The Path of Illumination

When I hear of Rome, the first thing which pops into my mind is the television series ROME by HBO. It is a superb 2 season series, showing among other things, Julius Caesar’s murder, and Anthony and Cleopatra’s romance. On the other hand, when I hear of Vatican, the first few things which pop into my mind are the fact that Vatican is actually not recognized by UN as a country, the Pope scene from Eurotrip and Dan Brown’s book titled “Angels and Demons”.

Angels and Demons is the story about Christianity and it’s home, The Vatican. The story involves the search for a bomb and 4 cardinals, taken by member of Illuminati to avenge the Church for the crimes they did against the enlightened ones. The first fact I found out about the book was that “Romans do not like the story of Angels and Demons”, and I believe it for obvious reasons (which I do not want to mention here to spoil the book).

And since I was not present-minded enough to prepare early enough, I ended up being in Rome, without know the locations mentioned in the story. Thanks to my sister, and extremely cheap sms rates in Pakistan, I found out the names of the locations, and hence began my own, Angels and Demons tour.

The story begins with the death of the Pope. This is followed by kidnapping of the four favorites for becoming the next Pope before the conclave can begin. The protagonist, Robert, soon figures out that the four cardinals will be killed at four pillars of science along the path of illumination, and so it begins.

Worth mentioning here… There are ALOTTT of churches in Rome, and many of them have Santa Maria in the name.


Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo

The first stop in this regard Santa Maria del Popolo. It it located next to Piazza del Popolo, the people’s square, which features a huge obelisk in the center.

Obelisk have huge importance in the story since in certain “circles” Illuminati are associated with obelisk. The four sides of the obelisk represents the two elements and the four directions, and the pyramid on top represents knowledge. The obelisk secretly represents a one government world for illuminati.

The church itself is very nice, the dome off the church was designed by Rafael, and the church houses many famous paintings such as the “Crucifixion of St. Peter” by Caravaggio. in the Chigi Chapel, it also houses the “Habakkuk and the Angel” by Bernini. It was under the Chigi chapel that Robert found the dead body of the first cardinal, branded with a symbol of Earth.

The Chigi Chapel

Sadly, when I went there, the church was still under renovations and I could not actually look at Bernini’s work. It was the angel in the statue which points towards the next pillar along the path.

As it happens, the next pillar is at the Vatican located around St. Peter’s obelisk. Bernini designed the Saint Peter square in front of the Basilica. Around the obelisk, there are tiles marking the directions and it is one of these marble tiles which is the next pillar.


Theactual tile from the story shows west, but again, the area around the obelisk was covered by Christmas decorations and Christmas tree. It was around this obelisk that another cardinal was found murdered, with “Air” branded on his chest.

And West was the direction to go to find the next pillar. This one is probably the least famous among the four pillars. Santa Maia del Vittoria is located 5 minutes walk north of Republica. It is a small church whose claim to fame is the presence of Bernini’s sculpture, “The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa” which is present here.

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa

The sculpture shows an angel with a spear about to stab Saint Theresa. The point of the spear marks the location to the next pillar along the path. In the story, this church is the center of a lot of action, the epicenter of which is a cardinal hanging in the middle of the church being burned alive, having the fire branded on his chest. To save himself from the assassin, Robert has to take cover beneath a sarcophagus. It is worth mentioning that in the novel, the location of the church is near Bernini square, which is not correct.

The last pillar along the path of illumination is the obelisk located on the Piazza Navona. Surrounded by two sides by North and South by fountains which contain Bernini’s sculptures. I was once again unfortunate to find the fountain around the obelisk under renovations. You can see the obelisk on the left side of the following picture.The Fountain of Four Rivers

Named, “The Fountain of Four Rivers”, it was found by Robert after he realized that the four pillars form a cross. I assumed it would be a christian cross, but in fact the four pillars form an x. This would explain the need to move the fire church to Piazza Bernini. It is here that Robert finally faces the assassin, in a struggle which leaves him drowning in water along with the last cardinal. At this stage, (I do not remember the book, but in the movie) people come to rescue and manage to save Robert and the cardinal. The cardinal tells Robert the place where he was held captive, the place also known as the Church of Illumination: Castel Sant’Angelo.

This is the last stop in the path to illumination. The final destination.

Now a museum, this place was originally built as a mausoleum for a Roman emperor, but has also been used as an escape route by Popes in history. The building is connected to the Basilica through an aqua-duct which acts as a passage way in case of emergencies.

Castel Sant’Angelo

What follows is one of my least favorite part of the book, till the point where the Camerlengo figures out where the bomb is located.

The Camerlengo runs down this corridor, through the gate to the basement and what lies beneath, to find the bomb. This area is also featured later when the Camerlengo kills himself.

Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg

And There you go… my version of the Angels and Demons tour. I am sure if there is a professional service which offers the tour, it would be much better, but then again… my knowledge is for free… 🙂

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5 Responses to The Path of Illumination

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