Huge Crate of Stone Penises


Many of you will be aware of the tremendous success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code , which has now spent over 72 weeks in our best-sellers lists, and is about to become a blockbuster cinema hit featuring Tom Hanks in the starring role as the Harvard professor of religious symbology.

The Da Vinci Code’s prequel, Angels and Demons is another, it says here, fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller, which examines the battle between science and religion .

Apparently, the book features, among other curiosities, an account of The Great Castration event in Vatican history. Brown suggests that Pope Pius IX decided in 1857 that the Vatican’s gauntlet of nude male statues depicted an all too accurate representation of the male form. So he “got a chisel and mallet and hacked off the genitalia of every single male statue inside Vatican City”. Thankfully, those resting outside the great walls had a lucky escape.

The problem? Pope Pius was concerned that the (severed) members would have incited lust among the presumably desperate clerics working inside the Vatican. The offending parts were replaced by a fig leaf lighter in colour than the rest of the body, with hundreds of sculptures suitably emasculated. Indeed, Brown’s hero at one point (no pun intended) wonders if there was somewhere in the Vatican vaults a huge crate of stone penises.

One might only wonder if one of these cultural artefacts may have escaped the vaults, only to unexpectedly turn up as a hoax phallus in a BBC report ?



    August 15, 2005

    I remember reading that. According to Simon Cox’s accompanying guide, “Illuminating Angels and Demons”, however, the entire story was made up by Dan Brown, and is thus an urban myth…

    It was just too good to be true, I suppose.


    August 15, 2005

    I remember reading a review of Simon Cox’s accompanying guide,
    and the fact that most of the guide is an urban myth.

    Another shame


    August 15, 2005

    Well, the problem with all the accompanying books is that most come at it with an agenda. There’s a lot of religiously motivated books written with the sole intention to discredit Dan Brown’s novels. Simon Cox’s books appeared to be, on the whole, the ones with least political/religious bias. They were the ones most aimed at making quick cash, and least at ranting around. Therefore, they were the ones I chose to buy. (And Holy Blood Holy Grail afterwards, of course)


    August 15, 2005

    just finished the book angels &demons, loved it. so the great castration was not true but what about autopisies on a pope?


    August 15, 2005

    No, it’s true; the penises of nude male statues were removed and replaced with fig leaves. There is a docent at the Getty Villa in Malibu who tells the story and mentions that a friend of hers’ Graduate School dissertation involved field work at the Vatican trying to match penis to statue to restore them to their original state.

    Carol Council

    August 15, 2005

    I am an art historian who is doing research related to this for publication. I read a newspaper article about this young woman’s project a few years ago. How could I contact her? i would like learn about her work at the Vatican.

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