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Sunday, 11 February 2018

Fasces symbol as an ornament | Lictors Bundle | Decorative symbolism | FASCES made of wood, stone and metal | FASCES

The fasces symbol as an ornament |  Lictors Bundle 

Since I started with my studies about ornamental wood carving, I have come across a symbol on the street, in a museum or on a furniture; a symbol to which I did not pay too much attention at the beginning. 
Than since Marc van de Cruys, -editor of the magazine Heraldicum Disputationes*- has devoted an article about it, I have immersed myself in this symbol. What I discovered about the symbol turned out to be so interesting that I want to highlight it in this blog.

*Heraldicum Disputationes is a Belgian magazine specialized in the theme of heraldry. The magazine appears four times per year and an annual subscription cost only 20 euros.

The fasces symbol 

The symbol where this blog is all about is the ‘fasces’ or ‘Lictors Bundle’.
The fasces (latin, singular ‘fascis’, plural ‘fasces’) is a rod bundle, a bundle of sticks that encloses an ax and that is tied together with a belt. If you do not know the right meaning of this symbol, it looks like any other decorative ornament. But on the contrary, this symbol has a unique meaning.

The rods, usually birch but sometimes elm sticks, were a symbol of the ‘power to punish’. The ax symbolized the ‘power over life and death’ and the red leather belts means the ‘power to arrest’. The fasces thus symbolize the authority of the higher magistrates and dates to the time of the ancient Romans.

Whenever our Roman authorities made an official tour, they were preceded by the fasces as signs of authority, carried by officials (the Lictores) . That is why the fasces are also known as lictors bundles.

The number of fasces carried by a magistrate corresponded to his position. For example, a Roman consul was escorted by 12 lictors; in comparison with a praetor (kind of judge), who was escorted by only 6 pieces.

Lictores not only served as entourage, they were also empowered with execution decision authority, such as gaining access to buildings or opening doors and arresting and punishing people.

Lictores had to be free citizens, strongly built and they wore a toga (gown). The word lictor can be derived from ‘ligare’, which has the meaning of: binding.
In the original meaning of the fasces, the bundle of branches served to keep captured people and the ax was used to decapitated them, if necessary. 

After the 5th century, this meaning had already become to fade away, because the decision to execute could not be taken by a single magistrate. The symbolic meaning such kind of of authority stretches into our time.

In the iconography, the fasces are an attribute to personified justice. Therefore, this symbol has been introduced in the US Senate on both sides of the President’s seat. The fasces are also the symbol of unity, for example in a marriage. In this example, it is carried by Amor.

Entrance Château de Compiègne (FR)

The Romans borrowed the symbol from the Etruscans, where it was a royal symbol and more than likely for ‘power and unity’. A single branch is easy to break; while a bundle is virtually impossible to break in half.

When the First French Republic was proclaimed in 1792, they reverted to the Roman Republic, using the fasces as a symbol for the republic.

During the WWI, fascism began in the Kingdom of Italy, which started to use the rod bundle as a symbol of national unity. Mussolini founded the Partito Nazionale Fascista in1921 with the fasces in the party logo. 

Since then, right-dictatorial regimes, based on discrimination, have been called fascist. The symbol will (like the swastika) never get rid of this negative burden.

Translation Lis Alvar R

Château de Chantilly (FR) | Supraporte, horse stables 
Right, the lictors bundle

Iron overdoor light in the streets of Paris.

Symbolism in the ornamentation | Musée Des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Detail gilded frame |  Musée Des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Left top of the picture, the lictors bundle |
Musée Carnavalet, Paris

Detail of buffet cupboard | Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Paris, Musée de la Légion d'honneur et des ordres de chevalerie

Supraporte with ornaments executed in plaster |
Ansbach (Germany) Residenz

Royal Palace Brussels | Ceiling painting trophy with attributes war

Detail, The lictors Bundle

1 comment:

  1. Hello
    I have some pictures very similar to your Facses ornamental that I am trying to research.
    They appear on a building near me, but I just cannot find enough info it it.
    Could I send you some pictures for you to look at and possibly identify?
    Thank you Michael