Tag Archives: Pope

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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A bit about the Characters in The Easy River to Success

The main character of The Easy River to Success is a government minister by the name of Benetus. This character is a Machiavellian type who has used cunning, his way with words and also a bit of magic to gain prominence at court. I really wanted to steer away from the cliche of having a warrior or ‘good’ guy as the main subject of a fantasy story. I just think that such an approach is a bit hackneyed now. Although the setting is still the pseudo-medieval one you might expect I thought it was more realistic to actually give the stage to a pen-pusher rather than a sword-wielder, as even amongst the governing classes by the late middle ages most men would be engaged more in administration than in warfare.

His character is also loosely based on that of Piero della Vigna, the first minister to the Emperor Frederick II, about whom I am currently writing a novel – see Stupor Mundi. I see both Piero and Benetus as characters with a great degree of internal conflict. On one hand they demonstrate loyalty to their sovereign, yet they are also accused of treason and using their position to their own ends.

Other characters in the story include:

  • Arax – a demon with whom Benetus makes a dangerous pact
  • The King – mostly in the background, but based also on Frederick II. The king’s  conflict is with the theocratic government of Belgania, much in the same way as Frederick fought with the Papacy.
  • Flacio Abs – the kingdom’s treasurer and a friend of Benetus.
  • Fanis Poll – a political rival of Benetus and a high-ranking priest. He is the main antagonist of the story.
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