Of Dragons, Irises and Knights

One of the pleasures of our visits to Equi Terme, now sadly affected by the June earthquake which caused considerable damage to its buildings and has put – at least for this Christmas – its spectacular living crib on hold, is the number of walks one can do from this spa town…

An easy and very pleasant stroll can be made from Equi Term to Monzone passing through the delightful village of Aiola.

Aiola is on the left of the Lucido River, so-called because it is almost transparent in the literal lucidity of its unpolluted waters. The village, which is at a height of 336 metres and counts around thirty inhabitants, was once a fief of the powerful Malaspina family until the fifteenth century and was then taken over by the Florentine Republic. In 1686 the ruling Medici family opened a copper mine nearby. There are many delighful corners in Aiola:

There is a lovely bas-relief of Saint George and the dragon above Aiola’s church portal.


The bas-relief’s original location was in Saint George’s castle whose ruins can still be found in a chestnut grove not far from Aiola and which we passed on our walk from Vinca (see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/magical-mulattiera/).

The Florentine republic had built the castle in the fifteenth century to thwart the passage of the Milanese Visconti army from the north. Since the area adjoins Genoese territory, the anonymous sculptor wanted to add symbolic value to Saint George’s castle by incorporating Genoa’s emblematic red cross as a heraldic sign and adding the Florentine iris next to the figure of the princess so that the message that the republic would protect Florence against the Visconti serpent (represented by the dragon) could come through clearly and accurately.

Paolo Uccello’s famous painting of Saint George and the dragon, transmits the same message and was the subject of my friend, Prof. Giovanni Ranieri Fascetti’s book which I translated into English with the title “The celebration of the Florentine Republic’s power in two masterpieces: Paolo Uccello’s Saint George and the Dragon in London and Brunelleschi’s fortress at Vicopisano.”

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The book is published by C. L. D. Libri srl. (Italy) at Euro 12.00. ISBN: 88-7399-017-7

In this beautifully illustrated book, Giovanni Ranieri Fascetti offers an exciting new interpretation of Paolo Uccello’s famous Saint George and the Dragon in London’s National Gallery. With extensive evidence from both written and pictorial sources he places the painting as an allegory of Florence’s power and determination during the Quattrocento in resisting the expansionist aims of Milan’s Visconti rulers. Vicopisano fortress (see my post at) https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/vicopisano-and-brunelleschis-military-architecture/ , which stands to this day and is shown in Uccello’s painting, is a key stage of this resistance.

Unfortunately Aiola church is one of around twenty churches in the area to have suffered damage, with churches also at Colognola, Monzone Alto, Cortila and Gragnola being declared unsafe.

May the courage of San Giorgio infect this area and protect it from the ravages, not so much today of the Visconti, but from the indifference of the public authorities towards an area they shamefully regard as not particularly significant to them.


6 thoughts on “Of Dragons, Irises and Knights

  1. What a great post and such a shame that the authorities don’t value their great heritage. I hope they find the money and will to repair and preserve such important buildings and works of art.

    I like the painting of Paolo Uccello, I was thinking of using that when I wrote my blog on Saint George!

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