It is May 20, 1951. The place is Cementerio Central in Montevideo, Uruguay Tomorrow the dig for a great treasure begins here.
X marks the spot where the first pick ax will break through the tiles, then cement, beside the Pantheon Nationale wherein Uruguay’s national heroes are buried. The principals are Clara Massilotti, the representative claimant for her family in the U.S., Italy and the U.K. to this treasure, and members of the Intendencia, the officials who, according to chosen law will take one half of the treasure for the city of Montevideo.
X marks the spot where the digging will begin. (News photo top left) But it is not where the treasure is buried and Clara and the City know this, each in their own way at the beginning. X can better be considered the marker on a dance floor, where Clara and the Intendencia will begin a dance to a rising chorus of expectation of buried treasure, which fills a city, then fast fills a subcontinent and reverberates in large parts around the world. Remarkably never a step is missed or any time lost, for the fact that this treasure constitutes a major theft from the strongholds of Rome and the Vatican in the early 19th Century. Two digs under the national cemetery failed to produce the treasure and the reader may wonder at the claim. Yet the key figure to this story inventoried the treasure (List) in a diary that was later published, and ex., a once-lost sketch by Michelangelo of Pope Julius II has not turned up. "We have it" said the man who you will meet. Clara arrived in Montevideo in 1950 and said the treasure belonged to her, and she would share it with Montevideo under the law of treasure trove. Soon then the digs began. She became an instant celebrity. The digging, dreaming, scheming and groundswell of publicity around Clara and the buried treasure would continue for 30 years both with, and without her presence there, and then remarkably, it dwindled with her death after 1980. At news photo to left, she stated the treasure was worth $5 M in 1955.
The Italian press maintains two story threads regarding the treasure. The stolen treasure was sent with the Carbonari revolutionaries to Montevideo to fund the War of Liberation there, and some of it returned with General Garibaldi to Italy to fund his fight for the Reunification of Italy. The other story thread, equally maintained is that the treasure was given as a compensation to a displaced nephew in the New World and was buried in Montevideo within the old tunnels. Uniquely the treasure booty came from a single source, an excommunicated Cardinal who took years in this work before handing it off to his selected ones. The displaced nephew had the greater control over burial and maintenance of the treasure, as is evidenced. He took the name Michele Masilotti from his adoptive parents in Italy. It appears that all roads lead back to Rome, if this treasure is ever dug up or found.
Clara is my great aunt. My grandmother, Clara’s sister Laura, and my parents who are Laura’s family were a vital part of Clara’s support team in all those years. My Name is Susan Sawicki. ( Contacts )
As a result of Clara’s digging, Montevideans found the tunnels, as she’d told them. The tunnels hadn’t been used since Clara’s grandfather and great-grandfather was there roughly at the time of the Montevidean War of Liberation. The city had forgotten about these tunnels, and Clara “discovered” them again in the course of her Digs, based on the historical family documents pertaining to the treasure, which she brought there. She instantly became a folk hero to the Montevideans.
In 1846 in Italy, I was given the documentation and
the diagram of the ancient system of defense of
Montevideo and of its tunnels.
Diary of Michele Masilotti
Michele and his natural father, had come from Italy to the “Oriental Republic of Uruguay” to bury a treasure in or around 1833. The story is, a high treasure left
Italy at that time, in the same way much other wealth was removed, ostensibly to protect same from the French incursions. The son Michele stayed in Uruguay to join the great General Garibaldi, also from Italy, in the fight for the establishment of a (free) Republic in Uruguay, the War of Liberation, and then followed Garibaldi back to Italy to fight for the Unification. Michele’s Diary covers Garibaldi’s 19th Century battles in Italy and Uruguay and is quite valuable currently—it could have brought 1m at London Sotheby auction in 1970. And about the treasure? More on that as we come to it.
Next was discovered, the diagrams and inscriptions on a basement and tunnel walls, which matched the documents she brought there. She is seen here underneath the Pantheon of the Eight Martyrs, where the walls bear her family's inscriptions. Now the world was interested. Here was her fame, and here also was her failure in finding the treasure.
