Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Park and a Pope

Noting Jeff's comment about the Joan of Arc statue in Meridian Hill Park, I detoured through the park on Tuesday during my walk to work, and was pleased to see that Joan has her sword back. It looked a bit shiny to me, as if the weather hasn't had much time to work on it; but I don't know how long it has been back. On the other hand, the statue of "Serenity", a seated woman, is missing its nose, and shows other signs of weathering and vandalism.

Pope Pius II wrote an autobiography, The Commentaries, in which he mentions Joan of Arc, with respect. A couple of professors from Smith College translated and edited the commentaries, publishing it as Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope. Those who'd like English and Latin together, or simply want the whole and unabridged text, will be gratified to know (or do know) that Harvard University Press includes The Commentaries in its Italian Renaissance Library series. Some of his writings may be found on-line at, where he appears under his previous name, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini.

I have read a fair bit of the translation. There are absorbing passages, but there are also longueurs--and remember, this is abridged version. There are consistories and councils, there are meetings with ambassadors, incidents of wars both nearby and as far off as Belgrade, and quite a few details of his travels about Italy. Among the latter, account n, of his welcome in such-and-such a city,  reads a good deal like the account n-1 of his welcome in the city just before that.

Back to the park: Meridian Hill Park is so called, because once the United States had the notion of establishing its prime meridian on the White House, in which case the center stripe of 16th St. NW would have been 0 degrees longitude. Whether the District of Columbia would then have suffered the anomaly of a street grid based on the Capitol in a country with longitudes based on the White House, I don't know; and what we'd have done to gratify the Supreme Court, I can't imagine. But in the end, Greenwich got  with the prime meridian, and Washington is about 77 degrees west.longitude.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, thanks for the heads-up about Joan getting her sword back! I'm amazed by that, and I'll have to pop over this weekend and see.