The Golden Tree of Lucignano

In the Municipal Museum of Lucignano, Tuscany, you will find an exceptional example of Arezzo’s goldsmiths – the Golden Tree. Also known as the “Tree of Life”, the “Tree of Lucignano”. the “Tree of Love” or the “Tree of St. Francis”, this Golden Tree is, in fact, a reliquary. Standing 2.6m high and made of silver and gilded copper, it was created over the peiod 1350 to 1471. Ugolino da Vieri and Gabriello d’Antonio are both mentioned as having played a part in its making.

The tree consists of a trunk and twelve branches. At the top is a crucifix and a pelican; the bird was supposed to peck its breast in order to feed its young with its own blood, and thus became the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. On the branches, six to each side, are golden leaves, miniatures, enamels, medallions adorned with rock crystal and coral (the latter’s colour recalling that of Christ’s blood), and small reliquaries that one held fragments of the True Cross (now empty).

The tree was stolen on 28 September 1914. Three years later it was found hidden in a cave outside the village of Sarterano (near Siena), about 60 kms to the south of Lucignano, however, some of its 72 enamel works and coral were missing.

The name “Tree of Love” comes from the fact that the tree is supposed to bring good luck to the newly-weds – and renewed sexual vigour to elderly couples – who place flowers or petals at its base.

So, the next time you are visiting Siena, take the time travel to visit the Municipal Museum of Lucignano and see this beautiful Tree – it will leave you in awe.

 

(Adapted from Secret Tuscany by Carlo Caselli, published by JonGlez)
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