Elephant and Minerva Obelisk

Elephant and Minerva Obelisk

Elephant and Minerva Obelisk
4.5
Monday
12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
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Neighborhood: Navona / Pantheon / Campo de’ Fiori
With three of Rome’s most beloved piazzas within a five-minute walk of each other, the Navona/Pantheon/Campo area may be the prettiest and most picturesque area of the city. Join the beautiful throngs hanging out in cafes, boutiques, art galleries, and wine bars, or peek at a neighborhood museum or monument. If you want nonstop movida, the streets here are busy with chic bicyclists and Vespa drivers, street vendors, merchants, and locals. There is no rhyme or reason to its winding streets and there's something to see around every corner, so take pleasure in a spontaneous wander.
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Popular mentions

4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles384 reviews
Excellent
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Very good
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Average
42
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Mairwen1
United Kingdom10,823 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2023 • Couples
This might not be the tallest or most imposing obelisk in Rome but the Obelisk of Santa Minerva is by far the most delightful.
In a whimsical design, the ancient Egyptian obelisk was placed on the back of a small, marble elephant, with a long swaying trunk and a tasselled saddlecloth.
It sits in the centre of a small piazza, outside the Church of Santa Maria della Minerva, at the back of the Pantheon.
The obelisk is a long way from home. It started life as one of a pair and dates back to the reign of pharaoh Apries (r. 589-570 BCE) in the 26th Dynasty (the other half of the pair can be seen at the front of the Pantheon).
The Roman emperor Domitian (51-96 CE) took a liking to it and had it transported back to Rome. No easy task. The giant, 5.5 metre, red granite obelisk had to be shipped across the Mediterranean, then re-erected at the Temple of Isis in Rome.
It suffered the same fate as many other obelisks in Rome. After the fall of Rome, the obelisk also fell and was buried at first by rubble and then by rising ground levels. It lay forgotten for centuries until 1655 when it was unearthed.
Pope Alexander VII had it inscribed with his family’s heraldic symbols and coats of arms and Bernini was commissioned to create the surrounding design. If putting the obelisk on the back of an elephant sounds like a quirky sort of thing, perhaps it was not so strange. At the time, elephants and other exotic animals were often given as lavish presents by foreign rulers. These included leopards, panthers, apes, rhinos, troops of monkeys and tropical birds but the most memorable was a white elephant sent to Pope Leo X (now buried under the Vatican).
This is an interesting corner of Rome, tucked around towards the back of the Pantheon. Step inside the Church of Santa Maria della Minerva and you will also see a beautiful sculpture, The Risen Christ by Michelangelo. It’s not well known, it’s free and there are no crowds.
Written May 19, 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Brad
Hong Kong, China173,427 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2024 • Family
The Elephant and obelisk (Obelisco della Minerva) is a fun play on the Obelisk scene around Rome. This is the work of G.L. Bernini (1667) and situated directly in front of the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. The obelisk is a 5.5 metre tall, Egyptian red granite obelisk that was discovered in 1665 during excavations near the church. It is believed to have originally erected in Sais, Egypt around 580 AD and brought to Rome at some point in the 1st century AD. What you will see is the fairly short obelisk fitted atop a elephant standing on a base with Latin inscription. Worth a brief look-see before or after a visit to the church.
Written April 29, 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Foodie_CST🍽🇷🇴
Kolios, Greece5,151 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2019 • Family
Found this very interesting statue while wondering the streets of Rome on my last trip and I was impressed, definitely worth checking out if you are in the area. Designed by Bernini, it's a beautiful work of art, Rome is such a lovely city, never ceases to amaze me, just take a random walk around the city, there is always something worth admiring on every corner.
Written May 8, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Jake23
New Jersey6,832 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2021 • Couples
Interesting Bernini sculpture right near the Pantheon. If you are in the area it is worth visiting and taking some pictures of it.
Written August 6, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

JeanPaulBelmondo
Basel, Switzerland696 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2016 • Couples
The name derives from this being the place where Pmpeius Magnus erected a temple in honour of Minerva Calcidica. The famous monument by Bernini comprises a little elephant (colloquially "pulcino" a corruption of "porcino", or piglet, as it was initially nicknamed) carrying a small egyptian obelisk dating from the 6th century B.C. The little obelisk, found in the garden of a Dominican monastery, was raised in 1666 on the back of a little elephant. In 1946 a swindler sold the monument to an american officer and when one day a team of soldiers arrived with a big truck to remove it and ship it to the States the concierge of the hotel in front went to inquire what was going on and so the swindle came to light. In the 60's the comedian Totò used this episode in one of his films this time selling the Trevi Fountain to an american tourist.
Written March 18, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

TravelerCentralFLA
Clermont, FL1,699 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2019 • Family
The Elephant and Obelisk caught my attention right away. We were not searching for this work of art, but as we were walking around Rome we passed by this sculpture. I understand it was designed by Bernini, but probably sculpted by one of his assistants. The Obelisk on the back of the elephant is one of the many Ancient Egyptian obelisks in Rome. This is a very unique statue and like so many of Bernini's designs it has a feel of motion to it almost like it is alive. This is a really great work of art.
Written April 5, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

AllanJGJ
Wellington, New Zealand4,194 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2019
Renaissance popes and others, like their ancient brethren, had a thing about Egyptian obelisks and there are apparently an unlucky total of 13 spread over Rome. This is the smallest but certainly amongst the best known due to the charming statue of an elephant which holds it aloft. Designed by sculpting genius Bernini (although actually made by someone else) it's tucked away behind the Pantheon and delights everyone who walks by it. Bernini left to his own devices would have made it even more spectacular by having the animal's legs hold up the weight of the obelisk but a doubting priest involved in the commission didn't believe that was possible so there's a very large chunk of stone beneath the poor elephant's stomach. Bernini did his best by trying to hide it with a long fringed saddle cloth, but he must have been annoyed. His even more famous four rivers sculpture in the Piazza Navona showed he was correct in his engineering calculation and it would have been possible. Whatever; it's still a very cute and highly unusual piece of art and well worth your stopping by to take a photo or two.
Written October 25, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

The Spanish Steps Apartment
Rome, Italy32,568 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2013 • Friends
Behind the magnificent Pantheon, and standing in front of the lovely church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (make sure to step inside to see the beautiful blue ceiling), is an adorable elephant carrying an obelisk on its back. The smallest of the Egyptian obelisks displayed in piazzas throughout Rome, it's certainly the most whimsical. The statue is sometimes called Pulcino della Minerva (Minerva's Chick) and was designed by the great architect and artist Bernini. It's an engaging and adorable sight.
Written February 26, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Brad
Hong Kong, China173,427 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2012 • Couples
We have always been amused by Bernini's Elephant Obelisk which is found outside the Santa Maria sopra Minerva church, just beyond the famous Pantheon in the historic centre of Rome.

This is not a tall obelisk but it is a fun one to see. In short, Bernini designed this obelisk, around 1667, with an elephant on the base. Interesting now, must have just as peculiar back then.

The Elephant Obelisk is one of our favorites in the city, one well worth finding even if for just a few minutes and even if you don't have interest in visiting the Maria sopra Minerva church in front of which this obelisk stands. Also, because this is so close to the Pantheon, just 1-2 minute walk away, we consider this an easy, minor, attraction to find and have a look at.
Written August 16, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Albywon
Sydney, Australia13,650 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2019 • Couples
The 6th Century B.C. Oblisk sits atop of Elephant sculpted by Bernini which dates from 250 years ago.
Anyway it is two separate attractions, both beautiful, and I have reviewed both!
Written October 1, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Elephant and Minerva Obelisk - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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