The Talking Statues of Rome are one of the city’s most underrated attractions which are often overlooked by tourists. The statues got their name from the fact that people made them ‘talk’ by attracting caustic and satirical messages to their pedestal as a form of anonymous protest against religious and civil authorities of the city. The statues were a kind of informal representatives of the people of Rome at a time when ordinary people were not supposed to express protest or criticism in public. The tradition continues to the present day with suggestions, witticisms and claims being posted to the statues.
This form of communication originated in the 16 th century with the statue known as il Pasquino, a Hellenistic-style statue in Piazza di Pasquino. The anonymous messages are usually written in Roman dialect or Latin became known as pasquinate, which later gave rise to the English word pasquinade, a satirical protest in poetry posted in public place.
There are six talking statues in Rome. Apart from Pasquinato statue, there is also Babuino, Il Facchino, Madama Lucrezia, Abbot Luigi and Marforio statues.
Rome’s talking statues
The statue of Pasquino was founded in the 15th century in Piazza Navona. It is the youngest of all the Talking Statues while others date from Ancient Rome. The statue represents a man carrying a barrel who would take water from the Tiber and sell it from door to door at a time when the Roman aqueducts were under repair and the city’s fountains were dry.
The tradition of posting these pasquinades started in 1501 when Cardinal Oliviero Carafa organized a Latin literary competition where poems were posted on the Pasquino statue. Occasionally poems were also posted outside the competition period as a way to criticize the papacy and city governors. The other statues, especially Marforio and Madame Lucrezia were sometimes also used to post responses to writings posted on Pasquino.
Until recently most of Rome’s Talking Statues were in a terribly deteriorated state but a residents’ association of the historic center of Rome undertook to restore the statues.