Pasquino: the statue which loves talk very much…

Statue Parlanti Roma - PasquinoWhen 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.
Statue Parlanti Roma - PasquinoThe 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).

The Borromini’s lantern: the fire of the Knowledge

Imagine to walk peacefully throught the fine streets in the city centre of Rome.
Now, imagine to have to the right an open door.
Passing the entrance, you will stay just in the centre of a courtyard, surrounded by columns. But what is majestic and truly beautiful is a white and brilliant lantern set above a church in front of you.

That lantern, the architectural final part of a dome in a church, has a spiral shape, recalling movements and virtuosism. It isn’t a dream, but a true church which stands not far from Piazza Navona. This is the church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, and the genius who created it and its wonderful lantern was one of the most important artists in Rome: Borromini

The Borromini’s lantern

Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza

It was a church projected during the XVI century, when all the area was under restoration.
What is foundamental to say is that this place was famous in Rome, just because it was the first headquarter of the La Sapienza University.
It was inaugurated during the first years of the XIV century by the Pope Bonifacio VIII, who wanted to show how the city could be the birthplace and the core of the Knowledge.
But over the centuries it was quite destroyed and abandoned.
This is the reason why in the Renaissance, a time in which whatever you want in Rome was restored and built, La Sapienza University was one of the palaces chosen for some restorations.

Cupola - Chiesa Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza

After many years the construction site wasn’t finish.
It was a huge problem, due to the image of Rome which had to indicate the city not only as the place of the Church, but also the refuge of Arts and Wisdow.

They could be created thanks to the deeds of the Christian Church and for this reason the sacred building was essential. Borromini started to work there with a simple aim: he had to built something that could remember to everybody the real symbols of the place.

The Lantern

We could speak a lot about the great project created by the master. How he was able to use geometrical shapes in order to produce a star map, how the inside of the church was so brilliant… but we have to put our attention to the fantastic lantern! An architectural element which connects the ground with the sky, with its curved lines and decorations.

What do it represents?

The lantern is the Fire of the Wisdow, but not only…it symbollically regains the Babele Tower, which was also a symbol of the human Knowledge. Moreover, the lantern regains also the Headlight of Alessandria, other human masterpiece.
So, in this way we could understand how Borromini played with the history and the traditions, in order to obtain something that managed to represent some of the most important human discretions.

Then, he was able to create something more: a new must see monument in Rome!

San Bernardo alle Terme: a little Pantheon in Rome

Pantheon of RomeThe Pantheon is one of the symbol of the ancient Rome, despite of its transformation in a Basilica, since the beginning of the VII century.
This wonderful and impressive monument has inspired many artists over the centuries, due to its beauty and its huge dome.
This is the reason why in Rome, on canvas or walls, we could observe decorations very similar to the ones who covered the dome of the Pantheon.

Moreover, in Rome there’s also a XVI century church, erected for the order of the Cistercensi, in which we could find a copy of the Pantheon dome.

Facciata San Bernardo alle Terme

I’m speaking about the

Church of San Bernando alle Terme

which stands not far from Via Nazionale and Piazza della Repubblica, so in the real city centre.
This sacred place has a round shape because it was built just above the remains of one of the ancient angular tower of the majestic Diocleziano’s Baths, which stood in there.
That enormous building, plenty of marble decorations, vaulted rooms and swimming pool, covered a large area, was used over the centuries for many things and aims: first of all, it became the perfect place to take materials, as marble or rock. Then, inside its rooms, was created a basilica (Santa Maria degli Angeli), and a museum (Museum of the Terme di Diocleziano). Moreover, the beautiful Church of San Bernardo alle Terme, which means Bath in italian, is the result of hard works on the ancient walls.

What do the church hosts?

Cupola - San Bernardo alle TermeA wonderful reproduction of the Pantheon dome, with its coffered ceiling and its oculus, the hole set in the centre which create a connection between the ground and the sky, the home of the Gods.
Getting into the church of San Bernardo alle Terme means to do a time travel, where we can observe how the model of the Pantheon was so famous that in Rome, after many centuries, wanted to reproduce it.
The relaxing and calm atmosphere which we could breathe here, without the crowd that each day fills the Pantheon, is a wonderful experience.

