Galgano Guidotti was born in 1148, the son of a minor noble, and one of those punk, no-good young knights constantly looking for trouble and worldly pleasures. One day when he least expected it, Archangel Michael appeared before him and showed him the way to salvation, and kindly provided him with directions as well. Next day, Sir Galgano announced that he was going to become a hermit and took up residence in a cave. His friends and relatives ridiculed him, and Dionisia, his mother, bade him to wear his expensive nobleman’s clothes and at least pay a last visit to his fiancée. On his way there, his horse reared, throwing Galgano. Spitting road dust, he suddenly felt as if he was being lifted to his feet by an invisible force, and a seraphic voice and a will he was unable to resist led him to Monte Siepi, a rugged hill close to his home town of Chiusdino.
The voice bade him to stand still and look at the top of the hill; Galgano saw a round temple with Jesus and Mary surrounded by the Apostles. The voice told him to climb the hill, and while doing so, the vision faded. When he reached the top the voice spoke again, inviting him to renounce his loose, easy living. Galgano replied that it was easier said than done, about as easy as splitting a rock with a sword. To prove his point, he drew his blade and thrust at the rocky ground. With an ease that would impress even cinderblock-splitting sword dealers at Renaissance fairs, the sword penetrated the living bedrock to the hilt. Galgano got the message, and took up permanent residence on that hill as a humble hermit. He led a life in poverty, visited by the occasional peasant looking for a blessing. He befriended wild animals, and once, when the Devil sent an assassin in the guise of a monk, the wild wolves living with Galgano attacked the killer and, according to legend, “gnawed his bones.”
Galgano Guidotti died in 1181, at the age of 33 years, and was canonized four years later. His funeral was a major event, attended by bishops and three Cistercian abbots, including one who had got lost while on his way to Rome. The next year, the Bishop of Volterra gave Monte Siepi to the Cistercian monks, aware that they would build a shrine to Galgano’s memory. They began building in 1185, erecting a round chapel that became known as the Cappella di Monte Siepi, on the hill above the main abbey, with the sword forming the centerpiece.
The Cappella offers a breathtaking view of the Abbey, the neighboring buildings and the beautiful surrounding countryside. Galgano’s body was for some reason lost after the funeral, although his head, which is said to have grown golden curls for many years following his death, was placed in one side chapel, and the chewed bones of the arms of the assassin in another. Saint Galgano’s head is preserved as a relic in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Siena, while the skeletal arms are still in place. The crowds of pilgrims were so numerous that the Cistercians were authorized to build another monastery named after the Saint a short distance away. It was to be one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Italy, and one of the Cistercians’ two largest Italian foundations. The monastery soon became both powerful and respected. Monks from San Galgano were appointed to high offices throughout Tuscany. In the 14th century, a Gothic side chapel was added to the original Romanesque Cappella, and in the 18th century a rectory was added. The side chapel has the remains of some frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, including a faint picture of Galgano offering the sword in the stone to Saint Michael. The Abbey was sacked by the (in)famous English mercenary captain Sir John Hawkwood and his White Company, and by 1397 the abbot was its only inhabitant. The Abbey deteriorated over the centuries, becoming the impressive ruins seen today.
Beaten from flesh into light
Hath swallowed the fire-ball
Attraverso le foglie
His rod hath made god in my belly
Sic loquitur nupta
Cantat sic nupta
Dark shoulders have stirred the lightning
A girl’s arms have nested the fire,
Not I but the handmaid kindled
Cantat sic nupta
I have eaten the flame.
Our friend Bird Dog from Maggie’s Farm linked the video below, featuring the 2004 annual procession in the Umbrian city of Orvieto celebrating the 1263 Miracle of Bolseno, in which a communion host produced blood during the moment of consecration of the mass, affirming the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.
The procession carries the corporal of Bolseno (the small cloth on which the host rested during the consecration) through the city of Orvieto on the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Thursday following Trinity Sunday, the date on which the Catholic Church celebrates the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
The feast day was created in 1264 by Pope Urban IV, reputedly on the basis of the inspiration of the miracle of Bolseno.
