Our story has many beginnings, but let’s starts from 1880, when the Director of the German Institute of Archaeology in Berlin received the most fantastic telegram. It was from the German scholar and archaeologist Carl Humann, excitedly telling his colleagues in Berlin that whilst excavating around Pergamum, ”one of the wonders of the world”, built by King Attalos 1st, in the Second Century BC, on the Aegean coast of Turkey, he had unearthed significant parts of the frieze belonging to the ancient, gigantic altar of Zeus!
Little did Carl Humann know that one piece from the Pergamum site, a stone head and torso, from the same magnificent frieze depicting the Altar of Zeus, had already found its way, across lands and seas, to far away England, at Fawley Court, Henley on Thames, some two hundred years earlier !
Carl Humman’s discovery of this whole new area of antiquity bubbles within him to the point of scholarly ecstasy. He exclaims in his telegram; ”We have uncovered an
entire epoch of art. We have in our hands the largest single remaining example of art from (Hellenic) antiquity”.
Humann had every reason to be ecstatic for, as Kazimierz Michałowski explains in his book ”Jak Grecy tworzyli sztukę” (”How the Greeks created Art”, 1970), the German scholar had not only uncovered a new important era of antiquity, but with it an enormous enrichment and understanding of the principles of Hellenic art.
Michałowski writes; ”To grasp fully Humann’s exhilaration, one must understand that the (re-) discovery of Pergamum’s great altar of Zeus filled an hitherto cultural void, offering a great, new insight, into the Hellenic concept of art, and the importance to it of architectural and sculptural form, design, and aesthetics.” The Ancient Greeks valued beauty in art above all else, relying on “living nature” as their mentor. These guiding principles govern Western (European) art to this day, adds Michałowski.
A small, but dramatic and significant part of that Ancient Greek art, originating in Pergamum, Asia Minor, over twenty two centuries ago, rested at Fawley Court for two and a half centuries!
The arrival ( in 1719), of the stone torso Fallen Giant from Pergamum’s Zeus Altar to Fawley Court, (via Arundel and Cupid’s Garden, Lambeth 1627-1719), and then its ‘departure’ from Fawley Court (1971/2) to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, (1972-2005?) is at once a gripping adventure story, and somewhat unsavoury affair.
The history of the Fallen Giant starts innocently enough in 200 BC, at Pergamum, on the Aegean coast of Turkey, where it is part of the masterpiece of the Altar of Zeus. This sacred area of antiquity was virtually razed to the ground, being regularly subjected to plundering and looting for many centuries. Pergamum itself was an astonishing city built by Attalos 1 (241-197 BC). Its unrivalled library numbered some 400,000 volumes, all in the famous Pergamum parchment.
The Fallen Giant survived intact from 200 BC till AD 1625, when along came the young English Chaplain William Petty, in the pay of Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel, and helped himself to a substantial haul from the 400ft long frieze, and 7ft high figures making up the Altar of Zeus.
Petty, in competition with Arundel’s hated rival ‘collector’ the Duke of Buckingham tried to sneak out his loot – in fact it included two marble giants from the Zeus frieze – by boat, but was shipwrecked in the Turkish straits of Samos. All of his stone cargo from antiquity quickly found the bottom of the sea. Undettered, Petty swam ashore, managed to wriggle his way out of a charge of spying (he’d lost his papers), and promptly salvaged his marble treasures with the help of skilled divers.
After two years of hustling on the continent, Petty finally arrived at Arundel House in 1627, with the marble Zeus frieze figures for the 2nd Earl of Arundel. By the 1630s Arundel’s collection of 37 statues, 128 busts, 250 inscriptions and many other artefacts hugely impressed the Royal Court (he was King James 1’s, Earl Marshall).
Arundel’s collection was regarded as the precursor to the British Museum (echoes of the Elgin marbles one quickly hears…).
