Axis of the world (2) – the work of Gheorghe Schwartz – The Hundred, Ecce Homo

In this space, you can read excerpts from the work of Gheorghe Schwartz – The Hundred, Ecce Homo. This is the sixth volume, out of the 11 of the ONE HUNDRED cycle.

It was getting dark and the Duke’s guests were beginning to gather in the great hall for ceremonies, receptions and parties. The men were having a hard time arriving, it had been a tiring long night last night, and he had to wake up his hunger and necessities to get them out of bed. The women, on the other hand, were lurking behind the curtains and columns: the women would have long since returned to the deserted places in the morning, only they did not fall to appear first. And the servants, the sleepy and lazy servants, did a little work between the tables, after which they looked for a corner where to sleep.

The room was provided with windows only at great height, at the wooden gallery, which surrounded the walls on three sides of a square. The ground floor, on the other hand, was octagonal in shape and skilfully opened below the lower surfaces of the floor, giving the whole deceptive size. The frescoes on the ceiling, devoid of human figures, but following the twisted paths of some vines with animal buds, also contributed to this. If you made the mistake of catching on to the meanings of those threads, you risked getting lost in a maze from which you could hardly return. The old Duke, Adrian’s father, the current master, is said that not once, in the middle of a party, did he keep his eyes on the ceiling and never return among the guests. When they learned of this strangeness of their Duke, the servants fixed a moment when they would take him upstairs – more by force – and take him to bed. Waking up, after long hours of hard sleep, the Old Duke complained of terrible headaches and heartbreaking fatigue. As, over the years, he began to wander more and more often among the ceiling paths, he asked for the frescoes to be taken down. But beneath those were other images, as if even more complicated than the first. In order to get rid of the damned model, he should have ordered the entire ceiling to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up, an extremely expensive work that would have endangered the entire dignity of a place symbolized by that very special palace and hall. . Then, accompanied by an impressive escort, the Duke left for the Holy Land and stopped in Constantinople, “somewhere at equal distance from the Tables – the main artery of the metropolis -, the Imperial Palace, namely the Limestone Gate, the Hippodrome and Saint Sophia ”. There he had been received, after long and costly interventions, by Spitzer, Juglans’ father. As even the Old Duke had to wait almost two months for that meeting to succeed, he gave up the second part of his journey. And he gave up because he thought he was healed. We have even kept two epistles of the Speaker to the most illustrious, the healer describing, from afar, the states through which the patient “had” to go. The scribe does not know under what conditions he perished, but all the scaffolding that prevented the visibility of the ceiling was removed only after his death.

However, it was not only the drawings on the vault that gave such a strange shape to the whole, nor the fact that the base was octagonal in shape, while the floor was contained only a simple square. The massive columns prevented the gaze from capturing the whole room at the same time, there being, it is said, a single place from which no angle remained hidden from you: the one in front of the only side of the octagon unforeseen with a door. In the solemn moments, there was sitting, on a pedestal covered with expensive carpets, the Duke’s chair and also from there the owner of the place distributed, four times a year, justice. Otherwise, by tradition, the ceremonial chair was carefully removed and kept in an adjoining room, and the great hall was filled with long tables and seating according to the rank of each. A slightly simpler chair, however, was placed next to the blind wall, covered, like the other sides, with heavy curtains, gnawed by the weather, burned here and there, stained with grease, after some customers had left. deleted by them. (Initially, the curtains had woven patterns similar to those on the ceiling, but the years and the smoke of the torches faded their colors, and their replacement was as inappropriate as changing the frescoes on the ceiling: replacing them would mean destroying not only of citizenship symbols, but faith said it would even lead to the end of the family succession.)

Then there were the stained glass windows in the gallery windows: the stained glass windows that also mirrored the ceiling, but their drawings could only be seen from upstairs – as, of course, from the place of the holiday chair. The colors of the stained glass windows were light to allow as much light as possible into such a crowded room and, for most of the day, rather dark.

The whole hall was eighty feet in diameter, and because of the many obstacles, as well as the level differences between the various higher or lower floors on which the tables were placed, the room seemed even larger. It is said that it happened more than once that, at large parties, close acquaintances did not find out that they had been together and had not met throughout the night. It is true that at celebrations like these, sometimes even three hundred people gathered without the guests feeling overcrowded and there was still room for the servants to carry the massive, heavy trays of food, the jugs of drinks and the trays of water. .