In any event, the procession is a remarkable spectable and a marvelous survival of an ancient European tradition. What an extraordinary number of groups and organizations Orvieto seems to possess!
These photographs are being widely distributed on the Internet, with the caprids misidentified as Bighorn sheep.
The location is actually Lake Cingino, a reservoir created by adding a dam and enlarging a small lake in the Valley of Antrona in the Italian Alps.
The animals on the dam are chamoisAlpine Ibex, Capra ibex, who apparently frequent the dam face in search of salts that accumulate on the rocks of the dam.
Maurizio Piazzai has a couple more photos of chamoisAlpine Ibex on the Lake Cingino dam here.
I had originally misidentified the animals on the dam as chamois, believing that the range of the Alpine Ibex in Italy was still limited to Gran Paradiso National Park. The absence in available photos of any full-horned rams faciliated my misidentification.
This factsheet shows that the current range of Alpine Ibex definitely includes the Valle Antrona.
Mosques in Italy will not receive a share of income tax revenue the Italian government allocates to religious faiths each year. Hindu and Buddhist temples, Greek Orthodox churches and Jehovah’s Witnesses will be eligible for the funds, according to a bill approved by the Italian cabinet in May and still must be approved by parliament.
Until now, the government had earmarked 8 percent of income tax revenue for Italy’s established churches. The great majority of these funds go to the Catholic Church, although if they wish, individual tax payers may elect to give the money to charities and cultural projects instead.
The head of COREIS, one of Italy’s largest Muslim groups, Yahya Pallavicini, said he was bitter that Islam had been denied the revenue from Italian income tax.
“Work should be begun on legally recognising those moderate Muslims who have for years shown themselves to be reliable interlocutors who are free of and fundamentalist ideology,” he said.
Islam is not an established religion in Italy and there is only one official mosque in the country, Rome’s Grand Mosque (photo). Politicians from the ruling coalition cite radical imams, polygamy and failure to uphold women’s rights by Muslims immigrants as obstacles to recognising Islam as an official religion in Italy.
Obviously, we are not Italy, and the US framers ruled out any federally established churches in 1787, but the Italian government’s decision is interesting because it demonstrates that some countries within Christendom do recognize that the differences between the culture of Islam and our own are gravely important and Islamic intransigence and pretensions to supremacy inevitably lead to conflict.
Islam is not just another, alternative mode of religious expression like Zen Buddhism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Church of Latter Day Saints. Muslims cannot be assumed to be willing to attend their own services, raise their children in their faith, hold the occasional fund-raising bazaar or annual parade and be content.
Muslims typically attempt to prevent, even to punish, criticism or mockery of Islam. Muslims refuse to recognize the equality of other religious faiths or of unfaith. Muslims commonly decline to assimilate. And Muslims reject fundamentally the principle of separation of church and state.
As long as Islam aspires to replace our culture and politics with its own; as long as Islam refuses to criticize itself, reform, or accommodate itself to modern pluralist societies; as long as Islam is both a religion and a political adversary of the West; Islam is not entitled to claim the immunities and privileges associated with being just another religion.
An attractive 26 year identified only as Luisa sunbathing topless on a beach at Anzio, Italy was approached by a woman who demanded that she stop applying sun block to her bosom because it “troubled her sons aged 14 and 12.” The sunbather declined to comply, and the irate mother summoned the carabinieri.
A complaint was filed, and the incident provoked an international debate.
The young lady’s attorney, Gianluca Arrighi, delivered the following defense statement:
Let’s be clear. My client is tall, brunette and has an ample breast and is therefore going to naturally be sensuous when she applies cream to her chest.
An Anzio police spokesmen conceded to the press: “From what I heard she was very attractive.”
