Bernini's elephant Inscription

Here's the elephant. (That's the Pantheon in the background.)


And here is the inscription:



It reads:
SAPIENTIS AEGYPTI
INSCULPTAS OBELISCO FIGURAS
AB ELEPHANTO
BELLUARUM FORTISSIMA
GESTARI QUISQUIS HIC VIDES
DOCUMENTUM INTELLIGE
ROBUSTAE MENTIS ESSE
SOLIDAM SAPIENTIAM SUSTINERE


Which is to say "Whoever sees here that the symbols of the Egyptian sage, inscribed on the obelisk, are carried by the elephant, the strongest of the beasts: understand that it is a proof of a robust mind to sustain solid wisdom."

I first read this inscription on a tour of the twelve obelisks of Rome, led by the incomparable Fr Reginald ("Reggie") Foster. He was the best teacher of anything that I ever knew and I always try to call in at the beginning of his class. 25 years on, he teaches at the same time, in the same room, with the same dry sense of humour and the same passionate love of Latin.

The obelisk is outside the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva where St Catherine of Siena lies. Gammarelli's is across the square. You are round the corner from the Pantheon. Within 5 minutes walk, you can visit the Roman College where St Robert Bellarmine gave his lectures De Controversiis to some of the English martyrs, the body of St Philip Neri at the Chiesa Nuova, the Church of the Gesu' and the body of St Ignatius, the Piazza Navona and the Fontana di Trevi ...

Quanto sei bella Roma ...

Popular posts from this blog

Cradle Catholic snobbery as ridiculous as any other kind

Interesting parallels in Jewish customs

Saint Ignatius on heresy, and the capsizing boat

Fundamentalist integralism or sensible co-operation?

CD 291: Confession now I am older and have fewer temptations