Intelligence in their hands

“Langobards on display”, a project by the Associazione Italia Langobardorum

Close your eyes and imagine a small funeral procession in front of you, marching through the fog to the basilica of San Salvatore in Spoleto and its cemetery. Everyone is silent: women with their heads veiled, men wrapped in their cloaks.

The cold bites into their flesh, the damp penetrates their bones. But they are there, in the livid light of dawn, to pay their last respects to the magister, the blacksmith, the craftsman of their community. They will place the tools of his trade beside him, to accompany him on his final journey: the melting pot, the pincers and the tools for bending iron sheets or granulating gold.

The blacksmith is no ordinary villager. A metal tamer, who forges the hooves that allow horses to move swiftly over any terrain, and the swords to strike enemies, cannot be ordinary.
The survival of the community is linked to his art. The bravest warrior is nothing without a skilled blacksmith to provide him with weapons for battle. But even the people, without a blacksmith, cannot live.

Longobard craftsmen followed the great migrations. They repaired wagon wheels, shoed horses, produced knives, ladles, jugs, as well as swords and daggers.

Ma non sono solo artigiani capaci di creare ciò che serve per l’immediato. In pace sono altre le materie lavorate nelle loro officine: i metalli scintillanti che sono l’ornamento del potere. E allora via, a fondere e lavorare l’oro e l’argento, a tagliare le pietre preziose, levigare il vetro e i cristalli, costruire castoni. Anelli, spille, fibbie, catene, luccichio di smalti. Tutto ciò che è bello o ricco è prodotto dalle loro abili mani.

But they are not only craftsmen capable of creating what is needed for the immediate. In peace, other materials are worked in their workshops: glittering metals, the ornament of power. So off they go, melting and working gold and silver, cutting precious stones, polishing glass and crystals, making bezels. Rings, brooches, buckles, chains, glittering enamels. Everything beautiful or rich is produced by their skilled hands.

They are attentive, tireless, curious, ready to travel to learn new techniques and satisfy new customers. In their workshops, not only metals are fused together, but also knowledge: different styles melt. Craftsmen from the North meet southern techniques, study them, apply them and improve them. They call themselves artifex and magister and it is not just a name, but a way of conceiving reality.

Everything passes through the hands of the blacksmith and the goldsmith: the tools needed for life, the jewels that narrate power, the golden cross, symbol of a new creed, which accompanies the Langobards on their last journey towards death.

And when the blacksmith dies, the whole village gathers around him and says goodbye one last time, to recognise him as the creator not only of objects, but of a community and a world: theirs.

After all, even today, isn’t it in the skill of the hands that much of the success of ‘Made in Italy’ is based?

Happy Monday with the Langobards!

San Salvatore di Spoleto | Tavola di Levente Tani

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