The spectacle was even more impressive seen from upstairs, behind the gallery grilles. (The grilles that adorned lodge they were unique in all of Italy and represented the work of famous Arab goldsmiths, brought to the Peninsula after the ship they were traveling to Iberia was captured by the Venetians. In Iberia, the Arabs were supposed to adorn a palace of the Caliph of Cordoba. Three generations ago, when they had finished their work, that the Ducal Palace could be reopened in all its splendor, it is said that the Duke of that time would have been so delighted with their work that, against all precedent, he would have allowed them to go where they wanted. It also seems to have been inspired by those Arabs, the ceiling painters, the drapery weavers, and the glassmakers who made the stained glass. The great hall was added to an older building and, at the inauguration, it was considered one of the most precious pearls of the peninsula.) to walk there, than, at most, on the occasion of very special favors. Upstairs were mostly women, before descending among the diners, as well as the Duke’s trusted men, when they had to watch in detail the behavior of someone, with whom he was talking, whom he was looking out of sight. In a tourist description from the 19th century of the palace, it is mentioned that the great hall was one of the wonders of the medieval construction, preserving the secrets of the architects of the long-lost buildings. Among the most amazing performances of the construction were the extremely wide vault of the ceiling, the combination of arches (unique in the world) and, above all, the absolutely extraordinary acoustics, so that in some places you could hear extremely clear sounds emitted in other places. established, and consequently there were such paired points, which, known only to those of the house, enabled them to communicate easily from a distance by the usual noise of large gatherings of people having fun. (If this was true, even if only in part, then we find another element meant to complicate the orientation in that complicated space: we just have to imagine how someone reacted unknowingly to the “acoustic channels” of the room, remembering that he heard fragments of discussion, as well as noises whose origin he could not locate near him, which reached him from he did not know where, and which mingled with other sounds whose source was in his immediate vicinity.)

Here, then, is the place of action. A poor action, if we judge it by the units of measure of the scribe’s contemporaries. Only cheap TV series take place in just a few interiors. But let’s not forget, the big room we are in is by no means a common one, and the possibilities it offered were endless. Where, in what place could we find so many opportunities of a seemingly limited universe? Let’s imagine a play and not necessarily a movie. Is Shakespeare more primitive than Fellini?

Distribution. What happened on the evening of September 7, 1000 AD, could be described in half a page and – at the same time – there would not be a library to explain it. (…) The scribe quickly closes this parenthesis, which he has just sketched, for fear of getting lost – again! – in endless speculations, speculations that become entangled in his mind and would put to an inadmissible test the patience and so much too requested of the good reader.

He, the good reader, may remember the weary servants, who hid in the corners of the room, being present on duty, but also taking a nap. The occasion for which they were preparing was a very special one, although, by repetition, it first came to tire and then to produce only fewer and fewer emotions.

Allium. Among so many extras, the good reader ignored, of course, a young man dressed identically to the other argues and who differed from them only in that he did not fall asleep as soon as he crouched under a table or behind a column, but remained with his eyes. squint, looking curiously through his eyelids at everything around him. Under his common uniform, which made him even more difficult to distinguish from those who seemed to have a condition with him, hid an important player in the economy of action. It was called Allium – or so he was called – and he probably received this nickname from Juglans, with whom he came from the Eastern Empire. Allium comes from Allium sativum, the Latin name for garlic. Garlic, it is known, was considered almost a panacea in antiquity and enjoyed great passage, in various compositions and methods of administration, and in the art of Spitzer. The builders of the great pyramids of the pharaohs of Egypt received, each in due secrecy, a clove of garlic for the tonic and antiseptic qualities of the plant, and now to the Greek cities it spread a pungent odor coming from the mouths of so many people who did not forget to take their daily portion of them. But it was not because of his healing virtues that he called Juglans “Allium” his companion, but because, many times, his companion had manifestations that matched perfectly with the sometimes unbearably hot sensation, but also with the heavy smell of garlic. around. Accustomed to the onomastics coming from his father’s curative preoccupations, the Fifty-eighth also used to look in such nicknames for the characteristics of those with whom he came in contact.

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