I was lucky enough for Christmas to receive the gift of a trip to Rome from my boyfriend. We had a great few days in Rome (despite the torrential rain) but one thing that we started to question as we toured the museums, is where did all the penises go?! Some of the statues used a leaf to cover their dignity however some seemed to have their penis sliced off completely. One of our first theories was that the penis had fallen off during transit to the museum, since the testicles still remained in tack, however we soon disregarded this theory when we realised how many statues were missing this vital body part.
We eventually decided to research where the penises had gone, and why? We ummed and arred over what to type into google before taking the plunge and typing in ‘where are the penises in Rome?’. This is where we learnt that the penises had began to be removed a number of years ago in the reign of Pope Paul IV who was Pope between 1555 and 1559, this then continued right into the 1800’s by future Popes, some preferring to break the penises off, some covering them with fig leaves and worst of all Pope Pius IX ordered all of the statues who had not had their penis covered, to be destroyed completely.
However we still had not discovered why the Popes had removed the penises. There seems to be two theories on this, the first being that the penis was a sexual symbol and therefore the Catholic church asked for it to be removed, however if this was the case, it did seem strange the testicles remained. The second theory is that back in the middle ages, those who were naked were seen to be the “dammed” and those who wore clothes were seen to be saved. Whatever the reason, the lack of penises is certainly something you will notice if you ever visit Rome!