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O Solo A Roma Day 7 Hunting for elephants centaurs & giants

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A Busy Day For Swollen Feet

I planned day seven to be an easy but exhausting day. I knew I would be walking a lot the entire day. But I would not be frustrated with maps or hidden piazza's. I was returning to some familiar places I had already visited and wanted more time to explore them closer. I was off to the notorious Piazza Navona which had hidden from me taking me two days to locate the at the beginning of my time in Rome. This would be my last chance to return to the piazza and take some photos I had missed on my previous visit. I had gone through my photos from my earlier visit and was dissatisfied with some of them. I had some other angles and close ups I wanted to try on the fountains in the square. I was still on a Bernini overload and just wanted more. Also after my first visit I had read a lot more on Google and in my guide book about the church Sant'Agnese in Agone and wanted to go back to try and understand more of what I had seen on the first visit.

Fontana dei Quattro

I felt like my original photos of the Bernini's fountain did not do it justice. I wanted to get some photos that were close up and wanted to examine the figures more in detail. Getting close to the fountain I could feel the movement Bernini created in this work. And once more I was transported. I was glad to be alone this day as I knew my slow examination and time I spent here would have driven someone else crazy. I just felt compelled to study this more and feel the experience.






I also wanted a good close up of Fontana del Moro from the piazza with the Basilica behind it. There was on photo in my guide book of the fountains with the church in the back ground that I wanted to recreate and I was able to do that.


Basilica of Saint Agnes in Agon

On my previous days visit to Saint Agnes in Agone I was hesitant to take photos because there were signs posted about not using cameras. So I tried to take a few quickly with my phone. When I returned this time I noticed almost everyone was taking photos and no one was asking them to stop so I also took quite a few photos with my camera and was much happier than I was with those from the previous day. The church is truly amazing inside.


The masterpiece inside of the Basilica is the sculpture Saint Agnes in Agone


I was fascinated with this work and was very glad I had the chance to go back and take some photos of it. I was fascinated with the story of Saint Agnes. Saint Agnes was a twelve or thirteen year old early Christian martyr whose beauty was her undoing. According to the legend she had many suitors of high Roman rank. She refused their attention by her resolute devotion to religious purity. In revenge her name was submitted to the Roman government as a follower of Christianity. Her body was dragged through the streets to a brothel naked where she was to be raped. The legend goes on to say her hair grew to cover her nakedness and all of the young men who tried to rape her were turned blind. The son of the one of the men e who condemned her was struck dead by was revived by her prayers. She was tried and condemned to be burned at the stake. However the flames parted away from her and the wood would not burn. So the officer in charge drew his sword and beheaded her. The more I learn about the saints the more fascinated I become with their stories and the more the sculptures and paintings of them intrigue me.

On my previous days visit I was in a bit of a hurry as I had other plans for the day and more things I wanted to see. So I missed seeing the Shrine of Saint Agnes. To my shock and surprise there in the shrine is what is said to be her skull. I completely missed all of this on that first visit. Seeing it brought a realness to the legend for me.



I left Piazza Navona for the last time of this trip and walked down the side street towards Piazza della Rotunda and The Pantheon. I was getting good at navigating these side streets....I thought.


Searching for Piazza della Minerva.

After my time in Piazza Navona I wanted to go find Piazza della Minerva. There was an unusual Bernini work I wanted to see in that square in front of Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. . From my guide book and also the hotel's tourist map I knew it was located directly behind The Pantheon. And I knew how to find The Pantheon so I did not think I would have any problem finding Piazza della Minerva. Wrong! For some I was unable to find the side street to take me to Piazza della Minerva. I knew I was right there according to the map, but I just could not get my sense of direction correct and find the piazza.


In my frustration I decided to take a break. And where better than to take a break than in Piazza Della Rotunda in front of The Pantheon.



I took a break for lunch in the Piazza in front of the Pantheon. It was hot and I was thirsty. So the break did me well before I went back to search for another lost piazza.

Some water...


Add some pizza and a beer...


And a good view...


Now I was ready once more to search for Piazza della Minerva.

I did find it. And I don't know how I missed it. It was exactly where the map and the guide book said it would be. Directly behind The Pantheon. I guess I was too distracted by odd things like Pope lollipop stores


Piazza della Minerva


You can easily see the round roof on top of The Pantheon in the back ground from Piazza della Minerva in the photo, I don't know how I missed finding the square. But then remember it took me two days to find Piazza Navona so it's not surprising.

This short column is the main reason I wanted to find Piazza Navona. It's not tall. It's not screaming for your attention. At first appearance from a distance it's very unassuming. But it is another great work by Bernini. The Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and the Piazza were all but deserted. However the Basilica Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is one of the more fascinating churches I have toured. Starting with the Bernini Elephant column in the front and then all of the Bernini art work inside made it a treasure trove for me. There was also a Michelangelo work inside the church. I was surprised that there was not a crowd visiting this church. It's not really mentioned in many guide books. When you mention visiting Rome no one usually asks if you visited Piazza della Minerva. Yet in my opinion there should be as many tourist here as there are at the Spanish Steps or the Trevi Fountain.

In front of the church is one of the most curious and unusual monuments in Rome. It is an elephant statue designed by Bernini.