Arundel’s collection did not last long, and was dissipated not by the ensuing Civil War, but by his philistine grandson Henry Thomas. The diarist John Evelyn was shocked at the dissipation of Arundel’s museum and collection. Suffice it to say that by 1677 much of the collection got sold off, was destroyed, or buried in the grounds of Arundel House, or dumped on waste ground at Kennington!
Some of the collection managed to find its way to Cupid’s gardens in a pleasure ground on Lambeth Embankment. In 1719 the Pergamum giants were spotted by John Freeman, and Edmund Waller, having been exhibited there by Cuper, Arundel’s family servant.
The giants were purchased for £75, with Freeman taking the Fallen Giant that we now know, to Fawley Court.
We have Denys Haynes, the one-time Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum to thank, when in 1963 he embarked on a voyage of tenacious academic detective work to piece together Pergamum’s Altar of Zeus, which had been regularly plundered over the centuries, and scattered worldwide. The main part of the Altar of Zeus had by now been reassembled in Berlin, thanks largely to the scholarly initiative of Carl Humann himself. However, some integral parts of the Zeus Altar were still missing.
By May 1971, Haynes’s adroit detective work and searches, eventually led him to Fawley Court where he had tracked down one of these integral parts. The Fallen Giant, stone head and torso from the Altar of Zeus, Pergamum was, he found, crudely embedded in a circular niche above the entrance to Freeman’s Folly, that strange flint, Gothic Grade II protected building in Fawley Court’s Capability Brown gardens. When informed of this remarkable discovery, its extraordinary history, and connection with Thomas Howard, the 2nd Earl of Arundel (as mentioned earlier, Arundel had ‘purchased’ the Fallen Giant in 1627, through the clergy, namely the young Chaplain William Petty, who had “removed it” from the Altar of Zeus in 1625), the then mere custodians of Fawley Court (the Marian Clergy Trustees), had this masterpiece of Greek antiquity shoddily removed, only for it; ”…to remain on the floor of the ‘chapel porch’ where it was ‘stored’ for the time being.”
In fact, not long after, it was regrouped on temporary loan, with much of Arundel’s collection at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
It would appear that the Marians were already at loggerheads in May 1971 with other parties’ over the legitimate ownership of the Fallen Giant. Newspaper reports of the day speak of it being; ”…discovered in the garden of Fawley Court, now a Polish Catholic Boys School. The Poles have not yet decided what to do with their unexpected treasure.”
There was also a suggestion by Denys Haynes that the ”fallen giant” be reconciled with the original Altar of Zeus frieze at the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. But the ”Polish Catholics” were,”not so sure about that”, adding, ”we have not yet made up our minds”.
Well, fourteen years later (!), they had finally ‘made up their minds’.
On 10 December 1985, Christie’s (it is unclear on whose instructions), auctioned off not only the prized stone head and torso of the Fallen Giant from the Altar of Zeus, Pergamum, but offered in the same sale many precious items from the Father Joseph Jarzembowski Museum at Fawley Court, which quite incredulously included the statue of Commodus (catalogue description; ”…bust of an Antonine Prince, probably of Annius Verus”). Readers should refer to the museum photograph, circa 1961 of Father Joseph pictured with the same said statue of Commodus; cf. Nowy Czas, 16-29 January 2010.
Other Fawley Court, Father Joseph Jarzembowski Museum lots (twenty in all), in the same Christie’s sale included the 18th century Italian/French busts of; Antinous (lot 247) and Mercury (Lot 248).
On closer inspection things do not seem right. But in the absence of an authoritative inventory, and name(s) of the instructing party, the provenance of some of the Fawley Court items offered in the Christie’s auction of 10 December 1985, looks nebulous, and has to be the subject of further objective investigation. Clearly, no blame is being attached to Christie’s.
What we do now know however is that the precious (beloved by Father Joseph) Commodus bust was unsold at the first Christies auction (10 December 1985), but realised the price of £105,600 at Christie’s on 18 October 2005!
Where is this money? Who bought it? And again, where is Commodus?
