Water Cults on Soratte Mount


  • Laura Ottini Department of Molecular Medicine, “Sapienza” University of Rome
  • Mario Falchetti Department of Molecular Medicine, “Sapienza” University of Rome


Water Worship, Mount Soratte, Karst caves, Breast feeding, Walk of spring water


Mount Soratte is a limestone ridge that rises on a lonely plateau of Pliocene tuff on the right of the Tiber, about forty kilometers North of Rome. Studies related to human settlements during prehistory in this territory have been sporadic and occasional. The first evidence of prehistoric cults on mount Soratte has been found in the early Fifties when a jar, dating back to Neolithic times, was discovered in the cave of the Meri. The jar was placed in a position to be always filled of water and indicates the existence of ancient practices of worship linked to groundwater. In the Middle Ages, although caves became a step towards the Hell, dripping caves were often associated with the magical-religious and therapeutic aspects of water linked to fertility in the popular imagination. In the cave church of the Saint Romana, on the eastern slope of Mount Soratte close to Meri, there is a small marble basin near the altar and the water drips from the rock above it. This water is taken out for devotion and drunk by mothers who did not get milk from their breasts. Recently, the water of the Saint Romana would have drained as a result of an act of sacrilege, albeit unintentionally, as reported in a oral testimony. Overall, the territory of Mount Soratte is characterized by a sharp and clear karst. This causes the water, that collects on the inside, coming out in many springs all around the valley. This water is collected to supply fountains used years ago by farmers and livestock and nowadays may represent acultural space of social life with the aim to build a strong link with the territory and a new awareness of the past and history of the countryside around Mount Soratte.