Text by Fabrizio Pennacchia
Alatri is a small town in Lazio, south of Rome. The territory where is located, is the ancient land called “Ciociaria”.
Alatri have many pre-roman, roman and medieval monuments.
Alatri has many beautiful churches and palaces of the XI, XII and XIII centuries. A church with an adjoining cloister, dating from the thirteenth century, is dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi.
The cloister of St Francis of Alatri-photo G Pavat
In 1996, in this cloister, in a tunnel, three amateur researchers Ennio Orgiti, Orestino Fanfarillo and Paride Quadrozzi have discovery many frescoes on the walls.
Unknown painters have painted "six-petalled flowers" also called "Flower of Life", spirals, triple circles, decorative plants and what looks like a true "unicum" in the panorama of universal art.
This is a huge fresco of "Christ in Glory" or "Christ the Judge" at the centre of a huge labyrinth.
The Christ in the Labyrinth of Alatri - photo G Pavat
The fresco Christ in the labyrinth is very mysterious. The autor or client of fresco is unknown. Also do not know what was the place in wich it was painted.
We believe that a room or nave of a church.
The size of the work and the fact that it is at the top suggests that it was designed to be seen even from a distance.
The labyrinth is formed of twelve concentric black and white circles. The diameter of the outer circle is about 140cm while that of the inner circle measures 75 cm.
In the fresco, Christ with his left hand, on which ring finger there is a ring, holds a book in which some details stand out, like two buckles and a plaque placed in correspondence to the heart.
Christ's right hand shakes another hand coming out
of the labyrinth of Alatri - photo G Pavat
Pavat and the Alatri's fresco - photo Sonia Palombo
With his right hand, he is shaking another hand coming out of an opening in the same maze. His face is bearded, with a halo inscribed with a cross.
The face of Christ in the Labyrinth of Alatri - photo G Pavat
He wears a dark tunic (Perhaps at one time was a white) and a golden cloak.
To create the labyrinth the unknown author has traced the first central circle and the other 23 concentric to it. Then, before colouring them black and white, he has "cut" the circles, creating angles, nooks and corridors. And giving the maze a cross-shaped appearance. To some, it resembles a “Cross Pattèe” like the red one that can be seen on the counter-façade of the church of St. Francis of Assisi.
Templar Cross in the church of St Francis of Alatri - photo G Pavat
The wall painted with the "Christ in the Labyrinth" faces south. So, the entrance to the labyrinth of Alatri lies to the west (to the left of the observer) and the exit is to the east.
Entrance of Labyrinth of Alatri - photo G Pavat
Practically, it's orientated like the vast majority of Christian churches and cathedrals.
You enter by coming from where the sun sets and you continue in the direction in which it stands, towards the Light.
In Alatri, an ancient symbol such as that of the "Labyrinth", has been matched with the image of the "historical Christ". Not attested before the fourth century A.D.
The early Christians, still suffering the influence of the Jewish religion, which abhorred the images, never portray the Saviour with his human form. But by allegories and symbols. Like the symbol of “the Good Shepherd” which bears a lamb on his shoulders symbolizing Jesus Saviour of souls.
The Alatri’s fresco is very damaged. But because of its importance the Ministry of Culture of the Italian Republic has allocated 100,000 euros for the restoration.
The restoration work will end in spring 2012.
The italian historical researcher and writer Giancarlo Pavat has made important discoveries of this fresco.
Giancarlo Pavat front entrance tunnel
of the cloister of St Francis of Alatri
photo Italo Biddittu
Pavat born in 1967 in Trieste in northern Italy, he lives and works in Rome.
He deals with the mysteries of history and art. He collaborates with museums, institutions and cultural organizations. I have written numerous articles for newspapers and magazines, have taken part in national television broadcasts for the Italian public. For his discoveries, he has also been interviewed by national radio and television broadcasters. He is a mountaineer, speleologist and holds a licence for diving.
In 2007, Pavat wrote the book "Valcento. The monastic orders of knighthood in southern Lazio" (Belvedere Editions, Latina), which has been very successful.
