The mysterious inscription of the Cathedral of BargaMysteries & 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!
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