The Penis Tree (Medieval Massa Marittima Mural; Italy)

Mighty_Emperor

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 18, 2002
Messages
19,449
Reaction score
185
Points
129
I was thinking of putting this in the penis-cutting thread:

forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9459
Link is obsolete. The current link is:
https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/male-genital-mutilation-other-than-circumcision.9459/


but I thought as it was part of a wider topic it might worth going for a separate thread (I can always merge it in later).

Penis tree: Fertility symbol or political poster?

07 December 2004

LONDON: At first glance, the Massa Marittima mural looks fairly similar to dozens of other medieval frescoes dotted across Tuscany.

But look closely at the spidery tree which dominates the centre of the painting and you notice something peculiar.

Its branches are covered in penises.

There are 25 of them in all, of different shapes and sizes, complete with testicles. They hang from the limbs of the tree-like leaves fluttering in the breeze.

The mural dates from the 13th century and is still visible on a wall in the Italian town of Massa Marittima where it was discovered during renovation work four years ago.

Until now, it was assumed the phallus tree was a fertility symbol because it stands by a fountain – the town's main source of water in medieval times.

But, according to a British-based expert, it is actually a unique piece of political propaganda, commissioned by one Tuscan faction to sully the reputation of another.

"It's a very clear political poster," said George Ferzoco, director of the Centre for Tuscan Studies at the University of Leicester in central England as he unveiled his theory about the picture for the first time.

"It's a message from the Guelphs, telling people that if the Ghibellines are allowed power they will bring with them heresy, sexual perversion, civic strife and witchcraft."

The Guelphs and Ghibellines were two factions who fought for power in Tuscany and northern Italy for decades during the Middle Ages.

Perhaps the most famous victim of their feuds was the poet Dante, a Guelph expelled from his native Florence in 1302 after a rival Guelph group took power.

CLEAN LIVING AND UPSTANDING

At the time the mural was painted, the Guelphs controlled Massa Marittima, a small town in northwestern Tuscany.

"They presented themselves as the clean living upstanding party in Tuscan politics and it was traditional for them, in launching their attacks on the Ghibellines, to label them as heretics," Ferzoco told Reuters.

"Heretics, according to people in the Middle Ages, practised sodomy. Hence the phallus tree."

It may seem a cryptic message to the modern mind but Ferzoco says it would have been obvious to the average medieval Tuscan.

"They would have got the message instantly," he said. "They considered things we consider obscene to be perfectly normal, and using a phallus as part of a political message would not have been an issue."

Ferzoco says the robed women standing under the phallus tree are witches – another curse the Guelphs claimed the Ghibellines would bring to the town.

One of the women appears to be reaching up and placing something in the lower branches of the tree with a stick.

"There was a well-known story in Tuscan folklore about witches removing mens' penises and placing them in bird nests in trees, where they would then multiply and take on a life of their own," Ferzoco said.

He says the picture draws on that story and is one of the earliest known depictions of witches in Western art.

Source
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Stormkhan

Disturbingly familiar
Joined
May 28, 2003
Messages
4,755
Reaction score
2,143
Points
189
"It's a message from the Guelphs, telling people that if the Ghibellines are allowed power they will bring with them heresy, sexual perversion, civic strife and witchcraft."
All that in a picture of a cock-covered tree? I wonder if anyone told the villagers this? Ain't non-specific symbolism a wonderful thing. Was there an overrated Turner Prize competition in Tuscany at the time?
 

escargot

Disciple of Marduk
Joined
Aug 24, 2001
Messages
33,445
Reaction score
42,811
Points
314
Location
HM The Tower of London
but I thought as it was part of a wider topic it might worth going for a separate thread
Why does this make me think of the kangaroos??
 

Alexius4

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Oct 18, 2003
Messages
1,497
Reaction score
22
Points
69
Wasn't it believed that witches stole tackle and kept it? Basicly, a means of accounting for the sudden onset of impotency.

Could be Guelph propaganda - but I can't see from the article why anyone would draw that conclusion. May well be another case of an emblem whose key has been lost, or is to be found skulking in the vatican library...;)
 

Mighty_Emperor

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 18, 2002
Messages
19,449
Reaction score
185
Points
129
Alexius said:
Wasn't it believed that witches stole tackle and kept it? Basicly, a means of accounting for the sudden onset of impotency.

Could be Guelph propaganda - but I can't see from the article why anyone would draw that conclusion. May well be another case of an emblem whose key has been lost, or is to be found skulking in the vatican library...;)

Or it is code??

I'm off to write my million selling novel - "The Penis Tree Code".
 

Stormkhan

Disturbingly familiar
Joined
May 28, 2003
Messages
4,755
Reaction score
2,143
Points
189
You've got to include the Illuminati, The Knights Templar and undiscovered treasure for gullible idiots to want!
 

Mal_Adjusted

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Aug 6, 2003
Messages
2,247
Reaction score
33
Points
69
Medieval mural's tales of sorcery

Greets

(you might want to cross-ref to weird sex too!)

Medieval mural's tales of sorcery

John Hooper in Rome
Tuesday December 28, 2004
The Guardian

A mural which has come to light in Tuscany has been identified by a British university lecturer as the earliest surviving representation of witchcraft in Christian Europe.