The city’s historical records of the original (earlier) Cemetery were lacking. Rather their civil archives, where they looked first, were lacking and it took years to re-pattern their searches (publicly at least) to military archives and other sources for history on the cemetery in the times of their wars, which would conform to Clara’s maps and documents, and with which she could locate the treasure. These people, a long time ago had opened up their line of defense right in the graveyard, and then forgot about it.
It is the choreography on the ground. It is always the choreography on the cemetery ground that is to be watched; also motive and the apparent indecision on part of the parties. You never knew where they ended up, in each of two digs of the 1950s, and this despite Clara’s good maps, and the City as rumored to have very good information of their own as time progressed. She thought she’d have the advantage once the ground was broken open and they were down inside—that she could direct or redirect the digging in the direction she’d originally or even covertly intended. But she couldn’t. Twice they stopped her, at point where prospect of treasure appeared, I’m told. Fifteen years lapsed between 2nd Dig and 3rd attempt, which time was used in expense, study and planning with the aid of Mr. Anselmo and team (see below). I’m told the papers always carried cartoons of Clara, and where there’s a cartoon, there is content. ( Clara’s publicity )There was Sra. Valdez, who dug alongside Clara for her own purported treasure whenever she could get permission, and when Clara was absent Valdez’ activities made the news, which over the years, served inversely, to insulate Clara’s claim. The news caught
Valdez with others digging at night. It’s said that with Valdez, was the Church, i.e., searching.
By the 1970s Clara and the family had reached the apogee of their quest, as my mother wrote. A 3rd Dig was planned and success was assured. The world’s TV crews were waiting for a date, when Luis Alfonso Anselmo, radiestesista and Director of the Dig, (sitting at rear left to table) and his excavation team, one of which men had been with Clara since the 1st Dig (sitting center front), would bring the treasure up out of the ground. But this was fated not to happen. The Dig never took place. Clara’s attorney of 20 years there died. His death was a murder as sources tell ( fn ), whereafter Clara had a stroke from which she never recovered. No one else in the family could then fill her shoes. Uruguay announced that everything brought up from the ground there, belonged to Uruguay. The family countered that it would now go under the laws of heredity, and take everything. A trip to the World Court in Hague was proposed. The World Court could mediate these overarching claims, and this was the best reason to go. But the family’s resources were used up in every respect. To fight these claims would prove a loss. Now then the Masilottis’ hotel and plane fares for the 3rd Dig would be paid by another, for the first time in their 20 years there. To be without money in
South America, or even bear the appearance of same leaves one “very vulnerable” as Clara had told us. Women in the family would have gone to the Dig, as the women almost exclusively, had done in the past. No male head of family in Clara’s time ever went. Why? This is a climactic element to the story which reached its head then. Why the women? This serves to focus mystery upon the family itself, where it belongs, and upon those who buried this treasure. More on that subject below. And it was within this timely element, that we the family lost the services of, and collaboration with Mr. Anselmo, which (in my opinion) was the single most devastating blow to us.
The treasure hunt was over then. No one of us returned there. But rumors of digging by others surfaced over the years, and this encompassed urban guerillas, international cartels, and all the rogues in government. And some of these reportedly made their way through Clara’s deceased attorneys’ office, reputedly into the replacement attorney’s files, into the safe, and into the widow’s home. The urban guerillas (Tupemaros) were looking for something, and why not? They were rumored to have engineers and architects among them. This sideshow fleshed out Mr. Anselmo’s prior warnings to the family, down to fingerprints. And still, publicity contracts were jealously vied for among attorneys and newpeople there, each trying to attract the ailing Clara, then Laura for some long years, into a binding signature and this continued until Clara died in 1980. Then somewhat mysteriously, it faded.
