The Vatican's Cortile della Pigna is named after the four-metre-high bronze pine cone (pigna), which originally formed the centrepiece of an ancient Roman fountain.
The pine cone, which was cast by one Publius Cincius Salvius (who left his name on the base) in the first or second century CE, was unearthed near the Pantheon.
For centuries, the pine cone stood in the centre of the courtyard in front of the old St Peter's Basilica. It was only moved to its present position in 1608.
The pine cone is cited by Dante in the Divine Comedy: 'La faccia sua mi parea lunga e grossa come la pina di San Pietro a Roma' (Inferno, Canto XXXI).
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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