Per grazia ricevuta: the words of Pasquino a limbless ancient Roman statue, plucked from the mud during renovation work near Piazza Navona in 1501 on the death of Pope John Paul II.
For centuries, Pasquino has been the mouthpiece of the Roman people who, moved by the major events of the day, would leave short and cryptic messages at his feet. The first pasquinata denounced the wickedness of Pope Alessandro VI Borgia (1492-1503), and over time it became the only way of criticising the papal authorities without risking arrest. With sonnets condemning everything from massive military spending to a tax on wine to fund the Trevi fountain, Pasquino would soon infuriate successive papal governments. Adrian VI, Sextus V and Clementine VIII were tempted to throw the statue into the Tiber, but feared he would talk like a toad if they did. Papa Wojtyla is the latest to be honoured with a pasquinata, which ironically considering the statues history shows how central a figure he really was for the people of Rome.