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Italian Mural Features Tree Bearing Unusual Fruit

A medieval mural in the town of Massa Marittima in Tucany, Italy, is causing controversy and amusement: the 12th century fresco, first uncovered only a few years ago, depicts a tree whose "fruits" are very unusual: its branches are filled with phalluses; below, a group of women are stretching their arms up to pick them.

There are discordant theories on the meaning of the mural: a) a fertility symbol of pagan inspiration or b) the earliest example of a political poster by supporters of the papacy against supporters of the emperor.

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Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.