The elephant is the supporting base for an Egyptian obelisk. It is the shortest of eleven obelisks found in Rome. The inscription that was chosen by the Pope Alexander VII who commissioned the elephant sculpture is said to represent that "...a strong mind is needed to support a solid knowledge." Bernini's inspiration for the elephant comes from an unusual 15th century novel by Francesco Colonna. In the novel the main character meets an elephant made of stone carrying an obelisk

As I have mentioned in my other blogs about Bernini in Rome, to me once again, I can see movement in the statue. It's not just an elephant standing with it's trunk in air like so many drawings and other statues.. This elephant's head is turned to look directly at you and his trunk is swinging to his side



When I returned home within the week I read an article where the elephant sculpture had been damaged by a tourist. Part of the tusk had been damaged. The article said it could be repaired but that Romans were quite upset by the damage. I was very angry also. When I returned to Rome two years later the tusk had been repaired. But I was still angered at the ignorance of people.

Basilica Santa Maria Sopra Minerva



The church was very beautiful inside and was way beyond my expectations.

The Bernini designed Cardinal Domenico Pimentel tomb in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva


The Bernini detail is evident in this tomb.


Bernini's Funeral Monument of Giovanni Vigevan


Bernini's funeral monument for Cardinal Gregoro Naro


There is also a Michelangelo sculpture inside the chapel. Michelangelo's statue of The Risen Christ stands in the church. The statue was originally nude created in a heroic ancient Greek style. It holds the cross, the sponge and the reed of passion. At a later time a bronze disc halo, modesty cloth and a sandal on the right foot were added. It is believed the sandal was added to protect the foot from being worn away by the touching and kissing of the faithful. Later the sandal and halo were removed. But the modesty cloth has remained in place.



There are so many items to be viewed in this church that I had a difficult time keeping track of what I was seeing. I found trying to make notes later was a difficult job. There are many chapels all filled with art and sculptures. It was truly overwhelming, in a good way at times, trying to take it all in.

Relic - Funeral Monument of Giovanni Vigevano.


There are many relics in Rome and scattered all over the world. But each time I see one I have to stop and realize this skull, or this piece of bone, was a living person at one time. I always find it a bit horrific that the bones were ripped and torn and dispersed around the world. But there is also a semblance of sanctity about their display and remembrance.

I could have stood for hours studying the chapel of the Memorial of Cardinal Bonelli. There were many sculptures in the memorial chapel. Some by Bernini and some by other artists. It would have been possible to write an entire blog just on the art inside this memorial.




I had other art works I wanted to find on this day. I only had one day left in Rome after this and it was on my schedule to see The Sistine Chapel. So I had to reluctantly leave the Basilica Santa Maria della Minerva to allow myself time to visit the Campidoglio Museum. So much art and so little time.

Leaving the church I walked over to a taxi driver who was parked near the church and asked if he could take me to the Capitoline Museums. After all the searching I had done for Piazza della Minerva I did not want to waste any more time getting lost. But he laughed and explained the museums were just around the corner from me. I laughed to myself. I knew that must be very near for him to turn down a fare. But I also knew my sense of direction and wondered if I would walk around in circles looking for but yet missing it. Luckily he was correct and it was just around the corner less then a five minute walk.

Campidoglio Museum

The Campidoglio Museum is the oldest museum in the world. It is the first place where art was opened for public enjoyment. And it was the highlight of an already remarkable day. I spent well over three hours exploring the musuems and all of the beautiful artwork inside them. Even then I had to force myself to leave knowing there was so much more I wanted to see.

The museum contained a magical world of centaurs, and giants, huge equestrian statues, God and Goddesses and yes even some more of Bernini's magic. I used my guide book to make a list of the works I did not want to miss. I made a list and when I got to the museum I mapped out their locations. Of course on my way to find them I found many other amazing surprises also.

Young Centaur, by Aristeas and Papias


Bernini's Medusa - you could almost see the snakes move.


Another Centaur. I was beginning to feel like I was walking through a Ray Harryhausen movie on a Saturday afternoon matinee at the movies.


Equestrian statue of emperor Marco Aurelio


One of my favorites. The Reclining marble statue of the river god Marforio


This sculpture of the lion attacking a horse was so realistic I almost wanted to turn my head from it.


Probably the most moving thing I saw in the museum is the beautiful but sad sculpture of The Dying Gaul or Dying Galatian. The figure represents a Celtic warrior. He lies on his fallen shield with his sword, belt, and curved trumpet lie beside him.


Boy with Thorn, also called Fedele (Fedelino) or Spinario, This is one of the very few Roman bronzes that was never lost to sight. It was quite amazing to see.


Much like the museum itself I have too many photos to include in one blog. So I will have to force myself to move on much like I had to do that day in the museum. I think it's fitting to end with copy of Romulus and Remus from the museum.

The End of My Day

After a long day of walking and exploring art I did not want to spend any more time searching for some place to eat dinner. So I returned to my friend Aldo's Taverna Varonne. It is the only place I returned to twice to eat. And for good reason. Aldo had been such a gracious host the previous night I only felt it polite to return his kindness and dine there again.



And just in case you are wondering, yes he did insist I have grappa again on this evening. And once again he did not add it to my check. Grazie Aldo!


Posted by littlesam1 07:04 Tagged basilica museum moro dei minerva fontana_ _quattro del_ piazza_ della_ _of_santa _maria_ sopra _minerva campidoglio_ Comments (8)

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