In 2009 he published "Christ in the maze. The mystery of the fresco", published by the City of Alatri and with a preface by Vice Mayor Dr. Giulio Rossi (New Press, Frosinone). In 2010, Pavat wrote the book "A journey through Southern Lazio through the symbolism of the Templars and other monastic orders of knighthood", with a preface by Adriano Forgione and afterword by art historian Alessandra Leo. (Belvedere Editions, Latina)
In 2011, with Claudio Imperatore, he published “Alatri’s Templar”, (New Press, Frosinone)
Pavat studied this fresco since 2007, on invitation of the Municipal City of Alatri.
G. Pavat and the major of Alatri dr Costantino Magliocca - photo S. Palombo
In 2009, Pavat has discovered that the path of Alatri’s labyrinth is identical to that on the floor of the nave of Chartres Cathedral.
Labyrinth of Chartres- France
But not only.
There are seven known labyrinths of medieval times. All circulars and reference to the Alatri Chartres model.
Many are in Italy. Some are still visible, others are gone forever, of others only fragments remain. Those missing were in Rome in the church of “Santa Maria in Aquiro”. The labyrinth of the Cathedral of “San Michele Maggiore” at Pavia in Lombardia in Northern Italy, has disappeared, leaving only a fragment. Still visible is the one carved on the marble slab walled facade of the Cathedral of “San Martino” in Lucca in Tuscany.
Another similar labyrinth in Chartres is situated in the church of “San Pietro” in Pontremoli in Tuscany. This labyrinth is carved on a stone slab on the wall inside the church.
Finally, another Chartres-type labyrinth is in the small medieval church of Grinstad in western Sweden.
Pavat and the Labyrinth of Grinstad - Sweden -
photo Sonia Palombo
At this moment the authors of the fresco with the "Christ in the Labyrinth" of Alatri are still unknown. But the study of other decorations (“flowers with six petals”, triple circles, spiral, stars, etc.) tend to attribute it to the Order of "Pauperes Commilitiones Christi Templique Solomonici" better known as "Knights Templar". Built in the second decade of the twelfth century in the Holy Land, in order to protect pilgrims and the Holy Sepulchre, it was destroyed by the French King Philip “the Fair” with the complicity of Pope Clement V in the fourteenth century.
Tunnel of cloister of St Francis of Alatri -
The Flower with six petals - photo Pavat
Tunnel of cloister of St Francis of Alatri
Triple circle painted - photo Pavat
Tunnel of cloister of St Francis of Alatri
Spiral painted - photo Pavat
I proved that the Knights Templar were in Alatri between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.
I found numerous "Templar crosses" painted in many churches of Alatri. Like the “Cross Pattèe” in the church of San Francesco, near the cloister with the maze, and the church of “San Silvestro”. Also at “Porta San Sebastiano”, medieval gate, there was a hospice for pilgrims.
But there are interesting news from Sweden. News that appear to connect Sweden with Alatri.
In Summer 2011, Giancarlo Pavat and a other italians researchers traveled to Sweden. In the region of Dalsland visited the church of Grinstad.
Italian expedition in church of Grinstad - Sweden
Photo Bo Andersson
The Italian expedition has been great emphasis on the Swedish press. Because the Dalsland region is small known even in Sweden.
A Grinstad, Giancarlo Pavat met locale historians researchers, including professor Gudrun Rydberg.
Giancarlo Pavat with Gudrun Rydberg
in Grinstad - Photo Domenico Pelino
In the church of Grinstad, Pavat and other Italian researchers have discovered many elements of similarity between the Alatri’s labyrinth and the Swedish labyrinth.
Church of Grinstad - Sweden - Photo Pavat
Both labyrinths are painted on a wall facing south.
Labyrinth of Grinstad - Sweden - Photo Pavat
Both labyrinths are circular.
Both have 11 circles; plus the central circle.
The path of the labyrinth Grinstad has some blind alleys. Perhaps because of bad restoration works.
In Grinstad, near labyrinth is painted a red cross; the “Cross Pattèe”. Perhaps a clue to the Templars?
Red Templar Cross - Church of Grinstad - Sweden - Photo Pavat
A Grinstad, another Templar clue is a flower with six petals, carved on a stone block.
Flower with six petals - Church of Grinstad - Sweden - photo Pavat
It has been suggested that the places with the same labyrinths the Alatri-Chartres type indicate the stages of a journey or pilgrimage or spiritual initiation.
Research on the Templar presence in Grinstad and Dalsland are still in progress.