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These Famous Rome Statues Are Talked To With Complaints

These Talking Statues in Rome have been used for political discourse for more than 500 years and are worth tracking down even if you don’t have any complaints.

famous rome statues - Il Pasquino

Il Pasquino Hidden By Piazza Navona

The Famous Talking Statues Of Ancient Rome

Roman citizens, since the sixteenth century, would post anonymous messages (pasquinades) with a strongly satirical, humorous or provocative tone attributing to the statues the ability to ‘speak’ in the name of ordinary people. The main targets of these protests were the politicians of the day.


The most famous of these six statues is Pasquino, which is from where the word pasquinades is derived. The figure is a man, believed to be representing Menelau, the husband of Helen of Troy. It is located a few steps from Piazza Navona, behind Palazzo Braschi, now known as Pasquino square, and it has been there for more than 500 years.

These political protests, in the form of messages, were hung around the neck of the statue during the night. An example of a popular criticism in the 17th century of Pope Urban VIII Barberini was: ““What the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did”. This type of biting satire continues today as the statue continues to be the display for complaints against Romans.


famous rome statues - Marforio

You Will Have To Pay To See Marforio

Another of the talking statues of Rome is Marforio. This colossal marble statue of a river god, possibly of Neptune, from 1644 is a true sculptural masterpiece of late Republic / early Empire Rome, found near the Roman Forum.

From the sixteenth century onwards it changed position several times. First in Piazza San Marco, then on the Piazza del Campidoglio. Today it is in the Capitoline Museum and the two statues, Pasquino and Marforio, are said to have conversed with each other and responded to each other in tone with sharp jokes.

I became aware of this statue from La Grande Bellezza because it is not only in the movie, but it is used in the advertisement as well. The protagonist, Jep Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo, is sitting on a stone bench with Marforio right behind him. This is a little bit of Cinecittà magic, I think, because there is no bench in front of Marforio in the Capitoline Museum.

Madama Lucrezia

Madam Lucrezia is the only woman amongst the Talking Statues and lives in Piazza San Marco, which is a tiny piazza right next to Piazza Venezia. You need to really look for it because the statue is in the corner, very close to the end of the #8 tram and easy to miss.

Madama Lucrezia is a gigantic bust of a woman and it may represent the Egyptian goddess Isis or possibly the Roman empress Faustina. It was made of marble and it was so-called because it was a gift to Lucrezia d’Alagno, lover of the king of Naples. During the Roman Republic of 1799, the Roman people in revolt caused Madama Lucrezia to fall to the ground. The next day, on her shoulders, the words “I can’t see anymore” appeared.

Abbot Luigi

Abbot Luigi stands next to the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle, between Piazza Navona and Largo Argentina. The “Abbate Luiggi”, as the Romans call it, is a late Roman marble statue that depicts a high magistrate. Its base has an inscription that tells the history of being a Talking Statue:

I was a citizen of Ancient Rome

Now all call me Abbot Louis

Along with Marforio and Pasquino I conquer

Eternal fame for Urban Satire

I received offenses, disgrace, and burial,

till here I found new life and finally safety

Il Babuino

Il Babuino is one of the two talking statues that is a fountain. It talks in front of the Canova Tadolini Museum, in via del Babuino. The statue is a depiction of Silenus while reclining and overlooking a basin. He is a character in Roman mythology, half man, half goat. The people of Rome christened the figure “babuino” because they considered it ugly and deformed, like a baboon, and the street was nicknamed the “via del Babuino” as a result, the name eventually becoming the official one.

Il Facchino

famous rome statues - il Facchino

NOT Martin Luther So Don’t Throw Stones!

As compared to the other Talking Statues, Il Facchino is fairly new. It was created around 1580 and it depicts a man wearing a cap and carrying a barrel of water from the Tiber. It is located today in via Lata, a side street of via del Corso and it is damaged from years of people throwing paving stones at his face because people thought the figure represented Martin Luther, who in 1511 stayed in the nearby monastery of the Augustinians.

These Famous Rome Statues Are Great!

This fun bit of Roman History might not be the first famous Rome statues you go out to see, but if you are aware of them and see these old and mostly decrepit statues during your outings, you’ll be happy to know that little bit of backstory. For more information on the politics of Rome and Italy, check out these posts:

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