The background to the remaining nineteen lots is unclear. Christie’s catalogue is a little vague on the actual provenance, e.g. lots 251, and 252 both marble fragments of a ”thigh”, the first ”Roman, circa 2nd Century AD,” and the second, ”Greek, 5th Century BC”, are both described as ”presumed Arundel.” The catalogue front page title says; ”The Arundel Marbles and other Sculpture from Fawley Court”.
All one can say is Caveat Emptor – buyer beware!
As pupils of Divine Mercy College many of us viewed Freeman’s Folly, known also as The Temple, with a peculiar mixture of mirth, dread, and suspicion. Was it really haunted? Were there ever satanic sacrifices or rituals? What really went on here down the ages? Does the place need exorcising…?
Whilst it was a venue for much horseplay, and pranks, we would clamber all over it, Freeman’s Folly could sometimes send quite a chill down the spine, if only because of the bone-like vertebrae which adorn the inner dome/temple. John Freeman owned Fawley Court prior to the Mackenzies, and rumour had it that he had been a satanist. The menacing looking ‘vertebrae’ which taper upwards like a lined garland, were said to be a combination of human and animal sacrifices, – the remnants of past rituals. We often ghoulishly wondered, our imagination running away with us, what else was embedded in the walls of this folly…?
Well, to learn many years later that the circular niche above the gothic entrance, (see photo), contained for two and half centuries the contorted stone head and torso of the Fallen Giant from Pergamum’s Altar of Zeus and thus antiquity, does not come as that much of a surprise, this being Fawley Court after all, where there are mysteries aplenty.
Fathers A. Janicki, and his friend Father Głażewski (two mystic priests who loved Fawley Court), must be looking on happily from above, with bemused intrigue.
For example what in heaven’s name possessed John Freeman to ‘lock’ this poor stone ‘dead soul’ upside down in the circular niche in the first place… and for such a long time? Are there similar ancient stone souls or artefacts buried or disguised in the grounds of Fawley Court? There were at Arundel!!! Is it not curious, if not ominous that the Marians solicited funds for “living stones” for the Apostolate Centre (at Fawley Court) …still waiting to be built. Who dreamt that one up? And so the sorry saga goes on. It seems Fawley Court has attracted more than its fair share of bad spirits, and badly needs cleansing.
The Bishop of Northampton, whilst busy making untimely ‘deconsecrations’, should consider a few timely exorcisms at Fawley Court. The Pope’s and the Vatican’s own trusted, busy, but highly experienced, expert Exorcist is Father “Don” Gabriele Amorth. He has a law degree, fought for the Resistance in the 2nd World war, and is the author of “Memorie di Un Esorcista”/ ”Memoirs of an Exorcist”. Although 85, and frail but strong-willed he is still honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists – he would readily help.
Finally, it is clear that our Greek Fallen Giant needs finding, and rescuing! We last had sight of him as Lot 258 at Christie’s auction on 10 December 1985, when he was unsold.
This unique stone head and torso, has already been parted for eighteen centuries (!) from his original home, the masterpiece Altar of Zeus (200 BC), at Pergamum. He has now been needlessly parted from Fawley Court, his home of two and a half centuries. Our Giant is clearly even more valuable than Commodus, both materially, culturally and spiritually. We now know that Commodus was in fact sold on 18 October 2005 at Christie’s for £105,600 by a private collector!
What than is our Fallen Giant worth? In truth, and all honour, we must remember that his true worth and value is actually to the people of Pergamum, Turkish or Greek,
and that today’s Bergama, West Turkey, is where he truly originally belongs… but if
we are allowed to keep him, so be it.
The above, Fawley Court, is the sorry and woeful tale of the systematic despoliation of a unique Polish Catholic country house. Its school, museum, chapels, Father Joseph’s eternal grave, public grounds, and unique spiritual retreat, all brimming with potential, only to be mindlessly plundered, cut off in its prime, and razed to the ground just like Pergamum…
Only this time there are very many heroes around who can do something about it now!
Chairman, Fawley Court Old Boys
P.S. Big thanks to Jan Łada, a Fawley Old Boy, for his marvellous input to the above article.