Hidden treasures

'Per un punto Martin perse la cappa...'

Figures of speech
Martin_perse_la_cappa

'Per un punto Martin perse la cappa...'

There’s an expression in Italian that goes: ‘Per un punto Martin perse la Cappa’. (literally ‘For a dot Martin lost hid hood’). Today, this has become almost a proverb and highlights what happens when someone, because of a small mistake, fails to reach a goal he was very close to achieving. But do you know where this expression comes from? Yes, right from Tuscany! Or rather, one of the versions on its origin- there are more than one - would trace this saying to an anecdote about the Asello Monastery in Tuscany.

So, let’s go back to the sixteenth century, to the Monastery of Asello where there was a friar who had to engrave a welcome phrase on the door of his convent. It was not clear whether he did this on his own initiative to decorate the monastery or if he was asked to do so by his superiors. The phrase he chose was: 'porta patens esto, nulli claudatur honesto' which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Latin, means 'this door shall not be closed before honest people'. It was a beautiful phrase that praised charity. But the friar inserted a comma at the wrong point in the sentence: 'Porta patens esto nulla. Claudatur honesto' that, instead, means: ‘the door is open to anyone. It shall close in front of honest people’, exactly the opposite of what it was supposed to mean!

His superiors were not at all happy with the inscription, indeed it was a real scandal. How could a sentence against charity stay on the door of a monastery? Poor Martino would pay dearly for this scandal: he lost his hood. In those days, in fact, when a friar became Abbot he wore a particular cloak (the hood) that was the symbol of the charge itself. It isn’t clear whether the unfortunate Martino was already abbot and was demoted or if, wanting to be promoted, with that error he lost all chances. The fact is that poor Martino, because of that dot placed in the wrong place, couldn’t wear his hood.

Fascinating story about the ancient monastery and the absent-minded little friar... did it make you want to visit some of the wonderful spiritual places in Tuscany? Well, we recommend our tour in the Crete Senesi thanks to which you can visit the splendid Monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

Latest posts

Tuscany: Senza lilleri non si lallera!

Senza_lilleri
Figures of speech

If you have already read other anecdotes on Tuscan expressions, you have probably understood by now that in the land of Dante there is ...

View

Pisa: The ghost of Galileo: Ghostbusters at work in Piazza dei Miracoli!

Fantasma_Galielo
Mysteries & Legends

Even the great Galileo Galilei was Tuscan. He was a Pisan, to be precise, where he studied medicine before devoting himself to science....

View

Lucca: Santa Zita and the miracle of the pulses

Santa-Zita
Mysteries & Legends

In Italy there is a Saint to protect the workers of every profession. Santa Zita, one of the most beloved characters of Lucca, is the p...

View

Florence: Why does everyone in Florence call a tracksuit a ‘toni’?

Tuta_toni
Figures of speech

In Tuscany we don’t have a proper dialect, but you just have to move a couple of miles to hear different ways of saying that are spec...

View

Top posts

Arezzo: Guido d'Arezzo and the invention of the music

Guido-d-Arezzo
Big Names

In Talla and surroundings people have no doubt: the inventor of the musical stave, the inventor of the music notes and also of the mode...

View

Pistoia: The Kiss of the Christs in Gavinana

Il-bacio-dei-cristi
Local Traditions

It is a very ancient but still popular rite. Two large processions that meet up with a Christ on the cross in front of each one: the he...

View

Siena: Piero Carbonetti and his tin drum

Piero-Carbonetti
Local Traditions

Subversive, persecuted, anarchist, homeless, dreamer: it is really difficult to define Piero Carbonetti, Tuscan bred and born and Garib...

View

Pisa: Kinzika, the young woman who saved Pisa from the Saracens

Kinzika
Local Traditions

It was really her, a young woman with an Arabian name, Kinzica, of the noble Sismondi family, to save Pisa from being sacked by Saracen...

View