The Baptismal font in San Frediano and a writer from Lucca

The Baptismal font in the Basilica of San Frediano, in Lucca, is the most important example of Romanesque art in the Tuscan city.

Local writer Guglielmo Petroni (1911-1993) described it in the beginning of his book, “Il mondo è una prigione” (literally, “the world is a prison”):

“Again, as always during the lazy-hour walks that rarely bring me back to the city where I was born, at one point I went inside the Basilica of San Frediano […].”

“Again, […] I slowly went around those few square meters of marble: the baptismal font that has gone down in art history, built in the 12th or perhaps 13th century by some ‘Maestro del Fonte di San Frediano’ and ‘Maestro Roberto’; some say even ‘Biduino’ worked at it – a name that greatly entertains me with its barbarian allusion.”

“Besides an image of God, Pharaoh soldiers are carved in the act of crossing the Red Sea while the water begins to ripple between their horses’ hooves, with fish wriggling in it. The horses […] seem as secure and arrogant as thoroughbreds at the racetrack, while fish emerge between the wavelets and the horsemen – petrified in the saddle – are depicted with wrong joints and feet that even face a direction opposite to anatomical logic.”

“There are also many of the Old Testament’s mute characters and the humble Good Shepherd, the young romantic socialist of the times when neither socialism nor romance hassled souls, which instead all leaned towards the abstract unknown of human consciousness. This time, I was attracted in particular to the effigy of a man with a broken face, who looks clumsy in his never-ironed toga, as he fights against a monster with the body and legs of a rooster, the tail of a crocodile, the neck of a snake and the head of a cat. The man angrily shakes the horrible tail while the rooster, from the snake’s neck, turns the cat’s head in still and secular anger…” (translated from G. Petroni, “Il mondo è una prigione”, Feltrinelli, Milan 2005).

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The Baptismal font in San Frediano and a writer from Lucca


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