The Phallus Tree: A Medieval and Renaissance Phenomenon


Johan Mattelaer, MD, Albijn van den Abeelelaan 12, 8500 Kortrijk, Belgium. Tel: 32-(0)56-211792; E-mail:


Introduction.  In the year 2000, an exceptional mural was discovered at a fountain in Massa Marittima, Italy. It depicts a tree with phalluses, which are distributed across all the branches, are disproportionately large and in an aroused state, and include a scrotum.

Methods.  Other examples were identified by systematic literature research.

Results.  Several other depictions of a phallus tree from the medieval and Renaissance periods exist, for example in manuscripts, as wood carvings, on pilgrimage badges, or frescoes, and were retrieved in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey, and France.

Discussion and Conclusions.  The phallus tree was a well-known phenomenon in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance, and mostly find their roots in the link between infertility and impotence on the one hand, and sorcery and witchcraft on the other. Mattelaer JJ. The phallus tree: A medieval and renaissance phenomenon. J Sex Med 2010;7:846–851.