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Michelangelo, in awe of the fearsome qualities that were emerging from his massive block of Carrara marble, hurled his chisel, slightly chipping Moses’s knee.

“Perché non parli?” he shouted.

Now apparently Moses didn’t reply to the sculptor, but said a great deal to Sigmund Freud, who was compelled to visit San Pietro in Vincoli each day for a week and later wrote down much what he heard.

As for me--thirty-four years ago on my very first visit to Rome--I put a lire coin into a metal box. The lights came on and I set my camera to a 60th of a second at f 2.8. I tried to keep steady, but unfortunately I was enormously hung over and shaky, thus the image (above) is not as sharp as I wanted. I failed to capture that famous chip in the knee, and also the profile of Michelangelo that allegedly can be seen in the figure’s beard.

I suppose it wasn’t meant to be.

No longer hung over and shaky I now study the image. I can see much more clearly now. And I wonder: Why the horns, which elicited so much of Sigmund’s psychoanalytical attention?


Exodus 34:29-35 tells that after meeting with God the skin of Moses' face became radiant, frightening the Israelites and leading Moses to wear a veil. Jonathan Kirsch in his book Moses: A Life, thought that, since he subsequently had to wear a veil to hide it, Moses' face was disfigured by a sort of "divine radiation burn".

This story has led to one longstanding tradition that Moses grew horns This is derived from a mistranslation of the Hebrew phrase "karnu panav" The root -- קרן -- may be read as either "horn" or "ray", as in "ray of light". "Panav" -- פניו -- translates as "his face".

If interpreted correctly those two words form an expression which means that he was enlightened, and many rabbinical studies explain that the knowledge that was revealed to him made his face metaphorically shine with enlightenment, and not that it suddenly sported a pair of horns.

The Septuagint properly translates the Hebrew word -- קרן -- as δεδοξασται, 'was glorified', but Jerome translated it as cornuta, 'horned', and it was the latter image that became the more popular.

This tradition survived from the first centuries AD well into the Renaissance. Many artists, including Michelangelo in a famed sculpture, depicted Moses with horns.

My own form of enlightenment has come from a half dozen years of asceticism and solitude on this isola verde. Much reading, and intense contemplation. Each night I experience nekyia, like the sun god’s perilous undersea journey that skirts madness and destruction. One convoluted dream after another. Sometimes even nightmares, from which I awake each morning, grateful and refreshed.

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My own form of enlightenment has come from a half dozen years of asceticism and solitude on this isola verde

Wherever you are going, God will find you. You'll feel yourself alone, but this is only a sensation. Also a friend who are speaking or writing with you, gives you the certitude of the God's presence near you. You are not alone.

The Wikipedia's text says right. It's a tradition's error. Moses was only enlightened and not with horns.

I hope your contemplation on this isola verde is only enlightened like the real situation of Moses and not with horns (because the horns, by our italian tradition, mean that your wife or girlfriend is unfaithful to you: in this situation the italians say: "cornuto", but I know that isn't your situation, this is only an explanation about an italian word, nothing to offend you) *smile*

Verrrry interesting! It's curious, isn't it?, how a derivative of coronet or, similarly, cornucopia, evolved into cuckold. I shall continue to contemplate this linguistic mystery throughout the morning, as I sit at a table at Roxy, with my espresso and sweet, cream-filled cornetto...

i wandered around Rome for two hours once looking for the little church where that statue rests. when i arrived there was no one else there except a guard. i was amazed they didn't have him behind bullet-proof glass, or yards of velvet rope.

we had a moment.

I read somewhere that recently they've put up a plexiglass shield to prevent people from touching the marble and further wearing down the fine detail...

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