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Giovanni Battista Belzoni Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Giovanni Battista Belzoni passes away in 1823.

Giovanni Battista Belzoni was an Italian explorer and pioneer archaeologist.

Belzoni was born on November 5th, 1778 in the Padua, Italy. His family moved to Rome where his father’s family was originally from. At the age of 16 Belzoni was forced to flee Rome due to the French occupation of the city.

After fleeing Rome, Belzoni moved to the Netherlands and took up his father’s trade of being a barber. In 1803 he was forced to flee the Netherlands under the possibility of being jailed.

Once in England Belzoni married a Englishwoman, Sarah Bane, and the two traveled around England while Belzoni performed as a strongman. He also had an interest in phantasmagoria, the use of lamps in projecting frightening images on to walls and other surfaces.

In 1812, Belzoni departed England and went on a tour of Europe. He went to Malta where he met Muhammed Ali, general and leader in the Ottoman Empire and who was in charge of Egypt at the time. Belzoni, who had studied hydraulics when he was younger, showed Ali his invention which would help to lift water from the Nile. Ali was extremely interested in Belzoni’s invention due to his program of land reclamation project in Egypt. Belzoni’s invention was never used.

Belzoni remained in Egypt after showing his invention and began exploring and making archeological discoveries. His biggest discovery, which some may is a literal statement, was his discovery of the colossal bust of Ramses II. Belzoni painstakingly uncovered the bust and then with the assistance of 130 men moved the bust to the Nile where it was loaded on a ship to be transported to the British Museum. Moving the bust took 17 days, on many of those days they moved the bust only hundreds of yards at a time.

Belzoni also investigated the great temple of Edfu, made investigations at Karnak and identified the ruins of Berenice on the Red Sea. He was also the first person to penetrate the second pyramid at Giza.

Belzoni also discovered the tomb of Seti I, which is still referred to as “Belzoni’s Tomb.” When Belzoni traveled back to England he made a model of the tomb of Seti I displayed in Piccadilly, London, England and to Paris, France.

Belzoni went on another exploration to West Africa. He was denied passage through Morocco and while he was making alternative travel arrangements he was struck with dysentery on December 3rd, 1823. Although at least one other explorer of the time claimed that Belzoni was attacked and robbed.

After his passing Belzoni’s wife published his drawings of the royal tombs of Thebes.

Belzoni’s masonic affiliation is largely anecdotal. It is state in 1821 that “Mr. Belzoni, the celebrated traveler and discoverer of Egyptian antiquities, visited Norwich; he stayed with Jeremiah Ives, Esquire, of St. Catherine's Hill; previous to his departure he received the high masonic degree of Knight Templar."

After his passing Belzoni’s wife sought assistance from the Lodge of Emulation in 1825. In the records of the request Belzoni is referred to as Brother Belzoni. Bedford Lodge No. 183 also contributed to Belzoni’s wife relief.