We went looking for the famous 10-12th century Duomo (cathedral) of Salerno. Along the way we discovered a medieval aqueduct, which still provides drinking water to local fountains. People here just carry an empty cup, and when they need a drink, fill it from the fountain!
We also found the old school of medicine, one of the first in Europe in the 12th century, and a 10th century church with lovely marble columns. I’m pretty sure those columns must have been pilfered from a Roman ruin. There must have been a fair bit of pilfering over the years, because every once in a while even a shop on a street corner will be shored up with an ancient pillar, sometimes built right into a wall.
The Duomo has a beautiful courtyard just full of pilfered columns.
I can imagine what the head stone carver said to his workman a thousand years ago. “Hey, Luigi, I give you the very special job of carving big animals to guard the doors to the Duomo. Let’s have something fierce. Something nobody else has. Let’s have … I have it! Lions!” Poor Luigi says, “But boss, I’ve never seen a lion. I’ve never even seen a picture of a lion. And this being the middle ages, nobody in the city of Salerno has ever seen a lion.”
“Mama mia, see what kind of a crew do I have to work with?! And the bishop has me on a tight schedule for the pope’s visit! Now listen closely, Luigi, and I will TELL you what a lion looks like! Because I heard a sermon once, about a martyr thrown into the Colosseum with one, and I remember it well. A lion is kind of like a wolf, or a dog (and you know what those are, right, Luigi?) but with a long whippy tale like a cat and a big beard that goes all around his neck. Got it?”
And Luigi goes home to his wife and tells her, “And on top of all that, I’ve got to make it look like it look like the King of the Beasts, but also like it would want to eat you, if it wasn’t made of stone. For the next while, I am going to BE the lion …. rowrrrrrr!”
And his wife tells him, “Well, Luigi darling, as long as you are doing two lions, shouldn’t one be the mama lion and one be the papa lion? And by the way, you don’t need to roar at me.”
But nobody ever told poor Luigi that the mama lions don’t have manes….
Inside there were some sort of stone animals nibbling at the base of one of the marble columns, and I swear they looked like platypus (platypi?), except that they predate the European discovery of Australia. Maybe these are Luigi’s practice lions?
The Duomo is full of mosaic decorations also dating from the early middle ages. The floors are beautiful, and a delight to a quilter’s eye.
So are the mosaic decorations on the pulpit, and even circling a large candle stand.
In one 2.5 inch square alone I counted over 60 pieces.
We also have now scoped out some places to eat, and I think it will be pizza tonight!