviously belonged to someone fairly wealthy. It had its own wine-press, which has been restored (see photos).
Several bodies were found in the excavations, and two of the plaster-casts remain.
The villa was undergoing substantial restoration when I visited (Feb 2009). As with all of Pompeii, restoration is an ongoing process and there is no guarantee that you will be able to visit everywhere you want at the time of your visit.
But if it is open, I do urge you to wander down to the Villa Dei Misteri. It is well worth the effort.
From the main entrance at Pompeii Scavi, once you have gone through the main town gate, continue to the Forum and turn left. Keep walking in that direction and you will eventually come to the Via dei Sepolcri. Pompeii is signed, but not terribly well: make sure you ask for a map when you arrive.
Close to the Sala del Grande Dipinto there it is the wonderful cubiculum with a double alcove in which you can see a fantastic fresco representing isolated figures derived from the Dionysian religion among which you can see the fantastic dancing satyr. Very interesting is also the oecus where you can see a decoration of architectural style .
From the centre of the great fresco inside the Villa of the Mysteries you can see:
- Disclosure of the mysticism "vannus": a knelt youth protects with the hand an object hidden in the basket: the "phallos" emblem of the fertility, close to her there a winged figure lifts a long rod, the woman whipped by the winged demon sheltered herself in the womb of a friend.
- Nude girl dance whirling in prey to the orgiastic exaltation;
- Lavatory of a bride that should get ready herself to the initiation of the mysteries;
- Wrapped woman sat on a chair.
This fresco is the biggest one of the ancient time and the subject of the frescoes is hotly debated among scholar: the most common interpretation of the images is scenes of the initiation of a woman into a special cult of Dionysus, a mystery cult that required specific rites and rituals to become a member.
The Sala del Grande Dipinto (in English, Room of the big fresco) is the most important and most famous room of the villa. Its dimension are five meters for 7 meters and on its wall you can see a wonderful fresco (17*3 meters) made by a local painter in the first century AD. The fresco showing 29 people in natural size on a red background. From left to right you can see:
- Reading of the ritual: a boy reads the prescriptions of the mysteries under the guide of a sat matron, while a mantled woman listens;
- Lustrazione: four women attend to a ceremony;
- Silenus and a boy performer of song;
- A god that nurses a roe;
- Petrified woman that runs away;
- Silenus hands to drink to a boy while another one holds on the head a theatrical mask;
- Dionysos and Arianna;
Villa dei Misteri (in English, Villa of the Mysteries) is the most important suburban villa of Pompeii. It is located outside the town at the end of the necropolis. It was covered with meters of ash and other volcanic material but it sustained only minor damage in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the majority of its walls, ceilings, and most particularly its frescoes survived largely undamaged. The ownership of the Villa is unknown but a bronze seal found in the villa names L. Istacidius Zosimus, a freedman of the powerful Istacidii family and scholars have proposed him as the owner of the villa.
The Villa is named for the wonderful paintings in one room of the residence.
This Villa was the headquarters of the Cult of Dionysus, almost a 'secret society' who's existence was outlawed by Roman law. For this reason the villa was outside the actual city walls. The most impressive part of this villa is the huge fresco depicting the initiation ceremony of an adolescent girl into the cult. The fresco is 17 meters long, covering three entire walls.
There are also two cases of plaster-cast bodies in the villa, and some preserved original Roman wooden doors and window shutters.
The beautiful Villa of Mysteries is located a little bit outside the main part of the city of Pompei. Known as the finest example of a suburban villa and for it's amazing frescos, it is definately a must see.
When I was there this villa was a lovely repreive from the hordes of tourists crowding the streets in the hot sun. It was refreshingly cool inside and perhaps "between tours" because it was mostly empty.
This is one of the most famous building in Pompeii especially for Its hall painted with a magnificent frieze with near life size figures (megalografia) reproducing the initiation scene of a young girl to the mysteries of matrimony according to the precepts of the cult of Dionysus.
Built a short distance outside the walls of Pompeii, the Villa of the Mysteries is a typical example of an elegant house designed for luxurious living .The villa was also employed for the production and sale of wine.
At the servants' section of the Villa, there is this winery room ( torcularium ) where we can see a reconstructed grape press for the production of wine, whith the ram's head trunk ( ariete ).
The juice flowed down a duct into the cellar below, where it was stored in huge terracotta jars (dolia) set into the floor.
A closer look at the Painting of mysteries. There are no less than 28 life-size figures depicted on a podium set against a red background.
In the picture you can see a detail of the painting: a naked boy reading the precepts of the ritual under the watchful eye of the matron or priestess. She has one had on the boy's neck while in the other she holds a rolled parchment.
This is a part of Pompeii that you mustn’t miss: The Villa of Mysteries! It is so beautiful with all its wall paintings! Simply amazing!
Here you can see a picture of 'The painting of Mysteries' in the dining room of the villa. The colours are so vivid, it's amazing to see! The paintings are inspired by a Greek work of the 4th or 3rd century B.C. The fresco is 17 metres long and 3 metres high.
I don't know where they come up with these names, but this was a really nice place to check out. The reason I was tempted to visit the Villa of Mysteries was because I'd heard about this amazing fresco of a dionysian ritual. The fresco was said to date back to some where around 50BC, and it is amazingly well preserved. Now, the Villa itself isn't like a mansion, it's just a normal place with living rooms, bedrooms, gardens, and a few kitchens.
Villa of Mysteries lies a bit outside the city. It is famous for its frescos with figures in life - size around the walls of the salon.