Paul Masilotti’s family contributed largely to the work in all those years. ( Contributors and Beneficiaries . . . ) I’m not at liberty to discuss it without their permission, and more information. Yet Paul himself never made a personal appearance in Montevideo, that I’m aware of. Why?
What is so odd here? One iconic woman and a small city officialdom, in reputed contest over a great treasure to be split two ways. These were the parties to the treasure in 1952, when this picture was taken. Is there such a treasure under the ground there? It’s a matter of belief. The son taking part in burying the treasure long ago, submits in his memoirs which are not confined to the family and are later published, that there’s an original Michelangelo sketch down there, that there are priceless national legacies and treasures of art hoarded from Italy, and Spain and Peru via Italy, and enough gold in one form or another to float a small national debt (my wording). ( List )
What do you believe? Do you believe Michele Masilotti, when he tells us the ground there is laden heavy with treasure? This is the important question.
I believe it, and will tell you why. This isn’t easy. I begin by quoting Michele Masilotti from his somewhat famous Diary. He tells General Garibaldi that he envies him:
How wonderful to know your parents and live with them from infancy. Though I knew my father,
both [he and my mother] are now as myths to me. Following the prevalent custom, they must
not have loved each other, and I should not have been born.
If he couldn’t have his parents, he could be a part of this treasure, and he needed the world to know it. He was born of a native South American woman and an Italian man. By Italian law, he could not belong to his father, and his mother died in childbirth. He was presented in Italy to friends of the father who “at risk” cared for him as their own. This foster family, were our ancestors. The foster mother gave milk to her own newborn and to Michele. Michele’s “milk brother” grew into his “alter ego” and it is from this man, we are descended. Yes, Michele’s life was orchestrated pain and this comes through in the ‘pauses’ and ‘empty notes’ if you go through his short story. He had no blood descendants. He was, and wasn’t a Masilotti. Transition toward adulthood was the most painful of all, made more poignant for the ease of his childhood. Everyone close to him as a child doted upon him it appears. Michele’s natural father paid expensively for the child’s tutoring, which tutoring will be evidenced later in the somewhat famous Diary which covers the Garibaldi wars, and some of the documentation to the treasure. Michele later would become Garibaldi’s emissary to Garibaldi’s writer Dumas.
He went out to search for his natural father, while not yet out of his teens. He found his father, and more; for within that family was an ex-communicated Cardinal and a treasure ready to be secreted out of Italy to South America. He and the father brought the treasure to Montevideo and buried it there. The father returned to
Italy, and Michele stayed back. The treasure now belonged to Michele in its entirety, given from father to son. The father called it a patrimony to his descendants. For years thereafter, there is a veil of silence except for what he himself tells us in his Diary, as he records his allegiance to Garibaldi warring first in Uruguay, then in Italy. We infer contradictions; ie. he calls himself an anonymous traveler, yet he lives publicly ie. as Garibaldi’s emissary to the writer Dumas. Who does he tell of the treasure? Is any of it in the Diary? This is an odd thing, that some people read the Diary and see treasure, and some see no treasure.
In Italy Michele returns to his milk brother, his alter ego, the Masilotti as a middle aged man. This man dies, and Michele adopts his son, Angelo Raffaele Masilotti who is to become Clara’s father ( Contributors and Beneficiaries . . . ). Yes, apparently a grown man, or a 17 year old I don’t know the age, was adopted and in this instance, the father is granted the surname. We do know that two grown men went together into South America maybe in the 1870s, and they entered South America as the father and son Masilotti. The whole matter of the treasure was entrusted to Angelo Raffaele. There was much work to be done. The Cemetary had been rebuilt since the treasure was buried, the old markers to the location of the treasure had been obliterated, and new markers and signs had to be cleverly worked into the new structures and spaces there. Why? For whom? Michele told Angelo Raffaele it was intended for him and his descendants. Here was a man similar to him in education, and early upbringing, but now only the one man had a country and decendants of his own. Michele was an embittered man and it is fair guess that this story could have taken a new or a hidden turn. Michele entrusted Angelo Raffaele with the work. Underneath the Tomb of the Eight Martyrs, basement and tunnels walls were etched upon. Michele and Angelo Raffaele’s maps are a pleasure to look at, and full of lost art to be pointed out, ex. geometry you can use, the navigational skill of computing a land point against sea level, and the extraordinary hand printing in India ink. These documents were handed down among us.
