On my spring trip to Italy, I learned about a fascinating Italian woman named Matilde di Canossa. A powerful leader, an accomplished soldier, an ardent negotiator, a devout Catholic, a loyal ally. Perhaps a list of characteristics that one would use to describe some successful female leaders of today, but this woman lived in the 11th century!
Matilde’s family ruled much of Northern Italy, which she formally inherited in 1076. She formed a close relationship with the Popes, using her military armies and fortress-like castles to protect them and her people from invading emperors. I visited a Matilde castle on the Emilia-Romagna/Tuscany border – one of 5 castles strategically perched high in the Apennine mountains that could signal each other if the enemy was approaching.
The walk up to Castello di Carpineti today is very peaceful. Birds singing, the wind in the trees, some far-away tractor in a field. I passed a wooden painting of Matilde propped up against an old shed and across from the painting on a small hill were hundreds of wild poppies. A lovely view for Matilde! Further up the path were more of these delicate flowers, softening some of the harshness of the crumbling stone castle (11th century castles aren’t very “pretty”).
And as poppies have a significance in Canada as a symbol of respect for the military and those who fight for our freedom, I found it fitting that these wild poppies also graced the grounds of this extraordinary woman.
My Mini Vacation piece #78 is painted from a photo of Matilde’s view of the poppies.
(Available for purchase at local art fairs this July, and at my Etsy Shop later this summer if still available)