The city of magpies
Cittàgazze is called the city of magpies because magpies steal and that's all the current residents can do now that the Specters have arrived. The philosophers go into other worlds and steal gold, jewelry, ideas, sacks of corn, and pencils.
Cittàgazze has a Mediterranean feel to it; some have suggested it is located in Italy, while others say it could be as far east as Turkey, due to a note in Lyra's Oxford which mentions the city of Izmir as the destination of a cruise. Izmir fits much of the description for Cittàgazze, and includes an ancient tower resembling The Torre degli Angeli, which we'll discuss shortly. Cittàgazze is only one city in another world, but it is the only city of that world that is visited in His Dark Materials. At least one other city exists in the area, by the name of Sant'elia (which is probably a nickname, since the children of Cittàgazze who use that name call their own city "Ci'gazze"). It is unknown whether Sant'elia has any significance, since it is also the last name of Jotham Santelia, the scholar that Lyra meets imprisoned on Svalbard.
Will's first vision of Cittàgazze says, "He found himself standing under a row of trees. But not hornbeam trees; these were tall palms, and they were growing, like the trees in Oxford, in a row along the grass. But this was the center of a broad boulevard, and at the side of the boulevard was a line of cafés and small shops, all brightly lit, all open, and all utterly silent and empty beneath a sky thick with stars. The hot night was laden with the scent of flowers and with the salt smell of the sea. Behind him the full moon shone down over a distant prospect of great green hills, and on the slopes at the foot of the hills there were houses with rich gardens, and an open parkland with groves of trees and the white gleam of a classical temple... The air of the place had something Mediterranean or maybe Caribbean about it. … It was the kind of place where people came out late at night to eat and drink, to dance and enjoy music. Except that there was no one here, and the silence was immense. Little grocery shops and bakeries stood between jewelers and florists and bead-curtained doors opening into private houses, where wrought iron balconies thick with flowers overhung the narrow pavement, and where the silence, being enclosed, was even more profound. The streets were leading downward, and before very long they opened out onto a broad avenue where more palm trees reached high into the air… on the other side of the avenue was the sea. Will found himself facing a harbor enclosed from the left by a stone breakwater and from the right by a headland on which a large building with stone columns and wide steps and ornate balconies stood floodlit among flowering trees and bushes. In the harbor one or two rowboats lay still at anchor, and beyond the breakwater the starlight glittered on a calm sea." Philip Pullman later notes that "In the daylight Will could see how ancient the buildings in the heart of the city were, how near to ruin some of them had come. Holes in the road had not been repaired, windows were broken, plaster was peeling…"
Before Lord Asriel blew a hole in the sky above Svalbard, Cittàgazze was the only way for humans to go from one world to another.
Joachim Lorenz tells the witches that Cittàgazze had once been a happy place.
|"The cities were spacious and elegant, the fields were tilled and fertile. Merchant ships plied to and fro on the blue ocean, and fishermen hauled in brimming nets of cod and tunny, bass and mullet; the forests ran with game, and no children went hungry in the courts and squares of the great cities. Ambassadors from Brasil and Benin, from Eireland and Corea mingled with tabaco sellers, with commedia players from Bergamo, with dealers in fortune bonds. At night masked lovers met under the rose-hung colonnades or in the lamplit gardens, and the air stirred with the scent of jasmine and throbbed to the music of the wire-strung mandarone."|
|The Subtle Knife|
It went wrong 300 hundred years.
Torre degli Angeli
The state of disrepair and emptiness of Cittàgazze began three hundred years before, when a group of philosophers, alchemists, and men of learning, known as the Guild of Torre degli Angeli, built the Tower of the Angels, or Torre degli Angeli. As Giacomo Paradisi tells Will, "They became curious about the bonds that held the smallest particles of matter together. This was a mercantile city. A city of traders and bankers. We thought we knew about bonds. We thought a bond was something negotiable, something that could be bought and sold and exchanged and converted....But about these bonds, we were wrong. We undid them, and we let the Specters in." They created a knife, the Subtle Knife, that was so sharp that it could cut between the very fabric of the worlds, and create the windows like the one Will stumbled through. And from the knife came the Spectres.
Cittàgazze may have hope yet though, for the angel Xaphania told Will at the end of The Amber Spyglass that the angels would destroy the Specters, and once the knife was destroyed as well they would never again bring harm to the world of Cittàgazze, or any world where they may exist.
For its Mediterranean and scenic description, Pullman was asked about his inspiration for Cittàgazze. He responded:
|Yes, Venice does lie behind Cittagazze - but quite some way! There's a wonderful SF/fantasy novel by Brian Aldiss called The Malacia Tapestry, which was even more of an inspiration.|
|Philip Pullman, There has to be a lot of ignorance in me when I start a story, Guardian Unlimited Books, 18 February 2002|