The Talking Statues of Rome are otherwise known as the Congregation of Wits and from the 16th century onwards formed a way for Romans to anonymously criticize and make fun of the popes and politicians of the period.
Talking Statues Rome
The first one of the talking statues was Pasquino, a statue that was found by chance during excavations near the present Piazza Navona. It was placed on a small square and soon small snide poems and epigrams satirizing the rulers of the city started appearing on it.
There are various theories as to the origin of the custom, but the most commonly accepted one is that the original Pasquino was a tailor working at the Vatican and that the statue was named after him when he died.
Other people took over after his death and, when guards were posted to prevent people from venting their criticisms, other statues (Madama Lucrezia, Abbot Luigi, Il Babuino, Il Facchino and Marforio) came to be used for the same reason.
For a while Pasquino and Marforio even ran a dialogue amongst themselves, Pasquino posting some witticism one day and Marforio answering the day after.
The English word pasquinade (“a satire or lampoon, especially one that ridicules a specific person, traditionally written and posted in a public place”) was coined thanks to the talking statues of Rome.