Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tuscany Journal: Cortona

The merlons on top of the bell tower in Cortona’s main square remind you that it was once a Ghibelline city. Remember the Guelphs sided with the Pope and the Ghibellines, the Emperor. Below these are the red standards emblazoned with the lion which is the symbol of Mark, one of the patron saints of this medieval town (the other is Saint Margherita whose Basilica rests at the top the hill overlooking the verdant Chiana valley—the once swamp lands being the breeding ground for a wonderfully flavorful form of Tuscan beef). It can be said about Cortona what some therapists often inform complicated patients, it’s got a lot going on. Just walk up the street to the Basilica of St Francis. It’s the second Franciscan chapel, following the footprint of the first designed by Brother Elia. His body along with that of Luca Signorelli is buried in the church (along with relics like the piece of wood from the True Cross). Then there are the frescoes under the walls, which were covered up at the onset of the Counter-Reformation when the church was attempting to redefine itself in the wake of Luther’s 99 Theses. “In Hoc Signo Vinces,  “in this sign thou shalt conquer,” echoing Constantine’s famous dream that brought Christianity to the Roman Empire in 330 A.D. It’s hard not to take a step in Corona without coming upon some historical legacy. During the renovation of a house in 2009, a wall built by the Etruscans in the Second Century BC evidences their architectural legacy (which included the advent of the arch) of a highly evolved civilization. As you descend Cortona you'll pass the gated Villa Laura where Under the Tuscan Sun was shot.

N.B.: read Francis Levy's short story, "Pet Buddha"in Vol. 1 Brooklyn. 

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