The Griffon and the Crescent is an historical novel that inserts a part of the history of Italy in the amplest context of the conflict between the Christian and the Moslem worlds.
The narrator of the novel is the Griffon, symbol of the Baglioni’s noble family of Perugia, which is set inside the medallion put at the neck of the protagonist Astorre Baglioni. The story goes from 1541 until 1571, years of war between Christians and Moslems.
The novel starts with the assault of Pest made by the Italian soldiers of the archduke Ferdinand of Austria and it finishes with the defeat of the Serenenissima in Famagosta by the Turks led by Lala Mustafà Pascia.
These historical events constitute the context of the Astorre’s life, who embodies the image of the lettered warrior, educated by a cultured mother at the Farnese’s court and depositary of the chivalrous virtues.
After having participated, with his brother Adriano, to the assault of Pest, he spends his youth in Rome until 1546, when he meets his future wife Ginevra Salviati, nephew of the queen of France. However the Pope, who considers Astorre not having enough money and fame, opposes this relationship and obliges him to go to the court of his son Pierluigi Farnese in Parma. Astorre will live there for a year, then, after a dispute with the count Guido Landi, beloved friend of Pierluigi, he decides to leave. In the same year he participates at the battle of Ingolstadt in the ranks of Charles of Savoia cavalry and then goes back to Rome where the Pope, forgetful of the old friction, names him governor of Rome. However Astorre knows that, if he really want to marry Ginevra, besides having the fame he needs wealth. So he seeks the advice of Giovan Battista del Monte, nephew of the new pope Giulio III, who suggests him to arm a ship to conquest a galley of Turkish pirates.
Therefore Astorre joins the pontifical fleet, led by Carlos Sforza, to help the Genoese troops in Tunisia fighting against the terrible pirate Dragout. Unfortunately the expedition fails. Astorre, skilled to fight hand-to-hand, is inexperienced in sea: during the night his ship sinks in the middle of a storm and he succeeds miraculously to save himself. Grabbing a piece of the ship’s tree, he gets to the coasts of Ventotene, where the Persian princess Sirin, hostage of the Christian pirates, takes care of him. After a long conversation on the history, the art and the culture of their respective countries, Astorre and Sirin are overwhelmed by the passion but the arrivals of some Italian sailors looking for their commander interrupt this magic moment. So Astorre leaves again to the Tunisian coasts to join the rest of the fleet, led by Andrea Doria, and he defeats the pirate Hisar Rais, nephew of Dragout. Then he comes back to Rome, welcomed with all the honors, and marries Ginevra in January 1551. They will have a child: Guido.
In the 1559 Astorre, who in the meantime has gone into the service of the Venetians, is named governor of Verona and responsible for the terrestrial fortitudes. After ten years he is finally leaves to Cyprus, besieged by the Turks, as commander of the Venetians army.
Before his departure Astorre gives Ginevra the medallion belonging to his brother Adriano (the two brothers splitted up) wich represents the Baglioni armorial bearings. In fact, since they were children, Astorre and Adriano put at the neck the two parts of the same medaillon.
The commander reaches Cyprus the 1 st of May 1569. In Nicosia he meets, among the others, the Lieutenant Niccolò Dandolo and, later, in Famagosta, the Governor Marcantonio Bragadin.
In the meantime, in Venice it is rumoured that the Turkish attack to Cyprus is imminent. This time the narrator is the Ginevra medallion whose point of view will alternate the Griffon’s one.
In Cyprus Astorre does his best to strengthen the defenses of the island. During an inspection of the territory he comes upon in a young woman who has been hurt. Her name is Cesidia and she has escaped to a death sentence decreed by a monastic order whose customs are rude and corrupted. Astorre decides to bring her with himself and names her “guide of the territory of Famagosta”.
In Verona the last news says that Nicosia has been defeated and Astorre betrayed his army, but Ginevra doesn’t believe it. In fact her husband has sent a letter to his friend Guidobaldo II where he declares to have received a precise order from the doge of Venice: not to move from Famagosta, considered the first objective of the Turks. Ginevra and Guidobaldo agree upon the fact that the wrong information about Astorre is diffused from some people who is reluctant to send reinforcements to Famagosta and is plotting against him.
The time pass and the resistance of Cyprus army continues but with difficulties. The only remarquable episode is the raid of Astorre and a few others braves in the Turkish field to recover the Venetian standard with the lion of St. Mark.
In the meantime, in Istambul people are preparing the last attack to the Christendom (here the narrator reveals some intrigues at the Selim II court).
In Italy it is rumoured that Venice interest is now focused on the project of John of Austria of recapturing Jerusalem and that the Venetians have already surrendered Cyprus to the Turks.
Ginevra is in anguish and calls for help the pope Pious V, the Medici’s family in Florence and Willelm Van der Hell, a rich Dutch dealer. In July 1571 she succeeds in arming a ship, the Annalisa, that finally leaves Venice with the approval of the doge (after a dispute with a group of women whose husbands are in Famagosta).
Unfortunately the ship will arrive too late. In the 5 th August 1571, after the Turks have laid waste Famagosta, Astorre and his companions resolve to accept a surrender to get the civilians safe. Once reached the field of Lala Mustafà Pascia, they are brutally killed (Pascia avenges the murder of his son during a battle).
Some time later Ginevra receives a letter that Astorre has entrusted to Cesidia before going to the field of Mustafà.
A few years later Ginevra reads the letter to her son Guido, who is twelve. There is also written some precious information about an ancient treasure that Astorre have found in Cyprus and that could be used to rearm a new fleet against the Turks.
Giulio is initially reluctant to follow the road traced by his father, but then accept to accomplish his destiny with a condition: to put away any feeling of hate and revenge.