Elephant and Obelisk

Obelisco della Minerva

In front of the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva tourists can see an unusual sculptural composition – a marble elephant on top of which in 1667 the architect Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini placed the Egyptian obelisk (that approximately dates back to the VI century BC). Similar obelisks were brought from Egypt as war booties. According to monks the elephant symbolizes wisdom and Christian godliness. Obelisk and the elephant changed several places when finally appeared on Piazza della Minerva. In 1665 it was by accident discovered by Dominican monks in the gardens of the monastery. Pope Alexander VII decided to place the monument on piazza near the church. Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini planned to make a base for the obelisk in the shape of a small elephant, however, architect Ercole Ferrata did not believe Bernini's calculations were correct and put a massive base under the elephant covering it by the cloth. When Bernini saw the result, he was so furious that he was going to give up the authorship. On the portamento there is a dedicative inscription to Pope Alexander VII who was a famous patron of arts. The sculpture is called Il Pulcino Della Minerva in Italian what means Minerva's Chicken. Behind the obelisk there is Grand Hotel de la Minerve where Stendhal used to rent a room.

Address: Piazza della Minerva
Coordinates: 41.897981, 12.477560