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A Bit of Street of Art from the Emilia-Romagna


I'm not sure that I can truly call these three pieces street shrines -- perhaps the second one is the only real shrine because it seems more devotional than the other two.

In any event, I find these works interesting and thanks to Annie, I've been paying much more attention to some of the street art, or shrines, that one sees so often in Italy.

One my first full day in Parma, in early June, I came across two interesting examples. These were very close together, and just to one side of the fascinating Chiesa magistrale della Steccata -- the Church of St Mary of Steccata. (It boasts not only some great art, but has been the site of two -- count 'em, two -- miracle-working images!)

The first piece of street art, shown above, depicts Saint George slaying his dragon. The inscription refers to the "Order of St. Constantine Giorgio" or possibly the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, the oldest international Roman Catholic order of chivalry.

According to the legend, the dragon represents a multitude of woes, including the plague (a major preoccupation in Europe throughout the centuries) and of course, sin and hell.

I saw this theme of St. George and the dragon repeated from time to time across the Emilia-Romagna region, in north-central Italy. It actually appears in many places in Italy -- and the world -- and George is the patron saint of Ferrara, an important city in the E-R region.

According to the Golden Legend, St. George met the Dragon, possibly in Libya where the dragon lived in a huge lake and terrorized the population. They fed the dragon sheep until these ran out, then they offered their children, chosen by lottery. Finally, it came the turn of the King's daughter, who caught the eye of St. George. He seriously wounded the dragon to halt the attack, and then George also offered to protect the people by destroying the beast, if they all converted to Christianity.

So, I imagine that this Parma shrine to George was intended as protection against plagues, demons, sins and other related woes.

The second, nearby shrine is to the Madonna and child and is only steps away from St. George of Parma.



This final piece of art, which I found in medieval Bologna, caught my eye. It sits in an arch above the back entrance to the ex-chiesa di San Giobbe, or former church of Job, which dates to the 15th century when it also served as a hospital. It has now been turned into an airy shopping and business arcade.



Comments (9)

I love your finds, Sandra. I think they could qualify as shrines:) We'll have to wait for the expert's opinion though.

I especially like the third one.

These are awesome finds! I don't know the difference between shrines and "public art" myself; in Venice it seems like a blurry line. But it is so cool to see these from other parts of Italy.

St. George is fascinating to me; in Venice, there is a Catholic, Orthodox, and an Anglican church dedicated to him. Yet most sources say he's a myth. Go figure.

Sister Wendy says that he is pre-Christian, the "Green Man" and I need to check what that means. :) I love these over-lapping images of the Divine though.

I hope that you are feeling better!


Hi Candi, the 3rd one is lovely, isn't it?

I think the strict definition of a shrine is that it contains a relic from a saint or holy person. But I don't think that's a practical, working definition any more. It seems to me that a shrine marks a place that is very meaningful, with objects that express its significance.

So, I suppose the relief of St. George isn't really a shrine. But I still find it cool.

Annie, your reference to Sister Wendy and her description of St. George as a possible Green Man is so interesting! I think the Green Man was a pagan symbol, although I also want to learn much more about that. It makes sense, that he (like so many pagan symbols) could have been co-opted by early Christian leaders, to ease the transition to Christianity.

The story does seem like a delightful myth -- I can't quite believe dragons, as such, actually existed. But it works as a fabulous metaphor for plagues and pestilence or vampires, even predatory creatures like wolves!

And thanks, I'm feeling better now, the antibiotics have finally kicked in.

I found the quote from Sister Wendy (I'd put it on my blog entry about San Giorgio Maggiore).

“St. George is a Christian saint who also existed before Christianity. He has always been there; he is the Green Man, the hero who fights the dragon of winter, the warrior who fights the dragon of death.”

I agree that dragons are a wonderful metaphor. It fascinates me that they show up in Eastern mythologies too. And they've made a recent comeback with Harry Potter!

Glad to hear that the meds are working and you're feeling better!


Hi Annie, that is a wonderful quote and a very interesting image -- I love the idea that George "has always been there."

I suppose that means dragons have always been there, too. In some form -- even babies like Norbert, setting Hagrid's beard on fire!


Gorgeous relief of St. George. And fascinating about the dragon, I'd not thought of it as a metaphor before. Adds much depth to the lore though, doesn't it?!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, wonderful finds. Very interesting reading about the history of St. George.

Thank you for sharing your photos and for this great read Sandra. I'm very glad to read that you are feeling better.

LOL about Norbert. My nephews are just starting to get into Harry Potter and I'm so excited (and so glad that we have moved out of the Superman/Batman/Spiderman phase!).

Sister Wendy wrote a book about saints; I don't have it but might need to order it.

It's funny because I also started noticing more shrines and street art after becoming a fan of Annie's blog. Very cool photos and great finds!

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