One woman has managed to deny an entire nations its historic identity.
From such ruins, a revolution will arise.
There was uproar in Italy today over a ruling by the European court of human rights that the crucifixes that hang in most Italian classrooms are a violation of religious and educational freedoms.
The seven judges, whose decision could prompt a Europe-wide review of the use of religious symbols on public premises, said state schools had to "observe confessional neutrality".
Except on the far left, the ruling met with condemnation among Italian politicians, several of whom expressed astonishment. Silvio Berlusconi's education minister, Maria Stella Gelmini, said: "No one, not even some ideologically motivated European court, will succeed in rubbing out our identity."
The Vatican asked for time to evaluate the reasons behind the decision. But a spokesman for Italy's bishops condemned it as "partisan and ideological".
The ruling marked the end of an eight-year battle by a Finnish-born mother, Soile Lautsi. She took her cause to court after failing to get crucifixes removed from the school at which her two children were being taught at a town in north-east Italy.
Lautsi appealed to Strasbourg three years ago when her case was thrown out by Italy's constitutional court.
Although more than 7% of Italy's population is now of immigrant origin, multiculturalism has made few inroads and most Italians argue passionately, as did their government's advocate in Strasbourg, that the crucifix is a symbol of national identity.
The court disagreed. "The presence of the crucifix could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign, and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion," it ruled, ordering the Italian state to pay Lautsi €5,000 (£4,476) in damages.
One government minister, Roberto Calderoli, of the Northern League, said: "The European court has trodden on our rights, our culture, our history, our traditions and our values."
Claudio Scajola, a member of Berlusconi's Freedom People, said: "The crucifix is a universal symbol of love, meekness and peace. Preventing it from being displayed is an act of violence against the deep-seated feelings of the Italian people and all persons of goodwill."
The mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, said he was flabbergasted. And the new, ex-communist leader of Italy's biggest opposition group, the Democratic party, Pierluigi Bersani, protested: "An ancient tradition like the crucifix cannot be offensive to anyone."
Another leading member of the opposition, Massimo Donadi of the Italy of Principles party, said it was one of those symbols "that represent the history and the very culture of our country".
On the Facebook website, 23,000 people signed up to two pages opposed to the court's decision within hours of the news breaking.
The government's lawyer said he would seek leave to appeal to the Strasbourg court's 17-member grand chamber. If his petition is rejected, or if an appeal is subsequently thrown out, Italy would be obliged to comply. Refusal to do so – an option being canvassed by at least one government minister – would result in the issue being referred to the Council of Europe.
Classroom crucifixes were made compulsory by two laws in the 1920s when Italy was a fascist state. They have been applied less rigorously since 1984, when Catholicism ceased to be the state religion.