The Telegraph published recently an obituary for Italy’s last knight, Amedeo Guillet, a cavalry lieutenant who refused to surrender with the rest of the Italian forces in 1941, and fought on, leading a mixed force known as the Gruppo Bande a Cavallo Amhara (Group Bands of Amharic Horse), under a banner of his own featuring the Cross of Savoy superimposed with an Islamic Crescent and the motto Semper Ulterius (“Always Further”). To his horsemen, he became known as “Il Comandente Diavolo.”
The Telegraphy obituary opens recalling Guillet leading a cavalry charge of 500 men, astride his champion white Arabian stallion, Sandor, through a column of British tanks.
Early in 1941, following outstanding successes in the Western Desert, the British invasion of Mussolini’s East African empire seemed to be going like clockwork.
But at daybreak on January 21, 250 horsemen erupted through the morning mist at Keru, cut through the 4/11th Sikhs, flanked the armoured cars of Skinner’s Horse and then galloped straight towards British brigade headquarters and the 25-pound artillery of the Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry.
Red Italian grenades – “like cricket balls” – exploded among the defenders, several of whom were cut down by swords. There were frantic cries of “Tank alert!”, and guns that had been pointing towards Italian fortifications were swivelled to face the new enemy.
At a distance of 25 yards they fired, cutting swathes through the galloping horses but also causing mayhem as the shells exploded amid the Sikhs and Skinner’s Horse.
After a few more seconds the horsemen disappeared into the network of wadis that criss-crossed the Sudan-Eritrean lowlands.
It was not quite the last cavalry charge in history – the unmechanised Savoia Cavalry regiment charged the Soviets at Izbushensky on the Don in August 1942. But it was the last one faced by the British Army, with many soldiers declaring it the most frightening and extraordinary episode of the Second World War.
Amedeo Guillet was born in Piacenza on February 7 1909 to a Savoyard-Piedmontese family of the minor aristocracy which for generations had served the dukes of Savoy, who later became the kings of Italy.
He spent most of his childhood in the south – he remembered the Austrian biplane bombing of Bari during the First World War – then followed family tradition and joined the army.
After the military academy at Modena, he chose to join the cavalry and began training at Pinerolo, where Italian horsemanship under Federico Caprilli had earlier in the century won world renown – the current “forward seat” and modern jumping saddles evolved there.
Guillet excelled as a horseman and was selected for the Italian eventing team to go to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. But Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 interrupted his career as a competition rider. Instead, using family connections, he had himself transferred to the Spahys di Libya cavalry with which he fought repeated actions.
He also witnessed aerial gas attacks on Emperor Haile Selassie’s lightly armed warriors, which appalled world opinion. In Guillet’s view, gas was largely ineffectual against an unentrenched enemy which could flee, and he himself was fighting with horse, sword and pistol.
At Selaclacla, after using the hilt of his sword to dislodge an Ethiopian warrior who had grabbed him around the waist, Guillet received a painful wound to the left hand when a bullet hit the pommel of his saddle.
Decorated for his actions, he was flattered to be chosen a year later by General Luigi Frusci as an aide de camp in the “Black Flames” division, which was sent to support Franco in the Spanish Civil War. It was the first post Guillet had been offered without family influence.
There he suffered shrapnel wounds and helped capture three Russian armoured cars and crews. But the atrocities he witnessed on both sides were a sobering experience for Guillet, who deplored what he saw of Italy’s German allies during their intervention.
No longer a uncritical, puppyish subaltern, Guillet returned to Italy and Libya. He echoed the views of many in disapproving of the pro-Nazi alliance of the regime and absurdities such as the anti-Semitic race laws.
With growing disgust for Europe, Guillet asked for a posting to Italian East Africa, where another family acquaintance, the royal prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, had been appointed viceroy to replace the brutal and inept Marshal Graziani. By this time Guillet had also become engaged to his beautiful Neapolitan cousin Beatrice Gandolfo, and their intention was to make a life for themselves in Italy’s new empire.
Mussolini’s decision to enter the war on the side of Germany in May 1940 ended these dreams, cutting off Italian East Africa, which was surrounded by the territories of its enemies, and separating Amedeo from his fiancée, who remained in Italy.
