The elephant and the obelisk

You are along the route: THE ZOO OF WONDERS. STONE ANIMALS

Piazza della Minerva
Always visible.

The pride of Piazza della Minerva is the famous composition designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and built in 1667 by Ercole Ferrata, in which a marble elephant supports an obelisk in red granite.
More than 5 m high, the obelisk was built, along with a twin, in the Egyptian city of Sais on the Nile delta, and was transported to Rome to decorate the sanctuary of Isis in the Campus Martius. Discovered in 1665 during the construction of a boundary wall near the church of Santa Maria della Minerva, it was later erected in the square outside for Pope Alexander VII, who, from the many projects submitted, chose the elephant by Bernini, alluding to the strength and intelligence needed to support great wisdom, as cited in the motto written on the chest of the animal. The Dominicans of the nearby convent, however, forced the artist to add a cube to support the monument, weighing down the forms, so that the people named it “Porcino della Minerva”, (Pig of the Minerva), misspelled in today’s “Pulcino della Minerva” (chick of Minerva).

How to get the step: The elephant and the obelisk

Piazza della Minerva, 00186 Roma, Italy


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