A book published in Italy by George Ferzoco, director of the centre for Tuscan studies at the University of Leicester, argues that at least two of the women in the porno-erotic wall painting are sorceresses.

"I have no doubt that this is by far the earliest depiction in art of women acting as witches," he said.

The 13th-century mural was discovered four years ago at Massa Marittima, a town south-west of Siena. Dr Ferzoco believes it was intended as a warning, by supporters of the papacy, of the anarchy and licentiousness that would supposedly engulf the town if it fell into the hands of their political rivals.

That would give the bizarre mural an additional significance as the only surviving example of a medieval political "poster".

"I'm not aware of any work that comes remotely close to this one in terms of being blatant 'party' propaganda," Dr Ferzoco said.

The big, richly coloured painting - seven metres high - was discovered under layers of subsequent over-painting next to a fountain in the centre of Massa Marittima. It shows a tall, spreading tree with two groups of women standing below it.

The first thing that was noticed about the tree was its unusual "fruit". Apparently sprouting from the branches are 25 phalluses.

That led to the painting being dismissed as a fertility symbol. But, after an inch-by-inch examination, Dr Ferzoco became convinced this was not the case.

The key to his interpretation lies with one of the women in the group on the left, holding up a stick. It had been assumed that she was trying to knock the "fruit" out of the tree or scare away the birds that are depicted flying across the picture.

"No one noticed that, at the very top of her stick, there is a bird's nest," said Dr Ferzoco, who recalled a passage from the "inquisitors' manual", the Malleus Maleficarum, which had long baffled and amused scholars.

In its description of witches' practices, intended to help witch-hunters identify their prey, it says they were in the habit of robbing men of their genitals.

"[Witches] sometimes collect male organs in great numbers, as many as 20 or 30 members together, and put them in a bird's nest, or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members, and eat oats and corn," wrote the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum.

Published in 1486, the manual brought together much of the legend surrounding sorceresses that had grown up in previous centuries.

Two of the other women in the mural are tearing at each other's hair as they appear to fight for possession of just such a magically liberated penis as the one described in the Malleus Maleficarum. On the other side of the woman with a stick another is being sodomised by another free-wheeling, or rather free-floating, male organ.

"In the middle ages, heretics did one thing above all and that was sodomy," Dr Ferzoco said. "To the medieval Italian mind, it was an act that exemplified unnaturalness, disharmony and lack of community."

http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/artsandhumanities/story/0,12241,1380254,00.html

mal
 

Mighty_Emperor

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 18, 2002
Messages
19,449
Reaction score
185
Points
129
Stormkhan said:
You've got to include the Illuminati, The Knights Templar and undiscovered treasure for gullible idiots to want!

Oh yeah. throw in some Bible Code stuff, a dash of Indianna Jones, etc. and it starts to look like a heady brew.

I am half tempted to do this as a massive pisstake - I'll leave it to brew in the back of my head for a while and see what transpires.

------------
Mal: I've merged your post in here.
 

filterz

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Dec 16, 2004
Messages
25
Reaction score
0
Points
17
Emperor said:
Stormkhan said:
You've got to include the Illuminati, The Knights Templar and undiscovered treasure for gullible idiots to want!

Oh yeah. throw in some Bible Code stuff, a dash of Indianna Jones, etc. and it starts to look like a heady brew.

I am half tempted to do this as a massive pisstake - I'll leave it to brew in the back of my head for a while and see what transpires.

------------
Mal: I've merged your post in here.

yeah , a kind of spoof on that stuff would be really funny (well potentialy)
 

James_H

And I like to roam the land
Joined
May 18, 2002
Messages
7,696
Reaction score
6,421
Points
314
this reminds me of something someone once posted on here (although I can't remember any details) - it was a rennaisance plate depicting a face formed out of penises (much like those which are a composite of loads of fruit) which was made by a famous ceramicist and is now (possibly) residing in the Ashmolean museum.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
22,880
Reaction score
33,625
Points
314
Location
Out of Bounds
This Art in Tuscany webpage provides an updated overview of the Massa Marittima mural. The 'penis tree' is referred to under the label 'Tree of Fertility' in this account.

This overview notes the tree symbolism's possible connections to medieval politics and a similar 'penis tree' appearing in marginal illustrations for the medieval poem Roman de la Rose.

http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/art/treeoffertility.htm
 

Frideswide

Fortea Morgana :) PeteByrdie certificated Princess
Staff member
Joined
Jul 14, 2014
Messages
13,748
Reaction score
16,334
Points
289
Location
An Eochair
this reminds me of something someone once posted on here (although I can't remember any details) - it was a rennaisance plate depicting a face formed out of penises (much like those which are a composite of loads of fruit) which was made by a famous ceramicist and is now (possibly) residing in the Ashmolean museum.

and here, 15 years later is the plate! I haven't shown the picture (I think) because NSFW.

https://www.glam.ox.ac.uk/outinoxford-ash-dish
 

JaneD

JaneD
Joined
Dec 5, 2020
Messages
135
Reaction score
341
Points
63
Location
Midgard
I think this is my favourite thread topic so far. I would like to think of the mural as a massive joke by the artist.
 
Top