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The History of the Alfa Romeo Badge ...

Or ... "Everything you wanted to know about the demi-gringology, but were afraid to ask."

A focal point of any Alfa Romeo car, front or back, are the Alfa Romeo badges. This modern design classic with a history that stretches back into antiquity along with many explanations for the symbols contained within.

Here goes; these are a few to start with...

The emblems of the badge are those of the City of Milano and the great Milanese Visconti family. On the left is the red cross on a white background, which refers back to the First Crusade, when many Milanese soldiers were amongst the Lombards who followed Giovanni of Rhio to the Holy Land. The red cross was their symbol; whilst the white background symbolized the white shirts they wore under their armour to protect them from the fierce Palestinean sun. Originally; the Visconti crest was a half cross with the four extremities ending in serpents heads - the whole effect being known as in heraldry as 'Demi-Grngology'.

On the right of the badge are the arms of the Visconti family which later became recognised as those of the Duchy of Milano - Milano being the city in which Alfa Romeos were first built. In heraldic terms, it is described as 'argent' (on a silver background), a serpent 'ondoyant' in pale azure (blue), crowned with a ducal crown or; (gold) and 'vorant' (swallowing whole) a child 'gules' (red).

Fine so far ...hope you are keeping up...

But what of the serpent? The Visconti family has five legends from which to choose.

The first being; it represents the snake which the Lombards used to wear round their necks in a little case as a lucky charm.

2. It is the dragon which at the start of the fifth century, plagued Milano finally killed by the squire of Angera; founder of the Visconti family.

3. It is the viper which twisted itself around the head of Desiderior, the King of Lambardy; an ancient ancestor of the Viscontis. Miraculously, it did not hurt him.

4. It is the viper which slid out from thy helmet off Azone Visconti at the Battle of Altopasscio in 1325 - again without hurting him.

5. It is the symbol of Ottone Visconti who fought a victorious duel with the Saracen leader, Voluce, during the first Crusade.

However, The City of Milano claims that the serpent has nothing to do with the Visconti family and is in fact represents the one that Moses was commanded by God to lift up in the camp of the Israelites. Then the figure in the serpent's mouth is a red Saracen which was added in recognition of the heroic deeds of the Milanese in the First Crusade.

After all that, it is somewhat of a relief to discover that the evolution of the Alfa Romeo badge, from 1909 onwards, is relatively straightforward, in fact, it has changes relatively little over the years.

The original version, before the advent of Nicola Romeo, has 'Alfa' written at the top and 'Milano' at the bottom encircling the heraldic symbols. Two ropes, knotted into figures of eight, were placed decoratively between the words on either side of the badge. Later the word Alfa Romeo replaced the word Alfa (thought the hyphen was seldom used by the company except on the badge, and was later dropped).

When the famous P2 Grand Prix cars won the first ever World Championship in 1925, the badge was encircled by silver laurel leaves. Over the years, these leaves lost their prominence and became less luxuriant, whilst the figures of eight were relegated to mere streaks between the words. By the early 1070's the whole badge was simplified to what we have today. The word Milano dropped, following the opening of the Pomigilano factory in the South - and the manufacture of the Alfasuds.

So there you have it; the history of the Alfa Romeo badge. If you have any further ideas relating to the badge, please keep them to yourself for the time being, as I think we have enough to be going on with at the present.

Nicola Romeo
Lyles of Newcastle Limited
Alfa Romeo & Italian Car Specialists
Tel: 0191 273 0700 
All popular makes serviced & repaired