At the base of the monumental Lateran Obelisk sits a small fountain. It looks, at first sight, to have been set up by Pope Paul V (r. 1605-21), as it bears--in addition to the papal tiara and crossed keys--an eagle and two dragons, the heraldic charges of the coat of arms of the Borghese family, to which Paul V belonged.
However, on closer inspection, one sees, at the sides of the fountain, the head of a lion holding in its mouth some pears, the heraldic charges of the coat of arms of Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-90), who had the obelisk erected here.
Above the lion's head is a reference to yet another pope, Clement VIII (r. 1592-1605), in the form of two stars flanking a bar with four crossbars, the heraldic charges of the Aldobrandini family, to which Clement VIII belonged.
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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