Massa Marittima : Source of Abundance

Fonte dell'Abbondanza

A somewhat strange fresco has returned to a wall of the recently restored public fountain. It is a fruit-laden tree. What‘s so strange about that, I hear you saying. It is a well-known fact that popular imagination has always amused itself with giving trees very strange, or often just symbolic, fruits, such as money, human-beings or animals. But the fruit hanging from the tree in Massa Marittima is certainly unique, decidedly original and something that has never been seen before, at least not in Tuscany. Fonte dell'Abbontanza dettaglio 2

The well of Massa Marittima, dating back to 1265 (according to the inscription), was decorated with this fresco which over time had almost disappeared due to the lime scale. But following restoration and cleaning, the fresco has returned in all its splendour to the astonishment of the restorers themselves… It depicts a majestic tree with long roots that rise up to the cusp of the vault with a large number of branches and thousands of leaves. And among the branches and leaves, there can be seen a great number of male sexual organs! Phalluses of various sizes with different inclinations, but all definitely erect! The scenes becomes even more intriguing when we discover that the figures moving around in the shade of the tree are none other than women in contemplation… women who fight over the possession of a Fonte dell'Abbontanza dettaglio 1phallus, women using sticks to knock them to the ground and large birds, crows perhaps, flying here and there around the scene. It is difficult for amateurs to decipher the symbology of this painting. Accord to some experts, the crow is a propitious image that leads to the equation: spring of water = spring of life. Others instead see this fresco as simply „the representation of one of the elementary human fundamentals of life“. One thing is certain when you look at this fresco. It seems that in the thirteenth century, customs were certainly more liberal than in later centuries! In fact, the painting is not in a private house, nor is it in a place where sex was sold, but it is on a public fountain, at that time an enormously important place and freely accessible by all. But this explicit scene was evidently not admired by later generations and the need was felt to somehow cover up this scandalous scene. Therefore, each phallus was painted over with red berries. Even the phallus fought over by two women was concealed inside a bucket thereby driving future generations to wonder what mysterious fruit the two women were fighting over…

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