A large double headed fish is etched into a tunnel wall. This is an Indian symbol for great treasure, (hence the double head) common to all land regions there from Uruguay, to Peru. Clara's niece, Nina Sawicki dreamed of the crossed fishes soon before it was found during the 2nd dig. The family treated this as a prophetic dream and was used to reinforce to we children the idea that the whole treasure story itself was dreamed up. Apparently the crossed fish were not in the documents handed down. Many years later as I, Susan, read through the documents I discovered reference to the double headed fish in Clara's letters. Clara had written to us that the word "tesoro" (treasure) is written in among the skeletal features of the fish in a cryptic manner. This tunnel then, had become a death trap.
See Angelo Raffaele as photographed alone, as he brings his family into the United States
( Contributors and Beneficiaries . . . ). What’s in that trunk on his shoulder? As you guess, it’s not a treasure. He appears very good natured about it all. But in fact he didn’t want to come into the United States; he did this to satisfy his wife. His passport states he worked as a piano & organ player, and this is the type of information our Italian writer-to-be can appreciate. He’d wanted the family to stay in Italy, in the wife’s home town of Senerchia (near Naples), and he’d travel to South America, to Uruguay, for the treasure. In his travels to Uruguay over the years, he was arrested and shot at, and he spent much time working under the cemetery grounds at risk of harm. A gunshot to the hip while in the cemetery, during a war, ended his time there.
Next, daughter Clara would be chosen to pursue the treasure. Here is where hubris enters the story, it could be said. Clara claimed the treasure was all for her. What she meant of course is, she was the best one to find and divide it. Or maybe Clara meant instead, that the story of the treasure would revolve around her, and the story itself, was a great one. Clara was ahead of her time in the 1950s, in knowing even her limited celebrity status commanded film profits in what is now the legal “right of publicity.” She knew she had the right to profit from her public image when she was filmed, and those films were sold for profit. She won her court cases in Uruguay. Clara was a woman of extraordinary gifts, and not all of these welcome ones. The truth is, I don’t know what she meant by her statement, “it’s all for [her]”. Yet there is someone, or ones, who do know why she is central to this treasure story.
God Guards Her
Someone enscribed upon the wall of the Pantheon of the Eight Martyrs, in Arabic,
the words as follows:
“God guards her, and God guards this affair.”
(Enscribed in Arabic, on Pantheon of the Eight Martyrs)
The Pantheon was erected by 1868, which is too recent to carry any personal history other than hers. The Arabic inscription might have been placed there by an Iranian in the 1950's when Clara was there and when Montevideo was filled with the news of Iranian oil and unrest, and there was other more portentious news of that time. The inscription was discovered by us in the 1950's. But back to Clara. The word “affair”, translates in Italian to her Italian name Assunta. Emphatically the message is for her.
What could this mean? It is an enigmatic message—we can begin with this much. God has intervened in our affairs, certain things will happen, and a story will be told. A story needs a hero, or a protagonist at least. Clara isn’t a hero, except to her family, but this may be relevant. Michele isn’t referenced. So, for God’s purpose in this story, neither Michele’s bravery, nor his tragedy which is epic, is a singular element. God is not here this time, for the downtrodden or worldly afflicted. And too, God doesn’t need a treasure. So where does this story lead to but a dead end?
First we are told I think, this God is not a Judeo-Christian God. Next thing of note, we know that this God, by outward appearance does not ordinarily intervene in our affairs or make things happen. Yet he, or it, is posturing a message to the West, where God regularly goes on tour. This might be an extremely important message. It might be a forewarning of a future event.