Aosta gave Guillet command of the locally recruited Amhara Cavalry Bande, as well as 500 Yemeni infantry – approximately 2,500 men. With almost no armour, the Italians used Guillet’s horsemen to delay the advance of the British 4th and 5th Indian Divisions when they crossed the Eritrean frontier in January 1941.
Guillet’s actions at Keru, and subsequent hand-to-hand fighting at Agordat, helped allow the Italian army to regroup at the mountain fortress of Keren, where it mounted its best actions in the entire war. After nearly two months, however, the British broke through, and the road to Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, lay clear.
Most of the Italian army surrendered, but Guillet refused to do so. Aosta had ordered his officers to fight on to keep as many British soldiers as possible in East Africa, while the new German commander in the Western Desert, Rommel, sought to reverse the earlier Italian disasters.
For nine months Guillet launched a series of guerrilla actions against British troops, plundering convoys and shooting up guard posts. At his side was his mistress, Khadija, an Ethiopian Muslim, for he never believed he would ever see Italy or Beatrice again. Two curious British intelligence officers pursued him: Major Max Harrari, later an urbane art dealer who would become Guillet’s close friend, and the driven intellectual Captain Sigismund Reich, of the Jewish Brigade, who was eager to get on with the task of killing Germans.
Despite their attentions, Guillet managed to escape across the Red Sea to neutral Yemen, where he became an intimate friend of the ruler, Imam Ahmed. He sneaked back to Eritrea in 1943 in disguise, and returned to Italy on the Red Cross ship Giulio Cesare, where he was reunited with Beatrice.
The couple married in April 1944 and he spent the rest of the war as an intelligence officer, befriending many of his former British enemies from East Africa.
In the postwar world, Guillet joined the diplomatic service. ...
Guillet later served as ambassador in Jordan and Morocco, and finally India.
In 1975 he retired to Ireland, where he had bought a house 15 years earlier for the peace and quiet and to enjoy the foxhunting.
A generous, giving man, with a disarming innocence to his character, Guillet would frequently liken himself to Don Quixote, but say that those who found him ridiculous were the true fools.
He always said he was the luckiest man he knew – surviving British and Ethiopian bullet wounds, Spanish grenade fragments and a sword cut to the face, as well as numerous bone fractures from riding accidents.
He celebrated his 100th birthday in Rome in February last year at the army officers’ club in the Palazzo Barberini, where the royal march was played and friends gathered from Ireland, the Middle East and India – as well as those members of the Italian royal family still on speaking terms with each other.
The LA Times finds that Italians have better political scandals.
Reporting from Rome — The governor made off to a monastery after having affairs with transsexuals, but not before the cops videotaped a tryst, all flesh and white powder, and offered to sell copies to a magazine owned by the prime minister, who, at the time, was rumored to be entangled with an underage Neapolitan model.
Then one of the transsexuals, a Brazilian named Brenda, turned up naked and dead, her laptop computer submerged under a running tap. Oh, yeah, and the drug dealer who supplied cocaine to the governor and Brenda would meet his own demise. It’s an odd coincidence.
Glenn Reynolds explains why the federal government has come to resemble Schlitz beer.
Leo Grin, at Big Hollywood has a four part essay on Werner Herzog, Timothy Treadwell, and “Grizzly Man” (2005). Pt1, Pt2, Pt3, Pt4.
Big Hollywood is promising more in-depth reviews of significant conservative films.
“Cerca Trova” (Seek and Find) appears on a banner on Vasari’s mural of the Battle of Marciano
Only 15 surviving paintings are generally attributed in whole or in part to Leonardo. His responsibility for another six is disputed.
Dr. Maurizio Seracini, an engineering professor from UC San Diego, had been pursuing a quest to recover Leonardo Da Vinci’s largest painting, a 1505 fresco depiction of the 65 year earlier Battle of Angiarhi between Florence and Milan which once ornamented the Hall of Five Hundred in Florence, which disappeared in the course of a mid-16th century remodeling by Giogio Vasari, for a number of years.
