The Alfa Romeo badge has always been a mystery. Is it of a serpent blowing flames or devouring a human? What about the reasons for the red cross? Upon looking into its history, you’ll realise that the birth of the Alfa Romeo badge has more to do with legend than reality.
The origins of a green serpent on a blue ground swallowing a man, accompanied by a red cross on a white ground, are very remote.
The serpent symbol
The Lombards or Longobards were Germanic people who ruled large parts of the Italian Peninsula from 568 to 774. The serpent symbol is an ever present figure in the traditions of the Longobards in which it was seen in a positive light. The serpent symbol was adopted by Matteo Visconti, who claimed Longobard descent and who in 1277 had conquered the signoria of Milan. The Viscontis took on the heritage of the Longobards, appropriating their legend portraying Desiderio and Uberto in the company of serpents and dragons. The man being devoured represents the enemies of the Viscontis that the serpent is always ready to destroy.
During the assault on Jerusalem in 1099, the head of the Visconti family, Ottone, won a duel with a Saracen whose shield carried the serpent symbol. The Visconti coat of arms derives from the shield plundered from the defeated warrior.
The red cross symbol
The Crusaders adopted the red cross symbol for their wars in the Holy Land and was carried by Ottone himself at the head of the Lombard troops in the East.
The Milanese group, responsible for the creation of Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (A.L.F.A.), had no hesitation in adopting the city arms surrounded by a blue hoop bearing the words ‘Alfa’ and ‘Milan’ separated by two lengths of cord tied in the so-called Sabaudo knot in honour of the Italian family. The slightly convex badge measured 65mm in diameter and the parts that were not enamelled were in polished brass.
With the origins sorted, read about the evolution of the Alfa Romeo badges over its 106 years of heritage here.