The fact that many traditional Catholics as well as Protestants perceived such idols of stone to be not only objects of heathen adoration but the worship of demons makes what motivated Pope Sixtus V to erect the phallus of Osiris in the heart of St. Peter's Square, located in Vatican City and bordering St. Peter's Basilica, very curious. To ancient Christians, the image of a cross and symbol of Jesus sitting atop (or emitting from) the head of a demonic god's erect manhood would have been at minimum a very serious blasphemy. Yet Pope Sixtus V was not content with simply restoring and using such ancient pagan relics (which were believed in those days to actually house the pagan spirit they represented) but even destroyed Christian artifacts in the process. The bronze for the statues of Peter and Paul came from the medieval doors of S. Agnese, from the Scala Santa at the Lateran, and from a ciborium at St. Peter's.
At the time Sixtus was busy reintroducing to the Roman public square restored images and statues on columns, the belief remained strong that these idols housed their patron deity, and further that, if these were not treated properly and even placed into service during proper constellations related to their myth, it could beckon evil omens. Leonardo da Vinci had even written in his Codex Urbinas how those who would adore and pray to the image were likely to believe the god represented by it was alive in the stone and watching their behavior. There is strong indication that Sixtus believed this too, and that he “worried about the powers that might inhabit his new urban markers.” This was clearly evident when the cross was placed on top of the Obelisk in the midst of St. Peter's Square and the pope marked the occasion by conducting the ancient rite of exorcism against the phallic symbol. On that morning, a pontifical High Mass was held just before the cross was raised from a portable alter to the apex of Baal's Shaft (as such phallic towers were also known). While clergy prayed and a choir sang Psalms, Pope Sixtus stood facing the Obelisk and, extending his hand toward it, announced “Exorcizote, creatura lipidis, in nomine Dei” (“I exorcise you, creature of stone, in the name of God”). Sixtus then cast sanctified water upon the pillar's middle, then it's right side, the left, then above and finally below to form a cross, followed by, “In nomine Patris, et Filij, et Spiritus sancti. Amen” (“In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen”). He then crossed himself three times and watched as the symbol of Christ was placed atop Osiris' erect phallus.
Excerpts from the book, Petrus Romanus by Thomas Horn & Chris Putnam
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