Piazza Della Minerva

This piazza is situated in front of the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. It is five minutes away from the pantheon.

It has an obelisk, which is 5.47 metres tall. This includes the obelisk itself, the elephant, the pedestal and the four- step basement. It is made of red granite. Originally this obelisk was a part of a pair commissioned by the pharaoh Apries at Sais. The other one is now in Urbino, a small Italian town.

It is not known how this obelisk reached Rome. However after being brought to Rome it stood outside the temple of Isis. It was found beneath the ruins of the temple in the monastery garden next to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. In 1655 the Dominican monks discovered it. Pope Alexander VII (Chigi) decided to re-erect it in front of Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. The obelisk was placed on the back of a sculpted elephant. The official ceremony was held on July 11, 1667 and the Pope was unable to attend it as he had passed away on May

22, 1667. The elephant was made of marble and was designed by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini. Ercole Ferrata executed the sculpture. Although the obelisk is small it is very lovely and has inspiring inscriptions carved on its surface.

There is an inscription dictated by the Pope himself. It says ‘He who sees the carved symbols on the obelisk of wise Egypt borne by the elephant, the strongest of all animals, will understand that indeed it is a robust mind which sustains solid wisdom”.

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is the only gothic style church in Rome with gothic stained glass windows. The ceiling is painted in blue with golden stars. It is the home of one of Michel Angelo’s earlier works. This is the sculpture of Jesus the Redeemer with his cross. The remains of St. Catherine of Siena are interred here. Fra Angelico is also buried here. There is also a beautiful fresco representing the life of Thomas Aquinas.

A visit to this piazza is indeed an experience of the intermingling of past cultures with the day-to-day life in modern Rome.