Is God acting here to protect a nation? Likely yes, yet more specifically a people. And why Clara? All of this might make sense, from where stands an Iranian. If we skip over the talk of Nation States and blood lines we get to the message. It has to do with the Israeli threats to bomb Iran, I would imagine.
And why me? Our family record of the Arabic inscription was buried away from all sight until 2007, alog with other records of the treasure. We children were not told of things. We were not told the treasure was real, nor of Michele, nor the full extent of the fame. I brought the records down from an attic in 2007 and got a great surprise. I sorted most of the material, and put up this website in 2008.
The din and cry, for war upon Iran kept me up some nights in my bed. It was 2008, Bush's last year in office and the crisis had intensified. Iran had to be prevented from making a nuclear weapon from our of its domestic nuclear stockpiles, and war was the way to do it. The Bush camp wanted war it seemed, but this caused the defection of our top US military commander Fallon. The urgency of now for war, was espoused in the media of Jews of every public stripe, and they might not wait for the US or NATO, but Isreal would act upon it's own and bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. But protected US airspace might be used as access. It was said then by former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, Isreal might have been planning an attack for after the US presidential election in November, but before the inauguration of the next president in January -- "too late to be accused of influencing the election and before needing a new president's green ight." (quoting from the Economist) Obama was not to provide that green light then, or now. Israel's opportunistic bomb threat in 2008 was a unique and painful vignette in human history, and not to be forgotten or it could repeat itself.
See news reported in 2008, "Iran: Is Israel preparing to attack?" (UK time,June 2008)
www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/worldtonight/2008/06/iran is israel preparing to at.html
An Italian writer is needed, to write the story of the Treasure of the Masilotti. We’ve been told we need a Neopolitan writer, because Clara was the quintisential Neopolitan. Her mother’s town of Senerchia, near Naples, in fact, is what she considered as her Italian origin -- despite the Massilotti's being in Salerno. We’ve also heard, more than once that “only a Bocaccio . . . [could write this] .“ Now that I’ve presented to you the idea of what is needed—the best writer for Clara must contact me and tell me how this book might be written. ( Contacts ) Here you have one extraordinary affair to write about, which is emblematic of a people and a time. And perhaps next time, the treasure.
Michele Masilotti Describes the Treasure
“The world believes that the outline by Michelangelo of a statue of a famous Pope which had been broken and converted into a canon, had disappeared, but we know it exists, because we have it.” (Memoirs of Michele Masilotti)
Inventory of Treasure
Original sketch (“outline”) by Michelangelo of a famous statue of Pope
Julius II which was destroyed to remake into a canon
Sculptures from classical Greek and Roman copies
Rolled rich cloth fabrics of art, well preserved and protected in urns, from
Innumerable bullion bars, coins, jewels, crowns, chalices, and vessels of
gold, as well as plates and receptacles, parchments and documents.
[From Spain originally:]
Original writings of the Spaniard Francisco de Vargas of 1521, Spain ’s greatest
Classical scholar, those of Juan de Valdez of the Alcala University, those
of Father Jose de Acosta, and those of Padre Blas Valerce (sp?) which was saved
from the sack & destruction of the city of Cadiz in 1596. Also the writings of
Antonio Perez, Secretary of State to Philip II in 1571 against Philip and the
[From Peru originally:]
Casks filled with gold and silver cups
Embossed gold plate (s)(?)
Several 6” high sacrificial figurines of gold
Funerary gloves in 18 karat gold with fingers & nails like human hands to wrist,
and each glove consists of 7 parts and weighs 6 2/3 oz.
Fish in 18 karat gold, 18” long
Sacrificial bowls in shape of fish – gold
Figurine of a lama in gold
Fn/ Clara’s closest reporter in Montevideo for 30 years, was Umberto “the Surgeon” Dolce, “a classic figure in police journalism” as dubbed by his peers. The treasure became his second journalistic passion. He told the family that when Clara’s attorney died in 1971, that there was a suspicion the attorney had been murdered.
© Susan Sawicki