Vigoleno - Pieve di San Giorgio
Vigoleno (municipality of Vernasca, in the province of Piacenza) is, rightly, one of "the most beautiful villages in Italy".
The village is enclosed by a wall, which is accessed by a single entrance, making it a fortified center.
The medieval walls, with accessible walkways, have been carefully restored.
In the 1980's, the village was filmed with Richard Donner's "Lady Hawke" movie with Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer (Vittorio Storaro's photograph).
It seems that in the Middle Ages it was home to a "hospitale" for pilgrims.
The nobles of the Scotti family, (scotti=Scottish, who came to Italy to fight the Longobards) bought the castle in ruins in 1389 and become feudalists in 1404.
Inside the fortified village stands the Pieve di San Giorgio dating back to the 12th century.
The Romanesque church with three naves is characterized by a splendid portal Bearing on the San Giorgio lunette killing the dragon. Two telamons hold the entrance lintel.
To the right of the eye there is a figure that is difficult to read but very impressive.
The apses that correspond to the aisles are wonderful
The central apse is equipped with a crowning gallery where decorations stand out with two characters on whom the time has made its injuries making it difficult to read.
Inside, two rows of columns decorated with floral motifs (including heads of various kinds) separate the aisles.
All the columns are decorated this way, except one!(Symmetry was considered diabolical. Perfection was an attribute of God, so men had to abstain from symmetrical perfection).
And this column, alone, justifies the trip to Vigoleno!
It stands out - amongst all the decorative elements - the two-tils mermaid, which looks at the main nave.
There is no certainty about the meaning of the mermaid: certainly it must have been important and known to everyone in the twelfth century. The errant preachers and the stonecutters certainly knew him and they never imagined that we could be in the dark!
Under the mermaid three figures are carved: the central figure joins the hands of the two sides: perhaps a 'mystical marriage' (God joining Christ and the church) but does not accept other hypotheses ...
On the left of the mermaid two characters cover the eyes and the mouth of the other. Who knows what story was told and reminded of the faithful by this remark!
Continuing to 'read' the capital, there is one of the best representations of the basilisk that the stone-carving of the Middle Ages gave us.
The cocked-headed animal with volatile body and snake tail is perhaps less disturbing than the one in the Rowling's tales.
But the "King of Snakes" is carefully reproduced 5 times in the column with the bicaudal mermaid.
The image immediately to the right of the mermaid leaves no doubt about its danger: the basilisk is represented while killing an unharmed.
According to the medieval bestiary Basilisk can kill with a single glance, with hissing or even just with the smell and its bite makes hydrophobic.
Basilisk is a really dangerous animal, a real nightmare for the people of the Middle Ages.
The simple turn of the asymmetric column corresponds to a dramatic dip in medieval culture. For those who want to investigate, here there is material on which to reflect.