Behind the Badge: Alfa Romeo


It’s arguably the weirdest automotive brand badge of the lot, replete with what looks like the Cross of St George and a crowned serpent with a predilection for ingesting humans. Alfa Romeo has a badge with two distinctly different parts, the history of which is... not entirely clear.

Alfa Romeo is one of the oldest names in motoring, dating back to 1910. Its badge remains one of the great motoring mysteries as the symbols date back to the Crusades. Draughtsman Romano Cattaneo apparently came up with the idea for the Alfa Romeo logo after seeing a coat of arms at the Sforza Castle in Milan.

On the left of the Alfa Romeo badge is a red cross on a white field. This is, in fact, the flag of Milan turned through 90 degrees. Alfa Romeo’s home was Milan, where its cars were built up until the 90s. The flag originates from the Crusades, where Milanese soldiers wore the red and white cross beneath their armour.

The right-hand side of the badge is where it starts to get interesting. The image appears to be a person being eaten by a huge snake. There are a number of theories around this symbol, here are just a few:

  • The legend of a dragon/snake that terrorised local villagers until it was slain by Uberto, Squire of Angera.
  • Lombards (Germanic people who ruled large parts of the Italian Peninsula) would often wear snakes around their necks as good luck charms.
  • A Biblical symbol for divine protection used by Archbishop Ottone Visconte on his shield when going into battle against the Saracens during the first Crusade.

No, the snake is "giving birth"

Alfa Romeo’s official stance is that the man is coming out of the snake as a renewed and purified person. The symbol comes from a nomadic Saracen Knight that Ottone Visconte defeated in battle and in tradition, took the symbol on the shield. Believe what you will...  

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