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, the two heraldic symbols of the Borghese, the pope's family, namely the dragon and the eagle.
However, on closer inspection, one sees, at the sides of the fountain, the head of a lion holding in its mouth some pears, symbols of Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-90), who had the obelisk erected here. And 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.
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 and
small-group walking tours
Search Walks in Rome: