The Unexplained: Mysterious Secret of the Worm
February 3, 2023
Sara Marie Hogg
What is the mystery behind an ancient sculpture in the Medici Chapel of a caterpillar-like worm gnawing its way out of the neck of a breastplate of armor?
There is a list of incredible finds that science can’t explain. I have done articles on two thirds of the oddities on the list.
One of these finds I have never even heard of. This is unusual because I have long been a fancier of art history and appreciation. It is an obscure enigma or I would have seen it in H. W. Janson’s all-encompassing, HISTORY OF ART.
It is not there, although it deserves a mention somewhere in an art textbook.
The object is a medieval sculpture done by a student of Michelangelo (1475-1564). Some have given the sculpture that title, TROPHY-student of Michelangelo.
Part of the sculpture created by the student looks like something from ALIEN.
There is a caterpillar-like worm gnawing its way out of the neck opening of a breastplate of armor. Why did the artist put this worm here? What is its importance? What does it represent?
The breastplate sculpture is displayed in the Medici Chapel in Florence, Italy. The breastplate portion is of the Roman style and it is grouped with trophy objects depicted in the stone sculpture.
The chapel is home to a legion of the exoskeletons of knights–exoskeletons of metallic armor were made for serious battle. Some of the armor and artwork displayed in Medici Chapel have serpents and tentacles emerging from openings in The armor. Some of the armor has suckers or reptilian scales where limbs should be. A few of the accompanying artworks depict animals and birds wearing battle helmets. The purpose is puzzling. Is it about ancient elements of heraldry we have forgotten?
There is a well-known quote by anonymous that says: an armored knight is “a terrible worm in an iron cocoon.” This quote was made hundreds of years after the worm sculpture was created, so it did not inspire the artist. Was it the artwork that inspired the quote?
I have tried to figure it all out without much success. Could the worm be a sign that the wearer of the breastplate died in a battle? Does the worm represent death?
Was it a reference to the hygiene of the Middle Ages? A few of the horrible diseases of the day had foot-long worms connected with them, as depicted in other artworks.
Was the worm a veiled reference to the exploits of the Knights of Worms in Germany in the 1200s? Would an art student in 1500s Italy have any knowledge of the activities of the Knights of Worms? It is far-fetched but possible.
Why oh why, the gnawing worm?
Please click HERE to find Sara’s mystery novel, Dark Continent Continental, on Amazon.