A talk given by The Inquisition at Defuse, on Wednesday 7th November 2012, as part of Designweek in Dublin, Ireland
Nürnburg got ripped to shreds by Bomber Harris’ boys. By how much appears to be open to debate.
The preface to HLA Hart’s publication of his 1961 lecture series on the meeting of law and morality is as prevalent today as it ever was.
There are people out there who pretend to like coffee. Coffee Haters – you have been warned.
False flag, covert ops by Americans against Americans? Sounds crazy, and so it was deemed.
55 years ago Roland Barthes considered the importance of plastic and what it meant, as a substance and a symbol.
Marriage is thought by many to be a fixed rite, one which is immovable and inflexible. The truth is that it has not always seemed so…
The world was shocked when a victim of torture started blinking morse. The story of a US aviator captured in Vietnam.
Earth has had a recent fly past by the mysterious alien probe, 1991 VG. And it’s coming back. We’re screwed. Maybe.
Horace De Vere Cole was the major protagonist and originator of the Dreadnought Hoax. Who was he? What was the Hoax?
Dueling scars, or schmiss, were highly sought after in late nineteenth century Germany.
The post and chain fencing pictured here is from Trinity College, Dublin. It’s outward purpose is obvious – the prevention of people taking shortcuts across the grass. However, unlike lost fences this one carries a message.
The posts are painted iron representations of tightly bound bundles of sticks around a central spear. This bundle is a fasces and is a heraldic emblem. It has a long heritage back to Ancient Rome, where is symbolised the power of the empire.
Traditionally the centrepiece of a fasces was an axe. To ancient society an axe represented thunder and thereby rain, which in turn was closely associated with fertility. However, the axe was mainly defined by its own duality – it is both a tool and a weapon. As shown in the photo from Trinity college the spear is a sign of potent virility.
The bundling however, would make what had been a well-crafted tool of minimal complexity into an overwrought and cumbersome apparatus. Perhaps this is why governments and rulers have used it in their coats of arms?
As described, the fasces is a traditional symbol, occurring in Etruscan society and continuing in use through medieval European heraldry through neoclassicism to today.
Fasces became a little more unsavoury when the Italian Fascists adopted the name and image of what had been the symbol of workers co-operatives and used them for their own purposes. Its use suited the fascists perfectly as it created a historic link to a glorious past, while maintaining a crucial link to the common man.
The phrase ‘Strength Through Unity‘ which describes the fasces lives on as the credo of neo-nazi organisations. The visual symbol itself however, is still in use unencumbered with a legacy such as the maligned swastika has. There are many examples where this is the case, mostly governmental or legislative in context, describing their work for and through their populaces.
The prime example would be the fasces in the Oval Office which no weapon in the centre. This is due to a probable classical influence; in the Roman Republic, the blade was always removed from the bundle whenever the fasces were carried inside the city. This symbolised the beneficial and non-aggressive nature of the urban rulers’ attitudes to the rural rank and file.
Some further examples:
Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbant, Penguin, 1969
World-reknowned semiotician Umberto Eco discusses the mental contortions required of true fascists
Good old Wikipedia the font of knowledge of dubious origin (the lazy researcher’s swiss army knife)
This article was posted by Ronan McDonnell on
Friday, November 20th, 2009 at
It is archived in America, Architecture, Art, Culture, History and tagged ancient rome, axe, coat of arms, Dublin, fasces, fascism, heraldry, History, nazi, semiotics, spear, symbolism, trinity college, umberto eco, white house.