When talking to people who have little knowledge of Masonry, the darker mythology of the New World Order and modern Illuminati groups soon emerge in the conversation. Within this usual swirl of dark modern myths there is an actual historical incident that more than likely also surfaces in conversations, that of the murder of Italian banker Roberto Calvi. Calvi was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982, with a length of rope woven into a lover’s knot around his neck, he was weighed down by bricks and found with £15,000 in cash in his pockets. Calvi was also a member of the infamous P2 lodge (The Guardian, 2003).
The Italian based P2 lodge or Propaganda Due, is perhaps the most controversial of modern Masonic stories. A lodge that emerged in 1966 headed by Licio Gelli as its Venerable Master, being vehemently anti-Communist with an ultra-right political agenda. It has even been referred to as a shadow government, and though this view may be exaggerating their power, they did, as we shall see, have an influence on the Italian political landscape. Though the lodge had emerged in 1966, it actually had a deeper history. Propaganda Massonica was founded in 1877, in Turin, the lodge being frequented by politicians and government officials from across Italy who were unable to attend their own lodges, brethren that also included members of the Piedmont nobility. Freemasonry was subsequently outlawed under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, but experienced a rebirth after World War II with encouragement from the USA. However, the lodge’s early ethos of free-thinking during the period of Italian unification was to transform into outright anti-communism during its later incarnation. The name was changed to Propaganda Due following World War II, when the Grand Orient of Italy numbered its lodges. By the early 1960s however, the lodge became inactive, and this original lodge had little to do with the one Licio Gelli established in 1966.
In 1971 the Grand Orient gave Gelli the task of reorganizing the lodge, however, in 1976, the lodge was closed by the Grand Orient and Gelli expelled, leaving the lodge as unrecognised and clandestine. It continued under the leadership of Gelli, and in 1981 a list of 962 lodge members was discovered in Gelli’s villa after a raid, leading to the P2 scandal and the fall of the Italian government. It’s easy to see how the scandal blew up when we take a look at the list of members; the list included future Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, various intelligence officers, military chiefs, bankers and officials from the Guardia di Finanza. Another member was the aforementioned murdered banker Roberto Calvi, also known as the Banker of God due to his close ties to the Vatican. Vittorio Emanuele, the son of the last King of Italy, was also listed. Further documents were discovered in a false bottom of a suitcase belonging to Gelli’s daughter a year later, revealing political plans of the P2 lodge, which were ultimately to help form a right-wing government and to curb the power of the Communist Party in Italy.
Gelli and the head of the secret service Pietro Musumeci (also of the P2 lodge) were accused of misleading the police investigation into the Bologna Massacre in Italy, in 1980, a bombing that killed 85 people and injured a further 200. In 1982, the death of Calvi in London and the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano brought more attention onto P2 members. Calvi was the chairman of the bank, which went under with $1.4 billion of debt, the Banco Ambrosiano having ‘built its empire in close association with the Vatican bank’, the bank being embroiled in ‘a tale of drug trafficking’ and ‘money laundering’ (The Guardian, 2003).
Calvi’s death was originally ruled as suicide but was later judged to be murder. Gelli had been on the run since 1982, being arrested in Switzerland, escaping to South America, then surrendering himself to an investigative judge back in Switzerland in 1987. He was extradited back to Italy the following year where a number of trials took place, including a charge of fraud concerning the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, and in 2007 Gelli was implemented in an investigation into Calvi’s murder, but the case against him was dropped due to lack of evidence (Corriere della Sera, 2009). Gelli died in 2015 aged 96 in Tuscany.
Nick Mathiason, ‘Who Killed Calvi?’, The Guardian, (2003)
‘Mafia boss breaks silence over Roberto Calvi killing’, The Guardian, (2012)
‘Omicidio Calvi: archiviato procedimento contro Licio Gelli’, Corriere della Sera, (2009)
‘Masonic lodge affair leaves Italy shocked’, The Times, (23, May, 1981).
‘An Italian story’, The Economist, (26 April 2001).