When you stay in Piazza Navona you should go to the narrow street along the great palace which hosts the Brazilian Embassy. Go down that street until the final part of the huge building, and turn your eyes to the left: just above a basament you will find a not well preserved marble statue, with some little paper attached in its surface.
They are the words of the most famous “statua parlante” (talking staue), in Rome: its name is Pasquino…
What is a “statua parlante”?
It’s a statue in which, over the centuries, were attached papers with satirical writings, mainly used against powerful men or women.
Bankers, Popes, Senators and other important people in Rome were put under the fire of that writings.
Why did they attache here? What is this statue?
It was discover at the final part of the XV century, during some excavations occured in that area to build a palace for a powerful cardinal: Oliviero Carafa.
Carafa family started to be very important in Rome, and this is the reason why a member of the family became Pope during the XVI with the name of Paolo IV.
The archeologists think that this sculpted group represents Patroclo and Menelao, two characters of the Iliade, the Homer’s epic poem.
You should know how in that period many schools stood in the area, and probably this is the origin of the legend of the “statua parlante”. Some nights strange papers started to appear above the face or the bust of the statue… but Oliviero Carafa, who was a clever man, knew that the Pasquino was very famous and popular in Rome, mainly in the poor part of the population.
For this reason he didnt’ destroy it and used it in a particular way. In fact, the cardinal decided to organize a sort of literary challenge: the students of the nearest school had to write whatever they want (histories, poems etc.) and the winner could have the privilege to see his work attached on the surface of the Pasquino!
So, the statue bacame more famous, while the satirical writings named “Pasquinate”, continue to “embellish” it. This is the origin of a real icon of Rome: it belongs to the Romans, that people who can’t stay in high social classes. That people who decided to use their voice in a very particularly way.
But there’s just a last question.
Why has Pasquino this name?
There’s a legend which claims how the student of a school not so far from the basament of the statue, had a laugh to a teacher. He probably had some phisical problem and for this reason he looks like the not well preserved sculpted group. “Pasquino” was a sort of insult…and the insults became the main peculiarity of this statue, the first “statua parlante” in the city (in Rome there are other five ones).