Sometimes in Rome what could seem normal or without importance can hide something special.
How it’s amazing!

.. before ending this story

Cupola 2 - San Bernardo alle TermeInside the church try to search the tomb of Johan Friedrich Overbeck.
Who was he?
He was an artist lived during the XIX century who found the artistic movement of the “Nazareni”, a sort of group of dandy who loved so much the Renaissance.
For this reason he wanted to depict in their paintings the pure figures and profiles of the Italian art of the XV century, when the R
enaissance was going to bring to the light.
A man who was inspired by the beauty of Rome, as the architect of the Church of San Bernardo alle Terme was inspired by the enormous heritage of the Ancient Rome…

Interno circolare - San Bernardo alle Terme

The “Pulcino della Minerva”: an elephant in the City Centre

Piazza della Minerva a Roma e il Pulcino del BerniniUsually Rome conceals hidden treasures which aren’t so easy to see. But there are also other monuments or little art masterpieces that everyone can look. For example, very close to the Pantheon, the famous ancient Roman temple changed in a Basilica, there’s a tasteful obelisk which surmounts an…elephant!
This is the history of the “Pulcino della Minerva”, that we could translate in English like “Minerva’s chick”.

Where is it?

We stay in Piazza della Minerva, a little square surrounded by a great and graceful Basilica, named Santa Maria della Minerva, a famous hotel and other two palaces.
In order to understand the history of that crazy sculpted group set just in the centre of this square, I’m to explain something about the palace which stands just next to the Basilica.
It was one of the headquartes of the Holy Inquisition, the sacred tribunal of the Christian Church that was born during the XVI century.
The main purpose of the Inquisition was to change and “improve” the mistakes in the faith of the heretic people. Sometimes this institution used to tortured that men and women who didn’t want to change their way to believe in God.
Piazza_della_Minerva_con_il_Pulcino_e_il_Pantheon_2880_banThe palace was erected during the XIII Century for the Dominican order and in the XVI century was chosen like the place in which had to take place the trials against the heretics. Also Galileo Galilei got in it, forswearing what he claimed about the Universe… Moreover, according to the Christian theology, there was an aspect that leads the Inquisition deeds: the Knowledge. So, during the XVII century, when the Pope Innocenzo X decided to restore the square, embellishing Rome and his city centre, he called one of the best artist in that period: Bernini.

The Pope commissioned to the great master of art something which could underline how the Knowledge, mainly in that place, could lead the Church. And Bernini projected this graceful and brilliant sculpted group. The dynamic and wonderful Elephant, with the strong trunk moving by the wind, represents the Mind, while the obelisk symbolizes the Knowledge. The famous Egyptian artifact was brought to light after some excavations made in that area: it represented one of the decorations of the ancient Temple of Iside, one of the goddesses in Egypt, which stood there during the Roman Empire.

Pulcin_della_Minerva_2006_n2_banBernini took his inspiration by an arcane book, very famous in Rome, named “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili”, which translates as “Polifilo’s Dream”. In one of his dreams, Polifilo saw an elephant with an obelisck, claiming: “We need to a strong mind for support the burden of the Knwoledge”. And Bernini managed to change the dream in reality, using marble and rocks.

Bernini was used to thinking about new escamotages for his creations…but we are quite at the end of the history. Ther’s just a question. Why is the name so strange? If we look the statue maybe you could think that it is a bit heavy, mainly the elephant dressed with this caparison that looks like a curtain. Why did Bernini choose it? Because the artist had many troubles with the Pope and his way to understand and live the art. Bernini in fact wanted to insert between the elephant’s paws simply an opens space. He desidered to create a sort of feeling of lightness…but the Pope denied it and Bernini changed his project. The name takes his origin from the word “Porcino”, that means a sort of insult, which develop over the centuries in the modern “Pulcino”.