Barga ... and you will surely have associated it w...">
Hidden treasures

The mysterious inscription of the Cathedral of Barga

Mysteries & Legends

The mysterious inscription of the Cathedral of Barga

Among the villages of Tuscany, you will surely have heard of Barga ... and you will surely have associated it with Giovanni Pascoli, the Italian poet who lived here from 1895 to 1912 and found in these places great sources of inspiration. His house, which preserves the original structure and furniture, is now a house-museum open to the public.

But there is a mystery, unknown to many, that hovers around the Collegiate Church of St. Christopher, the church that, with its towering position, dominates the entire village offering breath-taking views across Garfagnana. But first things first... the building, built in Romanesque style in the ninth century and later expanded in stages, houses many works of art including a valuable pulpit of the Bigarelli school, supported by columns with lions at the base.
The interior of the Collegiate is enhanced by human and fantastic figures, friezes and arches, but what arouses particular interest among experts and visitors is the mysterious incision on the right side of the front door that, to date, is still indecipherable. The epigraph string, composed of Latin and Greek letters and some strange symbols repeated three times, has sparked the curiosity of famous people of the past such as the Emperor Charles V and Pope Paul III.

Despite numerous attempts to decipher it, the meaning of the inscription still remains a secret: after the attempts made by the great scholar Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti and the Canon Magri, in the early '900 it was the turn of the philologist Augusto Mancini who, based on previous surveys, came to the conclusion that the incision meant 'Mysterium hoc arcanum', a clear reference to the Trinity dogma.
In more recent times, the epigraphist Margherita Guarducci has translated the inscription in 'Mi-cha-el', an invocation to the Archangel Michael in the eternal struggle between good and evil.

The interpretations of this mysterious writing over the centuries have been many and varied: someone suggested that it was written in Sabean, a dialect of the south Arabian language, others attributed it instead to the consecration of the church completed in 1068 by Pope Alexander II, others linked it to the world of Freemasonry. In short, as they say... a bit of everything!

Everyone’s curiosity is heightened by the fact that the same inscription is also found at the entrance to other places of worship, as in the Baptistery of Pisa, the church of St. Fridianus and the church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, which no longer exists: it could therefore be a hidden message left by the Masters of Como... the mystery deepens further and further...

I have a sneaking suspicion that, after reading this article, you will position yourself in front of the computer and search for pictures and information on the strange writing of the Collegiate of St. Christopher... Still, If you can, I recommend you make a short trip to Barga to admire in person the church... maybe it will be you who ends up deciphering the mysterious writing!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

Latest posts

Siena: Ricciarelli: Siena’s sweets hailing from the far East.

Local Traditions

Alongside panforte, they are among Siena’s sweets that best represent the city. Just thinking about their orange and vanilla scent, s...


Florence: Who invented the bistecca alla fiorentina?

Local Traditions

The Florentine beefsteak is the undisputed queen of Tuscany’s gastronomy. Including the bone, and strictly cooked in ‘blood’ (i.e...


Tuscany: Ferdinando Innocenti: the inventor of the Lambretta.

Big Names

There is no doubt that Tuscany is a land of inventors. Just think of Leonardo da Vinci! Ferdinando Innocenti is also one of them. Do yo...


Florence: Negroni was born in Florence!

Did you know that...

Now that Mojito and Moscow Mule are all the rage as aperitifs, there are classic cocktails that have stood the test of time and moods. ...


Top posts

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

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...


Pistoia: The Kiss of the Christs in Gavinana

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...


Siena: Piero Carbonetti and his tin drum

Local Traditions

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


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

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...