The New York Times reports that scientific instruments are now ready to test Seracini’s hypothesis that Vasari simply walled-up the Da Vinci fresco.
“The Battle of Anghiari,” (was) the largest painting Leonardo ever undertook (three times the width of “The Last Supper”). Although it was never completed — Leonardo abandoned it in 1506 — he left a central scene of clashing soldiers and horses that was hailed as an unprecedented study of anatomy and motion. For decades, artists like Raphael went to the Hall of 500 to see it and make their own copies.
Then it vanished. During the remodeling of the hall in 1563, the architect and painter Giorgio Vasari covered the walls with frescoes of military victories by the Medicis, who had returned to power. Leonardo’s painting was largely forgotten.
But in 1975, when Dr. Seracini studied one of Vasari’s battle scenes, he noticed a tiny flag with two words, “Cerca Trova”: essentially, seek and ye shall find. Was this Vasari’s signal that something was hidden underneath? ...
(N)ew analysis showed that the spot painted by Leonardo was right at the “Cerca Trova” clue. The even better news, obtained from radar scanning, was that Vasari had not plastered his work directly on top of Leonardo’s. He had erected new brick walls to hold his murals, and had gone to special trouble to leave a small air gap behind one section of the bricks — the section in back of “Cerca Trova.” ...
Dr. Seracini was stymied until 2005, when he appealed for help at a scientific conference and got a suggestion to send beams of neutrons harmlessly through the fresco. With help from physicists in the United States, Italy’s nuclear-energy agency and universities in the Netherlands and Russia, Dr. Seracini developed devices for identifying the telltale chemicals used by Leonardo.
One device can detect the neutrons that bounce back after colliding with hydrogen atoms, which abound in the organic materials (like linseed oil and resin) employed by Leonardo. Instead of using water-based paint for a traditional fresco in wet plaster like Vasari’s, Leonardo covered the wall with a waterproof ground layer and used oil-based paints.
The other device can detect the distinctive gamma rays produced by collisions of neutrons with the atoms of different chemical elements. The goal is to locate the sulfur in Leonardo’s ground layer, the tin in the white prime layer and the chemicals in the color pigments, like the mercury in vermilion and the copper in blue pigments of azurite. ...
Once he gets permission, Dr. Seracini said, he hopes to complete the analysis within about a year. If “The Battle of Anghiari” is proved to be there, he said, it would be feasible for Florentine authorities to bring in experts to remove the exterior fresco by Vasari, extract the Leonardo painting and then replace the Vasari fresco. Of course, no one knows what kind of shape the painting might be in today. But Dr. Seracini, who has extensively analyzed the damages suffered by many Renaissance paintings, said that he was optimistic about “The Battle of Anghiari.”
“The advantage is that it has been covered up for five centuries,” he said. “It’s been protected against the environment and vandalism and bad restorations. I don’t expect there to be much decay.”
If he is right, then perhaps Vasari did Leonardo a favor by covering up the painting — and taking care to leave that cryptic little flag above the trove.
Rubens chalk, ink, and water-color copy of Da Vinci study for “The Battle of Anghiari,” Musée du Louvre
Infrared and variable wavelength aerial photography reveal the outlines of the lost city
The Roman city of Altinum is one of the rare ancient cities of importance not continuously inhabited and built over in modern times.
The city’s history went back far into Antiquity. It was already a significant commercial center in the 5th century B.C. Its mild climate attracted wealthy Romans who built luxury villas there, mentioned by Martial. Marcus Aurelius’ co-emperor Lucius Verus perished during an epidemic at Altinum. In the Christian era, Altinum was the seat of a bishopric.
The history of Altinum came to an abrupt end when the city was destroyed by Attila the Hun in 452 A.D. Its inhabitants fled to nearby coastal islands where they founded what became the city of Venice.
Eugéne Delacroix (1798-1863), Atilla suivi de ses hordes, foule aux pieds l’Italie et les arts (Attila followed by his Horde, Trampling under Foot Italy and the Arts), Bibliothèque, Palais Bourbon, Paris, 1843-47