Checkered Italy


Vico Pancellorum - Pieve di Sant Paolo

This small and isolated village, a village of Bagni di Lucca, lies a mysterious corner really. Here you can find the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, built around the year 873, on the facade of which emerge a series of very ancient symbols and strange arrangement.From left to right are clearly visible crucified Jesus, a very elaborate tree of life, a knight holding a sword, a chessboard and a Madonna with child.

Mugello -Pieve di S. Agata frazione di Scarperia

The church was first mentioned in 984 and expanded in the 12th century.The church is built over the remains of a Roman Temple.

Firenze - Palazzo Davanzati

In Florence in the Palazzo Davanzati a 14 century scene can be seen:
The Lady of Verzi plays with the Knight of Burgundy.


Genova - Cattedrale di San Lorenzo

The cathedral of San Lorenzo was probably founded in the 5th or 6th century. The romanesque part was made around 1100 and a major renovation took place  of the facade between 1307 and 1312, after the cathedrale was damaged because of a fire.


Duomo di Crema

The first cathedral in town was destroyed by Frederick Barbarossa in 1160. Crema cathedral was begun in 1185, but construction was halted in 1212 to begin again in 1284 but in Gothic style.

Brescia - Piazza del Foro

Brescia - Port Paganora

In the medieval wall of Port Paganora a chessboard can be found. The gate is probably 13th century (Duckworth, chapter 4).

Milan - Basilica of Sant Ambrogio

One of Milan’s oldest basilicas (founded by St Ambrose in 379) served as a model for most of the city’s early medieval churches. It was enlarged in the 9th century, and what we see today dates largely from 1080 (albeit with later reconstructions). This church is very special, since it has two bell towers and 4 checkerboards.

Intriguing is the checkerboard in the wall at the place of the red circle.

The board is located over the narthex, upper right, under the bell tower of the monks. The scheme consists of 49 boxes..

The two boards are inside when entering the door-to-the-left immediately on the left wall of the aisle, under the arch. The smaller board has 25 boxes and the larger board is made ​​up of 49 boxes.

Located in the narthex, virtually under the porch, right on the wall vertically, it has a pattern of 64 squares.

The apse mosaic. Christ is enthroned in front of a checkered background and on each side are Sts. Gervasius and Protasius, with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel bearing crowns.

Emilia Romagna

Piacenza - La chiesa di San Savino

In the Cathedral floor from San Savino Cathedral in Piacenza there is a monochrome chessboard showing two figures playing chess. This chess scene is part of a Zodiac and 4 combat scenes beautifully layed out in the Crypt. The mosaic is probably made ca. 1165.


Tarquinia - The Tomb of the Leopards

The Tomb of the Leopards (Italian Tomba dei Leopardi) is an Etruscan burial chamber so called for the confronted leopards painted above a banquet scene. The tomb was discovered in 1875. The tomb is located within the Monterozzi necropolis and dates to around 480–450 BC. The painting is one of the best-preserved murals of Tarquinia, and is known for "its lively coloring, and its animated depictions rich with gestures."

The banqueters are "elegantly dressed" male-female couples attended by two nude boys carrying serving implements. The women are depicted as fair-skinned and the men as dark, in keeping with the gender conventions established in the Near East, Egypt and Archaic Greece. The arrangement of the three couples prefigures the triclinium of Roman dining. Musicians are pictured on the walls to the left and right of the banquet. On the right, a komos of wreathed figures and musicians approaches the banquet; on the left, six musicians and giftbearers appear in a more stately procession.

The man on the far-right couch holds up an egg, symbol of regeneration, and other banqueters hold wreaths. The scene is usually taken to represent the deceased's funerary banquet, or a family meal that would be held on the anniversary of his death. It is presented as a celebration of life, while Etruscan banquet scenes in earlier tombs have a more somber character. The scene appears to take place outdoors, within slender trees and vegetation, perhaps under a canopy.

Although the figures are distinctly Etruscan, the artist of the central banquet draws on trends in Greek art and marks a transition from Archaic to Early Classical style in Etruscan art. The processions on the left and right are more markedly Archaic and were executed by different artists.

Nothern Italy

Trequanda - Chiesa dei santi Pietro e Andrea

A 13th century church with a facade from a two-tone checkerboard effect obtained by alternating tuff and travertine.


Italian School-Bergamo, Partita a scacchi, is a painted fresco laid on canvas from the second half of the 14th century.

Size 26.4 x 20.1 in. / 67 x 51 cm. Sotheby's Milan: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 Lot 95

L'abbazia di S. Stefano a Bologna

Anagni (fr) Italy citta' dei papi

chiesa di Santa Maria di Sovereto

The following checkerboard pattern can be found in the basement of the church. The church is linked to Knight Templar and their symbolism.



The panel to the left of the central nave, this is one of the most complex and suggestive, especially because of the historical stratification evident from its subsequent modifications.

To the right, a geometric pattern of horizontally and diagonally aligned squares emerges: images of fish are inserted in the latter, as is an inscription E(ST) HO(MO) N(ON) TO / TUS MEDI / US SED PIS / CIS AB IMO, which refers to the double nature of the triton beneath.

The triton, or man-fish, holds two dolphins in his outstretched hands.  Alterations in the mosaic are evident in various parts of this figure, particularly in the epitaph and in the figure of the triton (whose symbolism is equivalent to that of the siren).

Above and to the left, partially legible, are two lions facing each other.  Appearing on a geometric background, it resembles an emblem that could be found on a coat of arms.  Below this are figures of a harp player (?) and a taller woman with an epitaph above her head – IOHSDERNA (perhaps “Iohannis Derna”) – probably the name of a poet-musician.

To the right is a large chess board held in place by two warriors: this insertion could demonstrate the diffusion of this game in the West (which arrived from the Middle East between the eleventh and twelfth centuries), but it probably could also be linked to an episode in the Trojan War which is depicted immediately below it (Ulysses and Palamede playing chess during the attack on Troy).

The bireme transporting warriors and women is preceded by bald, masculine figures as well as two women that seem to be embracing (the last woman is in not visible in Carducci’s renderings), one of which, veiled, is stepping on the ship’s ladder.

Vertical writing appears high above to the left: PARIS REX TROI(A)E MENELAU(M) PRIVAT HELENA / P(ER) Q(UAM) TROIA PERIT (GRAE)CIA L(A)ETA REDIT.

This inscription therefore explains that the image is depicting either the return of Helen after the destruction of Troy, or her kidnapping at the hands of Paris.

Possibly this image was derived from the “Roman de Troie” – a literary text written around 1160 and ascribed to Benoit de Sainte Maure – or another similar poem.  The theme of this mosaic is already quite debated, for it is of great interest to those studying twelfth and thirteenth century European culture; the eagle on the ship’s flag has particularly produced a number of interesting historical hypotheses.  Another episode from the Trojan War cycle, again connected to the French epic poems, can be found in the pavement of the Cathedral of Brindisi (created around 1178), whose mosaic is aesthetically quite similar to that of Pesaro’s.  This could confirm that interaction occurred between these cities on the Pilgrimage Route, which carried Northern European culture down through Apulia en route to Jerusalem.

On the lower portion, the five ducks that were noted by Carducci (the last of which is encircled by ducklings, which Carducci neglected to depict in his diagram) complete the particular orientation of this grand panel, which is seen from a different position than all of the others.


Simboli Templari nella Cattedrale Sardegna

Tenuta Mariani


Table of Contents

The Survival of Roman Antiquities in the Middle Ages Michael Greenhalgh London, Duckworth, 1989:

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