Naughty Restorers Paint over Tree of Fertility Penises










Who would have thought it? It’s like we’re living back with the Victorians, but apparently restorers of the 13th century Italian Tree of Fertility fresco have been accused of painting over the penises and testicles hanging from the tree.

For more on the controversy visit the Telegraph’s story. Here’s what they say about the fresco itself and why it was created:

Scholars have puzzled over the meaning of the fresco, which was painted in about 1265 but only rediscovered in 2000.

Some believe it is an allegory of fertility, while others argue that it was a political manifesto illustrating models of good governance, amid rivalry between the rival Guelph and Ghibelline factions, whose feuding was linked to power struggles between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Papacy in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The mural, found concealed on a wall inside one of Massa Marittima’s public fountains, consists of a tree with human penises and testicles hanging from its branches, beneath which stand eight or possibly nine female figures in medieval dress. One of the women appears to be using a pole to pull one of the penises to within reach.

According to one scholar, it is “unparalleled in the history of Western art.”

I’m not sure if the above really offers a very good explanation of why it was painted. Was the artist eating too many of the wrong sort of mushroom? Perhaps the genitals on the tree were a punishment for ones enemies? The Guelph’s and Ghibelline’s hated each other after all? It would be interesting to see a more in depth analysis somewhere of what’s going on in this picture.

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Medieval Black Death bacteria extinct (phew breathes sigh of relief)

A scanning electron micrograph depicting a mas...
Image via Wikipedia

And you thought it was all over? Well it is now. Seems to be loads of news at the moment about research into the plague/Black Death that caused mortality of up to 50% during the mid-Fourteenth century. It seems to be all unrelated items, but its a bit weird to be seeing so much in the news at the moment. Perhaps time for those time travelers to go back and cure the plague for our 14th century friends?

Here’s some more information from the scientists who recently published a paper on the subject in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science:

The remains of more than 100 plague victims buried between 1348 and 1350 in the East Smithfield burial site showed evidence of a strain of Y. pestis, according to the researchers, led by Hendrik N. Poinar of McMaster University in Canada and Johannes Krause of Tuebingen University in Germany.

“Our data reveal that the Black Death in medieval Europe was caused by a variant of Y. pestis that may no longer exist,” the researchers wrote.

This courtesy of

No cause to relax though as other variants of plague are alive and kicking, however, we, unlike the 14th century chaps, have antibiotics to fight any further outbreaks.

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Black Death genome nearly found

I came across this fascinating piece of news this morning in the about work being done to track down the genetic pattern of the virus that caused the Black Death in the fourteenth century.

Here’s a bit more information from the full article:

‘The principal investigator at McMaster University’s ancient DNA centre says his team has found a match confirming that Yersina pestis, the source of the modern bubonic plague, is also behind the Black Death plague that ravaged medieval Europe.

‘Associate professor Hendrik Poinar, who is also Canada’s research chair in paleogenetics, is excited the finding may one day lead to the discovery of the Black Death plague’s entire genome so scientists “can have the history of the development of this bug and the changes in it that made it so deadly.”’

Perhaps once the genetic code is cracked some time traveller boffins could go back and help prevent the outbreak? How would history have been different? Hmm, sounds like an idea for a story!

To read more visit

Chivalry: A Jake Savage Adventure Published

I have published my short story Chivalry: A Jake Savage Adventure as an eBook via Amazon and Smashwords.

The story tells of an incident in the early career of Jake Savage, one of the main characters from Hell has its Demons. For Jake War is Hell and not the chivalric adventure that he thought it would be.

Here’s the blurb for the story and a brief extract to whet your appetite:

Chivalry: A Jake Savage Adventure

Published 30 August 2011, 4698 words, Fantasy (historical) short story

A single silent knight armoured in black plate defends a narrow bridge in the hills of Auvergne, blocking the path of a band of desperate English soldiers. On the bank defended by the knight is a pavilion where sits a French noble-woman, who taunts the English. Cold, wet and hungry, Jake and his comrades have seen a tower high in the hills beyond the bridge, which they hope will provide food, drink and shelter and even a little loot. But the knight and the lady prove more difficult opponents than they imagined.

Magic mingles with the harsh realities of war in this medieval fantasy short story set during the Hundred Years War.

Nothing moved on this side of the densely vegetated ravine, but they could see a strange sight on the far side. Not twenty paces away across the narrow wooden bridge was a colourful pavilion of alternating broad blue and red silk stripes, wet with the rain, but still of fine appearance. Under the pavilion’s entrance canopy sat a lady, also dressed in silks, with a conical headpiece and veil of fine gauze covering the dark hair that flowed down her neck to her shoulders. She was preoccupied with some sort of detail work in her hands, embroidery perhaps.

But in front of her, blocking the far exit of the bridge, and dressed in dull black plate armour, stood a tall man-at-arms, in full jousting helm. He stood motionless with arms crossed in front of him. Behind him was a tethered warhorse, also black, and a rack of weapons: lance, swords, pole-arms, maces and axes. Neither the knight nor the lady gave any indication that they had seen the English soldiers.

By the Saints!’ said Burnell. ‘Look at all that kit, worth a fair bit.’

Whoever beats him gets his equipment,’ hissed the other man-at-arms, Clifford, peeping over his shield, ‘and I know I can have him.’

Just leave some of his wench to the rest of us, your highnesses,’ said Edmund, grinning as he knocked an arrow. ‘I think I could get a bodkin through him from here.’

Sir Robert called the archers round him. ‘Let him have it now before he gets his shield. At this range you should be able to stick him like a pig.’

Jake shook his head, but as ordered readied his great longbow. Six feet of straining yew flexed and in a moment his iron tipped arrow shot across the clearing and over the ravine and hit the black armoured knight in the chest.

All six arrows had hit the knight, yet he stood perfectly still.

But, the lady jumped in surprise as if woken from a deep sleep. She stood up and went to stand beside the motionless knight. She addressed them in French, but her dialect was clear enough for them to all understand. ‘Cowards! Are you English of so low honour that you use the weapons of serfs to fight your battles! My lord offers any who will fight him glory one against one.’

Sir Robert ignored her words and ordered his men to fire another volley. And again there was no effect. Arrows seemed to stick in the mail or bounce of the plate, but Jake could have sworn he saw his arrow go straight through a gap and out the other side.

That bastard has good armour,’ said Burnell. ‘You’re going to have to fight for it if you want it, Clifford.’

It was like a tale of Arthur’s knights, thought Jake, where both the hero and his opponent should fight for honour. He wondered if hunger was making him dream what was happening, but the cold, and the pain of his knotted stomach felt real enough.

Available as an eBook via, and Smashwords for just $0.99.