Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lion and Lioness in the Medieval Sculpture

The antique Benedictine Abbey in Cava dei Tirreni (Salerno, Italy) I visited about a week ago had a surprising peculiarity I wanted to show you. Unfortunatelly, I have not all "collection" of photos, have to make them when I have the possibility. But what I have is just interesting. If you want to read my reports about this visit (and it was very nice), you can read my posts Reinforce Your Spirituality in an Antique Monastery and Christian Pilgrimage to Antique Abbey

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We have just discussed the strange period between Roman Empire and Medieval times (yes, you are right, those were early Middle Ages but...) when, at least it seems so, the craftsmen forgot many of their knowleges. If we confront ceramics -Greek and Roman, you know, it was splendid- with early Medieval pieces found in the castle of  Salerno, for example, where you can see only a curve line as a picture, and in it's maximum expression -spirals and a kind of stilized leaves. Ceramics is the most easy to remember confront.

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Лев и Львица

Now, you have to know that people in early Middle Ages (locals were called "Romans" else, and they continued to follow the laws of Roman Empire) remembered something from those "glorious" times but did not know the details. One of the memories were, probably, the battles of gladiators. And the grandparents transmitted to the grandchildren stories about the terrible beasts. One of them was the lion.

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Well, this is my personal interpretation. It can be that the artists knew about the lions from the stories of the pilgrims and travelers that visited Holy Land, even if I think that the poor beasts were extincted since unmemorable time in North Africa in that period because we know that Romans had grave problems to obtain new beasts for their gladiatorial shows.

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Лев и Львица

Remains the security that the artists did not know precisely how the lions look. The lionesses. But Christian church adoptet the figure of the lion as a sign of the power of the church (in one interpretation) or as a custodian (in an other interpretation that seems to be not confirmed by the sculptures). And the artists had to represent them.
Look at my photos. First 6 are from the Dom of Salerno. First are the lions that had to meet the believer for the entrance in the atrium (XIII more or less) and had to remember him that the Church is powerful as the Lion but loves it's followers as the Lioness loves her kittens. Look at that Lioness.

The second couple is for the main entrance in the basilica. About XII century. Those seem both lions.

Finally, this last photo of the lower part of the ambon (XII century) in the Abbey (an other is in the Dom of Salerno, the others are in Amalfi and Ravello and probably in other cities, too).  Now, look at the second lion. It's a lioness! (by the way, there was nobody except me that noticed it).

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Are you interested to visit Italy? Salerno? The Benedictine Abbey celebrating it's 1000 years this year? Contact me, if you need a guide, a planner -all the necessary help. Travel and Cruise Deals

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