Talking statues of Rome: do you have something to say?

Today the sun is shining. It’s spring and a lot of people came here to leave a message: I listen to everyone, without prejudice. Maybe I represent Menelaus, but  my name is Pasquino. I’m here since the XVI century, but don’t say I’m old. I’m always young because only young hearts and minds can have a reason to continue talking, criticizing and believing in something: and I’m their spokeperson. They call me a “talking statue” and those anonymous messages – usually written in Roman dialect or Latin at that time, now in Italian and even other languages  – became known as pasquinate since then.

The statue of Pasquino (Piazza di Pasquino)

The statue of Pasquino (Piazza di Pasquino)

When I arrived in this little square in 1501, Romans used to leave on my neck criticisms and poems, witticisms and satirical protest in poems. They needed to rebel to all that they couldn’t accept: they always were critical of religious and civil authorities and this was their opportunity to make everyone read their thoughts and words.

Look at me now: centuries pass by, but nothing has really changed. Men and women always need to give their opinion. I’m still here, looking at them as only a wise man can do, with my eyes turned up to the sky.

Pasquino 2

I was the first and I’m the most famous also, but not the only one: we are six. Did you know my buddy Abate Luigi? He was given this name because it looked like the priest of the near Church of Santissimo Sudario. Poor him, he lost his head: sometimes he has a new one, but today he doesn’t have one. Maybe listen to all those people was too much.

Abate Luigi (Piazza Vidoni)

Abate Luigi (Piazza Vidoni)

Madama Lucrezia is the most beautiful talking statue among us. She was the subject of competing verses by me and my friend Marforio: old, good times… She may represent Isis, the egyptian goddess, or maybe a portrait of the Roman empress Faustina: she was probably named after Lucrezia d’Alagno, mistress of Alfonso V d’Aragona, King of Naples. I would have left a message to her: you’re such a great lady, everyone shoud fall on your knees!

Madama Lucrezia (piazza San Marco)

Madama Lucrezia (piazza San Marco)

I’m always thinking about Facchino: isn’t he tired of carrying that barrel? He’s an “acquarolo”, one of those people who had to take water from the Tiber to sell on the streets of Rome, before the Roman aqueducts were repaired. I don’t envy him, He doesn’t even have his face anymore!

il Facchino (via Lata-via del Corso)

Il Facchino (via Lata-via del Corso)

Babuino: he’s so ugly! That’s why they call him so, he looks like a monkey! Actually he’s an ancient potrayal of a Silenus: half man, half goat. I know that he wanted to become as famous as I was. But his babuinate were not well known as my pasquinate.

Babuino (via del Babuino)

Babuino (via del Babuino)

Marforio used to reply to my pasquinate, but now he is inside the Musei Capitolini and we cannot talk as we used to do. My dear friend, how handsome you look! Do you represent Oceanus, Jupiter or Neptune? Who knows? Do you remember our dialogue, which went down in history?

Marforio: È vero che i francesi sono tutti ladri?
Pasquino: Tutti no, ma Bona Parte!

Marforio: Is it true that all Frenchmen are thieves?
Pasquino: No, not all of them, but a Great Deal of them!

( it’s a joke on Napoleon’s name Bonaparte and the Roman dialect for buona parte – which means “a great deal”).

Marforio (Musei Capitolini-Photo credit: Armando Moreschi)

Marforio (Musei Capitolini-Photo credit: Armando Moreschi)

We are the talking statues of Rome: our history will be always there, telling everyone how great was Rome and how beautiful are its traditions.

Have you found us yet?

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