A synthetical sample of a sculpted cosmology.
Near the arch of the ancient "porta a sole" in the town -walls of the little village of Lapedona (Marche - Italy) you find the carved stone whose picture is shown here above.
Probably the sculpture comes from one of the romanesque churches of the zone, maybe from the near building of S. Pietro and you can guess it originally was in one of the series of little arches that can be easily found in cornices of many "lombard" medieval churches.
The very simple carvings of this object allows you to make a few comments about the way how a cosmology could be realized in a synthetical image.
We see, in fact, in the highter part, two peacocks, one opposite to the other.
The subject of the peacock is quite usual in the medieval Christian art (1), but it has an ancient origin.
There are well known legends about its meat that keps fresh even after the death and this thematic, for istance, was related to immortality of the soul by St. Augustine.
The cosmological meaning of the peacock usually identifies its"radiate" head with the sun, while the blue reflexes of the big tail are image of the starry sky.
This is the reason because the two peacocks of Lapedona can recall what can be identified in the daily course of the sunshine; their "raied" heads are in the tallest part of the arch while the tails are in the lower part, that's the point of the course where, after the sunset or before the sunrise, there will be the view of the starry sky ("open" tail).
Following the ancient tradition, you can consider the peacock turned on the right as connected with the rising part of the course; the other peacock is connected with the setting part.
In this case, the night course of the sun in the abyss under the earth (2) is represented by the siren, living in the depth of the ocean, who, in this carving, grasps her tails almost making an arch over and around herself ; this is a further allusion to the cosmological meaning of the picture.
Two fishes on the two sides are another underlining of the inclusive symbolism of the sculpture; their position is probably a generic reference to the cyclic dynamics expressed by this cosmological synthesis that, although very simple, it has seemed to be worth this brief comment.
Translation by the author
(1) M. Schneider: "Gli animali simbolici e la loro origine musicale"- Milano 1986.
(2) Of course, here we are dealing with the ancient cosmological idea of the earth at the centre of the universe while the planets and the sun run around it.
Un semplice esempio di una completa cosmologia - Italian translation
Iconografia medievale- Medieval Iconography
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