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Why is there a statue of a cat on a building in Rome?

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Lalupa | CC

Maria Paola Daud - published on 09/07/17

The mystery of a cat, the Virgin Mary, and a very fearless baby.

In Rome, there is a piazza, a street and even an image of the Virgin Mary dedicated to one particular cat, in gratitude for his heroic gesture.

The Roman tradition says that one day a cat was prowling around the high ledge of a building when she found a baby boy in her path. Realizing the great danger the little boy was in, the cat began to meow and meow to warn the boy’s mother to come save him from a fatal fall.

To remember this, the family placed a marble statue of a cat on the ledge. The statue came from one of the pagan temples in the area, dedicated to the Egyptian cult of Isis and her husband Serapis. Perhaps this cat represented Bastet, who was the cat goddess protecting home and motherhood.

Another legend says that the cat was actually placed on the ledge because his eyes are pointing to  the place where a treasure is to be found. Alas, no one has found the treasure — unless, of course, you follow the cat’s gaze to the Biblioteca Rispoli, where you will find books, which are true treasures.

Today the statue of the cat overlooks a street called “Via della Gatta” (Street of the Cat), which was the name of the surrounding piazza that since changed its name to Piazza Grazioli.

And, perhaps not coincidentally, almost 50 meters from the statue is one of Rome’s famous Little Madonnas — an image of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, sweetly caressing a cat.

Read more about the Little Madonnas of Rome.

This article was translated from the Spanish edition of Aleteia.

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Little Madonnas of Rome
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