A matter of serious medievalist concern: the fate of the penis tree of Massa Marittima

I knew there was a reason I subscribed to News for Medievalists. Occasionally, I wake up to news about penis trees.

So here’s the story:

First, some people decide to restore the penis tree fresco in the Tuscan town of Massa Marittima. After they’re done, people look at the tree, and conclude that the penises have been altered!

Over at the Daily Telegraph, the report is that “The experts who carried out the restoration have been accused of sanitising the mural by scrubbing out or altering some of the testicles, which hang from the tree’s branches along with around 25 phalluses.”

In the Telegraph article, the restorers defend themselves and say that if the penises appear to have changed, it’s probably because the restoration removed heavy calcium and salt deposits. In the Daily Mail, the chief restorer is quoted as saying “it’s possible that the aggressive nature of the chemicals used made them disappear”, which sounds rather neglectful, and I’m going to assume that the Daily Fail have somehow skewed his report.

But the plot thickens! Over at News for Medievalists, they’ve published a comment from their Facebook Page from someone who claims to have worked on the restoration. According to this commenter, Cecilia Frosinini, penises were removed – because they were found to have been *added* to the fresco a mere 10 years ago, by a previous restoration team who apparently got a little too enthusiastic about phallic foliage.

Ladies and gentlemen, the discipline of medieval studies. Where else do you get intrigue and scandal involving penis trees?


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